Generic filters

Watersports advice aims to protect wildlife

March 2023

New resources from Bird Aware Solent will help watersports enthusiasts stay nature-friendly.

The guidance features a unique online map which pinpoints wildlife-friendly routes for kayaker and stand-up-paddle boarders.

The interactive plan also shows windsurfers and kite surfers where to launch and land to minimise disturbance to birds and their fragile habitats.

Handy tips on amenities such as parking and toilets also feature on the map, with clickable icons revealing descriptions of each launch point. Photographs and relevant advice for each location are included such as required permits, tides and even suggested picnic spots.

David Williams, Lead Local Authority Chief Executive of Partnership for South Hampshire, the body that oversees Bird Aware Solent, said: ‘With a growing interest in outdoor activities like paddleboarding, there is a risk of more disturbance for protected birds and wildlife habitats. By taking steps to enjoy watersports in a wildlife-friendly way, we can ensure our beautiful coastline and its abundant wildlife thrives in future generations.’

Julie Sims, the Bird Aware Solent Ranger who developed the guidance in collaboration with local watersports groups said: ‘Spending time on the water gives people the chance to spot and appreciate wildlife from a unique perspective. By making a few adjustments to our behaviour, we can minimise our impact on nature.

‘It’s great when people appreciate that the natural places that enrich our own lives are also vital feeding and resting places for our birds.’

The map is accompanied by specific behavioural guidance that paddle and wind sports enthusiasts can adopt in order to reduce disturbance.

Tips for watersports participants include rigging up and keeping kit at the top of the beach since the water’s edge is often a feeding area for birds. Paddleboarders can help birds thrive by keeping a low profile when they are near wildlife by kneeling rather than standing up. Similarly kayakers and canoers can reduce their impact on nearby wildlife by having a low paddle angle.

The interactive map and downloadable guides can be found on the Bird Aware Solent website:

Recommended routes and launching points feature on the map include the New Forest coast and Southampton water, including the Rivers Itchen and Hamble. Over the coming months, the map will be extended to the remainder of the Solent, including the Isle of Wight, in collaboration with watersports organisations in these areas.

Thousands of birds come to the Solent coast for the winter each year. Bird Aware Solent works on coastlines around the New Forest, Southampton Water, Portsmouth, Chichester and Langstone Harbours and the northern coast of the Isle of Wight. It is formed of a partnership of 19 different local authorities and wildlife organisations.

The wide range of recreational activities which take place on the Solent coast, can often unintentionally result in disturbance to the birds that spend the winter here. Bird Aware Solent aims to mitigate the impact of additional recreational activity resulting from new homes built by raising awareness of coastal birds and encouraging people to adopt wildlife aware behaviours. This mitigation is designed to ensure additional activity has no significant effect on the three special protection areas (SPAs) in the Solent: Solent and Southampton Water SPA, Portsmouth Harbour SPA, and Chichester and Langstone Harbours SPA.

A kayaker on the River Hamble