Finding the Balance of Geological Conservation

In the 1930s tourists flocked to the Yorkshire Coast for it’s natural bounty of big game fishing. Today the Tunny are locally extinct, a result of poor resource management and unregulated fishing.

In the 2030s will people still come to the Yorkshire Coast to enjoy its natural bounty of fossils?

So fossils come out of the bedrock and erode into sediments right?

If they’re not collected they just disappear back into the mud, right?!

So why shouldn’t I take them away before that happens?

They’re always going to erode from the cliffs after all….


Access to natural history, science and heritage should be available to everyone – now, and in the future. That’s best achieved by preserving free access to important natural places as National Parks, Conservation reserves and marine parks. Did you know we have these places for fossils too?

Some locations have a fundamental importance to science due to their unique geological heritage. That’s the case along Yorkshire’s Jurassic Coast, and it’s these attributes that attract fossil collectors and scientists alike.

The Yorkshire & Cleveland Coast between Redcar and Scarborough has 8 areas that are protected status as SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest), specifically due to their fossil content.

Redcar Rocks – Teesmouth to Marske

Boulby and Loftus Alum Quarries

Staithes Harbour to Port Mulgrave – cliff and scar

Runswick Bay north of the village – cliff and scar

Whitby East Harbour Wall to Saltwick Bay – cliff and scar

Robin Hoods Bay – entire stretch of cliff and scar from Hawsker Cliffs to Staintondale

Hayburn Wyke

Iron Scar and Hundale Point to Scalby Ness – cliff and scar

If you’re fossil collecting in one of these locations – you need to understand what SSSI status means.

Regulations allow everyone to undertake responsible fossil collecting within these protected sites. You can collect loose materials upon public lands, so shingle patches on beaches and cobbles on scars above the low water line are up for grabs. But, nodules, rocks and fossils within the cliffs, or still attached to the rock platform must not be damaged or removed. Collecting from private land is allowed only with permission of the land owner.

A simple guide of responsible collection is as follows:

Value quality over quantity. Select a few pieces, leave the rest for others

Don’t hammer the cliffs or scar

Record details of all finds

If you’ve found something important – Report it to an expert

Many ‘new to science’ discoveries are made every year along the Yorkshire Coast, mostly by amateurs and enthusiasts. These discoveries add detail to what we know about the ancient environment during Jurassic and Ice Age times. The minor limitations upon collecting, provide the scientific community with areas to study and allow enthusiasts to collect, discover and share knowledge. There’s no-one to enforce these rules, but there are a whole bunch of people to support them, and that’s us, the fossil community.

As you’re reading this, that’s you!
Someone who believes that #YorkshireCoastRocks
Someone who wants to keep it that way.

So, if you dig it, don’t dig it…..! Leave the Hildy in the bedrock!
Found a dinosaur footprint? Selfie some sedimentary!
Don’t extract fossils from the scar – Insta an ‘in-situ’ instead

Steve Cousins aka The Rock Showman
December 2021
Is Science Communicator, passionate Fossil Safari Tour guide and founding member of The Geo Heritage Collective

The more we discuss geological conservation and sustainable fossilising on blogs, social media and fossil forums, the more educated and aware our community can be. By respecting the responsible collecting code of conduct, we help Yorkshire’s Jurassic Coast remain a key scientific location for future generations.

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