Tidepool Dos and Don'ts

Welcome to part three of our five part blog series (see part onetwo, four and five) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

Tidepooling is a great way to explore the outdoors and learn about nature. The gorgeous sea anemones, abundant mussels and luscious algae are great teachers of ecological relations in the sea (and can turn into beautiful pictures for Facebook). However, tidepooling can have a negative impact on the organisms that live there. Even though tidepool organisms are incredibly strong, they are still sensitive to human activity — you can kill several organisms in a single trip!

Tips To Reduce Your Impact

This isn’t the ultimate guide on tidepooling. You still need to use your good sense to navigate the pools. Here are some tips to help conserve the tidepools:



  1. Know before you go.
    Learning about marine life is a great way to prevent risks and increase enjoyment. Different places have different organisms and types of rock. These will change the way you need to behave. You can learn more at San Diego Coastkeeper’s website or California Marine Protected Areas website.
  2. Take only pictures
    Don’t take any shells, pebbles and organisms with you.  La Jolla is a Marine Reserve which means all of these are protected by law. It’s a temptation, I know; they are so pretty.
  3. Watch animals from a distance
    Bring your binoculars and camera; you will be able to see more without getting close! Because they are protected by law, you shouldn’t approach marine mammals. They can get aggressive if they feel cornered or threatened – have you seen how big they can be? You don’t want one angry at you.
  4. Leave your pets at home
    They may be attacked or chased by wildlife.
  5. And finally, take your trash with you.
    Bring a bag and keep this place beautiful for everyone!


  1. Don’t touch animals
    Sea animals are divas: look, but don’t touch. Touching can cause damage and/or stress to the organism. You can also get hurt. If you feel that you really want to touch the organisms, Birch Aquarium has a pool where you can touch them.
  2. Don’t overturn rocks
    The rocks protect fragile and shy creatures; by overturning them, you are exposing animals to the elements.
  3. Don’t feed or try to attract animals
    The animals can become reliant on humans. Human food can make animals sick too.
  4. Don’t destroy or damage the landscapes
    Be mindful of the next tidepoolers.
  5. Don’t step on organisms
    Watch your step; avoid stepping on delicate marine life or dislodging animals. Trampling is one of the biggest damages of tidepooling; it can potentially change the pool community.

I hope that these tips help you to enjoy your time at the tidepools. I hope it also helps to diminish the impact in the sea life. Given how many people visit La Jolla Shores each year, keeping good tide pool etiquette is the only way to make sure that future generations will enjoy the same beautiful tide pools we enjoy today. Still have questions? Check out these other tidepooling guides: California State Parks BrochureMarine Wildlife Viewing Guidelines, and Whale Watching Guidelines.

 Written by Thais Fonseca Rech