Tide Pools

Human Impact and Conservation

Harvesting Seaweed & Intertidal Animals

Humans, historically and currently, harvest animals and plants from the intertidal environment for food, bait, and, more recently, for home aquariums.

Many intertidal animals, like the black abalone—prized for its shell and meat—are now scarce or absent in areas where they were once abundant.

As human populations continue to increase along coastlines, more people have access to the intertidal zone, impacting many of the plants and animals that rely upon this habitat.

In many regions of the United States harvesting or collection of tide pool animals and plants, for any kind of use, is regulated. Collection of any animals or plants is prohibited in state or national parks or in regional reserves. In addition, animals and plants are protected in NOAA's (National Ocean & Atmospheric Administration) national marine sanctuaries and monuments.

Many states also have regulations. Intertidal species regulated by the California Department of Fish & Game include abalone, Kellet's whelks, spiny lobsters, mussels, octopuses, oysters, scallops, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, shrimps, and sculpins. Furthermore, in California and many other states, no live molluscs may be collected without a valid fishing license.

Many other countries also have regulations and restrictions on collection or harvesting of intertidal life.

If you eat seafood, including commercially-harvested marine invertebrates, be sure to support sustainable fisheries.


Shell Collecting

Numerous shell types, especially those of marine molluscs, are beautiful and valued by collectors. They are also appealing as souvenirs by visitors to the ocean's coasts.

Many shells and animals such as sea stars and sand dollars that are available to buy in gift stores are collected live and in quantities that may deplete local stocks.

Often, shells that you see at the beach may still have a living occupant, such as a snail or hermit crab, inside.

Hermit crabs rely on an available supply of empty gastropod mollusc shells to inhabit. Collecting snail shells could reduce the availability of these for hermit crabs.

Collection of any animals, plants, or even empty shells is prohibited in state or national parks or in regional reserves.

The California Department of Fish and Game prohibits the collection of live molluscs within the intertidal without a valid fishing license.

Instead of taking shells, take photos of individual shells or collages of shells.


Tide Pooling

At low or minus tides, tide pooling along rocky shores to closely observe the variety of intertidal life is a fun and rewarding activity. If you visit the coast and have a chance to explore tide pools, remember to handle the animals carefully and to return them to the exact place you found them.

  • Because many intertidal animals shelter beneath rocks, be sure to place any rocks you turn over back into their exact location and orientation.
  • The best way to view a tide pool is to approach and then wait quietly next to the pool—soon its various residents will be scurrying around.
  • Intertidal fishes and invertebrates are adapted to survive the challenges of this harsh and wave-swept environment, yet excessive or careless handling of animals can cause injury and death. Prying live animals like sea stars, snails, or mussels off rocks can make them more vulnerable to predators.
  • Be sure to step safely—watch out for yourself (rocks can be slippery in the intertidal)—and be sure not to accidentally step on any tide pool animals that may be damaged if you walk on them.
  • It is against the law to remove ANY animal from the beach unless you have a special permit. In addition, many beaches in the United States are state or national parks and any collecting, even of empty shells, is prohibited.
  • Remember to tread lightly and take only pictures while visiting tide pools. Tide pools and the ocean's intertidal zones contain some of the most diverse collections of life on our planet—and as conscientious visitors to the intertidal environment—we can all help maintain that diversity


Pollution & Coastal Runoff

Coastal pollution also poses a threat to tide pool animals and plants.

  • Types of coastal pollution include discarded trash, oil spills, sewage spills, and toxic chemical runoff—all of which can negatively impact intertidal marine life.
  • SeaWorld regularly participates in local beach clean-ups to prevent trash from polluting the coastal and ocean environments.
  • Remember not to trash where you splash! Improperly disposed of trash—even in areas away from oceans—is often washed down creeks and rivers during rainstorms and eventually ends up in the ocean.


Global Climate Change

In the oceans, human-induced climate change has generated a significant rise in global ocean temperatures and related changes in ocean currents, ice coverage, and sea level. Extreme weather events may also become more frequent as a result of climate change. These climatic changes will impact a variety of marine animals and plants and even entire ocean ecosystems.

As ocean temperatures warm, intertidal animals and plants may shift their distributions. At Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Central California, scientists have already noticed a dramatic change in intertidal animal populations. They compared survey data from 1993 with data collected at the same study site in the 1930s and noticed that species populations with a more southern distribution (adapted to warmer water) became more abundant, while species with more northern distributions (adapted to colder water) declined. Seawater temperatures at the same location have also increased an average of 1.3ºF (0.7ºC), and peak air temperatures increased 4ºF (2.2ºC). Since many intertidal animals are exposed at low tide, they are vulnerable to long-term temperature changes in both the ocean and the air.

Climate Change: What Can You Do?

  • Drive less or buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle (or both).
    • It seems unbelievable, but it’s true: for every gallon of gas you burn, 24 pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. Anything you can do to reduce net consumption of fuel will make a significant difference in overall emissions.
  • Use public transportation, fly, walk, or ride your bike.
    • Public transportation and flying are more efficient ways to move people than automobiles. Walking and biking use no fuel at all and are healthful.
  • Use less water.
    • In California, municipalities use almost 20% of their power simply moving water around. Therefore, if you reduce water use, you will also reduce power consumption.
  • Reduce home power consumption.
    • Turn off equipment when not in use. Replace old appliances with fuel and water-efficient units. Exchange the incandescent light bulbs in your home with energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).
  • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
    • Recycling, especially recycling of heavy garbage such as glass, paper, and green matter from the garden, reduces power use. Recycled materials can be processed more efficiently than raw materials, reducing power use. Finding additional landfill space usually requires trucking garbage to remote areas, increasing fossil fuel use.
  • Educate yourself.
    • One of the greatest threats to wildlife is the increasing detachment of human decision makers from their environment. Although voters consistently support protection for wildlife, they often do not know what steps will be needed to succeed in this goal. If you educate yourself, you’ll be in a better position to support effective measures.


Marinelife Parks

SeaWorld Adventure Parks offer a safe and stimulating environment in which individuals and even kids can closely observe a variety of intertidal animals.

At marinelife parks, guests learn about marine animals, their ecosystems, and conservation measures.

Guests leave with a heightened appreciation of the importance of conserving marine animals and preserving their habitats. A 2005 public opinion poll conducted by Harris Interactive® found the following:

  • 96% agree that marine life parks, aquariums and zoos provide people with valuable information about the importance of oceans, waters, and the animals that live there.
  • 93% agree that people are more likely to be concerned about animals they learn about at marine life parks, aquariums, and zoos.


SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund

The non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund is committed to species research, habitat protection, animal rescue, and conservation education. The Fund was created to strengthen and expand the parks’ existing conservation efforts while also providing guests an easy, direct way to make a difference for wildlife. To learn more about the Fund visit SWBG-ConservationFund.org. The Fund has granted thousands of dollars to various conservation projects around the world, including those involving coastal marine habitats where a variety of intertidal life resides.