Cleethorpes paddleboarders warned to stay away from saltmarsh where rare birds are nesting

North East Lincolnshire Council and Humberside Police are urging paddleboarders to stay away from the saltmarsh
North East Lincolnshire Council and Humberside Police are urging paddleboarders to stay away from the saltmarsh -Credit:North East Lincolnshire Council/Jim Wright

Paddleboarders are being urged not to venture too close to or within the saltmarsh in Cleethorpes where rare birds nest and roost.

North East Lincolnshire Council and Humberside Police are issuing a reminder to water sports enthusiasts about the importance of respecting UK Conservation Law.

Despite regular reminders about the crucial role the saltmarsh plays for local wildlife, the council says paddleboarders were spotted disturbing the birds and paddling through the marsh over the weekend.


Last Saturday marked World Migratory Birds Day, a celebration of the thousands of wetland birds that stop along our coastline during this time of year. These birds rely on the Humber Estuary as a pit stop to refuel on their journey north from their wintering grounds, which include Africa.

It's vital that they remain undisturbed while feeding and roosting to complete the final leg of their journeys.

The Cleethorpes coastline, like the rest of the Humber Estuary, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the rare and important species that inhabit the area. This includes Special Protection Area (SPA) status, as well as being a Special Area for Conservation (SAC) and European Marine Site.

Cleethorpes, a bustling seaside resort and hotspot for water sports enthusiasts, is also home to a unique natural habitat. The close proximity of this protected environment to the tourist hub makes it crucial for visitors to enjoy themselves responsibly, without causing harm to the local wildlife.

Cllr Stewart Swinburn, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport, expressed his concerns, saying: “The Cleethorpes coastline and the species that inhabit it are very vulnerable to recreational disturbance. This not only means dogs or paddleboarders approaching and disturbing the bird species that live here, but other activities can cause serious damage too. Many of the plants that grow in this area are fragile, and damaging them, even by walking over them, can lead to erosion of the dunes and loss of habitat.

“Whilst we are mindful that local people and visitors to the resort should be able to take full advantage of our amenities, we are also guardians of the unique habitats on our shoreline that play such an important role in environmental well-being. Bird disturbance within the protected areas is an offence and people are urged to avoid waterborne activity in the saltmarsh, specifically paddleboarders and jet skiers, and for water users to maintain a distance from the saltmarsh, particularly at high tide, to avoid disturbing the birds.”

He continued: “We urge everyone to please take notice of the signs and steer clear of the protected areas to ensure that the birds and wildlife within them can not only survive but continue to thrive.”

Disturbing SPA birds, causing them to fly away or preventing them from feeding or roosting, is a criminal offence under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. Offenders can be taken to court.

PC John Chase, Officer for Wildlife and Rural Crimes at Humberside Police, said: "The Humber Estuary is regarded as one of the most important estuaries in Europe for the wildlife it supports. Unfortunately, each year we receive a large number of reports relating to members of the public disturbing wildlife, in particular roosting, nesting and feeding birds that have in some cases travelled thousands of miles to our doorstep to feed and breed and are protected under UK Law.

“Due to issues with recreational disturbance, we launched Operation Seabird with our partners at the RSPCA, Marine Management Organisation and other key organisations. The focus of Operation Seabird is to protect our important coastline whilst also allowing members of the public to enjoy it responsibly, which is done mainly through educating the public regarding the need to keep their distance from wildlife to prevent disturbance. It’s important to note that, although education is the main focus of the operation, enforcement action and prosecutions will be taken where necessary.”

Beachgoers are being urged to help safeguard the local bird population by adhering to a few simple guidelines:.

  • Keep to the designated footpaths

  • Keep dogs under control

  • Anyone using the coastline for water sports, such as paddleboarding or jet skiing, must stay away from the salt marsh and sand banks.