Coastal Wildlife

Cornwall is blessed with having magnificent landscapes and seascapes. The natural landscape is one of the primary attractions that brings people to Cornwall. Cornwall's natural environment is a finite resource and it is important to manage it sympathetically and sustainably to help maintain these qualities.The purpose of this page is to help you, as a beach user, understand some of the aspects of the beach environment that you can explore when visiting the beach.

Rockpools and Rockpooling

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Many of the beaches and coves of Cornwall are fringed with wonderful rocky outcrops that provide a habitat for a range of marine plants and animals. These rocky settings differ considerably from truly marine habitats as you, the beach user, are able to explore some of the creatures that are usually hidden under the water.


Many people associate the strandline of a beach as unsightly, largely due to its modern association with litter and flies, but the strandline is an important part of the beach providing not only a habitat at the bottom of the food web, but also a feature that helps keep the sand on the beach.

Cornwall's Sand Dunes

Despite the amount of coastline that Cornwall has, it has relatively few sand dunes making them a scarce and important coastal feature. The sand dunes are not only important for their wealth of wildlife but also provide a good natural defence from storm surges and sea level rise. They are however features under pressure from recreational use  and many sand dunes are becoming damaged.


During the summer it is not uncommon to find jellyfish in the sea and stranded on the beach. Not only are jellyfish unusual and well travelled visitors, but there are a range of different species that can be found in UK waters, some of which can have stinging tentacle.

Weever Fish

Weever fish live on sandy beaches in and around the low tide area. These fish partially bury themselves in the sand and you will know when you find one because their dorsal fin has a series of stinging spines. Find out more about this animal and what to do if you get stung. 

Marine Strandings

It is very exciting when marine mammals are sited off the coastline and occasionally some animals, such as dolphins, will inquisitively venture very close to the shore. However, sometimes as a result of poor health and conflict with human activities at sea, marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins and porpoises, can become stranded on the shoreline. It is distressing when this occurs, especially if the creature is still alive. Learn more about the stranding of animals and what you should do if you encounter a live or dead stranding.

Marine Wildlife Disturbance

Whilst you are enjoying Cornwall's coastal and beach wildlife it is important to remember that your actions may inadvertently disturb the wildlife. Over the years the range of coastal recreational activities has expanded considerably and areas of the coastline  that were once infrequently visited are becoming more accessible and disturbed. When enjoying the coastline we would ask that you follow the coastal code, which has been developed by a range of organisations in Cornwall. If you should see an activity that you feel is disturbing coastal wildlife please contact  the Cornwall Wildlife Trust 24 hour hotline 0345 201 2626.

If you want to learn more about the coastline or want to become involved in the conservation of the Cornish coastline, you may be interested in becoming involved with the Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VMCA's). VMCA's do not impose restrictions or enforce byelaws but rather help people learn more about the marine environment through engagement and educational events. As the name suggests, it is a voluntary designation and the people who help in the running of the VMCA's are also volunteers.