Tide Pool Tips
Here are a few major impacts we humans have on tide pools and beaches
and how we can explore with lesser impacts on the resources:
Where to walk: the entire intertidal zone, beaches and
rocky shores alike, is teeming with life. Virtually everywhere you
step there will be plants and animals underfoot, some very fragile,
others more rugged. In addition, you need to watch your footing to
avoid slips and falls. Try this:
Keep on boardwalks, posted trails or other established paths. Avoid
stepping on fragile dune plants going to and from shore.
the rocky shore try to step on solid, bare rocks. Stepping on seaweed
is Not only a slippery way to travel, but many creatures take cover
under the seaweed during low tide. Stepping on loose stones is
unstable and you may damage animals living underneath the stones.
Walk in a line, placing your feet where others have stepped. If you
spread out in the intertidal, you also spread out the trampling
Examining animals: many intertidal animals have exacting
requirements for where they live, right down to a particular hole or
depression in the rock that only they fit into. Many of these animals
may be handled briefly to examine them, but should be treated with the
Always keep your hands wet when touching these animals, and keep these
animals wet as well.
is always best to look at a plant or animal in situ; try
bending over to get a closer look in a tide pool or rocky crevice
rather than bring the plant/animal out of the water up to your level.
you must remove an animal from the water, place it in a small, clear
plastic container with fresh seawater briefly to allow everyone to see
it. Be sure to replace the animal exactly where you found it.
you must roll a stone or driftwood over to look underneath it, try Not
to crush animals in the process. Always replace the stone or wood
gently in its original position. Remember, a loose stone or wood turns
into a wrecking ball with the next high tide and can do a lot of
damage to those intertidal animals.
Similarly, if you lift up algae to look for creatures hiding
underneath, replace it when you are done. The algae forms a vital “wet
blanket” over the rocks to keep animals cool and most, as well as
hiding them from gulls and other predators.
Not remove limpets, snails, abalone, chitons, mussels, sponges,
tunicates (sea squirts) and attached animals or plants from the rocks.
Most algae, mussels, tunicates (sea squirts) and sponges will Not be
able to re-attach themselves before the next high tide and will be
tossed up on the beach to fall victim to the sun or a predator. Many
gastropods (limpets, abalone, and snails) easily succumb to internal
bleeding if damaged while forcefully removing them from the rocks.
(their internal cavity walls are easily torn and these animals lack
clotting compounds in their blue-green blood to repair their damage).
Some limpets and sea urchins have a shell or test that precisely fits
a hole or depression in their “home rock”. If you remove them and
don’t put them back in the same location, they just don’t “fit”
anywhere else and are easy prey for tidal surges and predators.
Each tide pool is an established community of sorts, with each
resident having established its territory, food source, shelter and
interrelationships with the other residents. Each time we add or
subtract or move animals, or disturb the physical conditions (by
moving stones, algae, littering, etc.) the entire community may be
Collecting: nearly everyone that visits the beach or tide pools is
fascinated by what they see and desires to bring some souvenir or an
object of beauty or curiosity back home with them. However, we should
consider nature’s viewpoint when tempted to collect. Living marine
plants and animals have complex requirements for food and general
living conditions that can’t be matched in most aquariums at home or
at school. Removing live specimens from their intertidal homes is a
certain death sentence for them. Dried specimens of certain algae or
invertebrates may be attractive when properly prepared. However,
preparation may be complicated (and perhaps a smelly) process you may
Not want to undertake.
Collecting shells has been a popular hobby for many people. However,
each shell is often a complex microcosm of creatures, many of which
live on long after the “original owner” is dead. If you look closely
at a shell you are very apt to see tiny white spirobis tube worm
shells attached to the inside or outside, or perhaps some boring
sponge or even a small boring clam living in tiny holes in
the shell. There may be barnacles, colonies of bryozoans or beautiful
coralline algae encrusting the shell, and that shell may be just the
right size for a naked hermit crab looking for a new house. In short,
just about every shell is an important home for a multitude of
organisms; when you take the shell home, you add to the housing
shortage in the intertidal.
all of these reasons. And many others, the state and many local
governments have enacted strict regulations prohibiting collecting of
plants, animals, shells and even rocks from beaches and tide pools.
The single most important way we can minimize, human
impacts on intertidal areas is to educate everybody about better ways
to treat these fragile resources. Please pass these tips along to
others using beach and tide pools. When you’re in the intertidal,
please model the best behavior possible for others; we all learn best
by observing others.
1999 Monterey Bay