The coast guard keeps an eye on the sea

Coast guard

FAQ & Links

  • Are there sharks in the North Sea?

    There are three sorts of sharks in the North Sea : Dogfish, Cat Shark and Smooth Hound. They are not often spotted along the Belgian coast, they are more frequently found along the English and Scottish coasts. So if you are afraid of sharks, there is nothing to fear on the Belgian coast.

  • Can I pick mussels straight off the beach or in the port?

    No, in Belgium this is forbidden by law. Moreover, it is a really bad idea according to research carried out by ILVO, the Institute for Agriculture and Fishery Research. This research shows that eating 'wild' mussels can cause stomach - and bowel infections since they contain a high amount of microbes that can make you ill. Mussels picked off the beach or quay walls also contain more chemical substances than those you buy in the supermarket.

    More information (in Dutch):



  • Have you spotted a beached, wounded, sick or dead animal ? Who to contact?

    Seal, beached, sick or wounded
    Call the Sea Life Centre in Blankenberge at 0032 (0)50/42 43 00, you can reach them 24/7. Keep your distance and do not touch the animal. The seal might be sick and might bite you. Keeps dogs on the leash. Note that not all seals lying on the beach or a breakwater are ill or winded, they often just come to rest.

    Dolphin, beached– Dolphine, seal or dwhalelike mammal, deadCall the MUMM (Management Unit of the North Sea Mathematical Modelsl): during office hours: 0032 (0)59/70 01 31, outside office hours: 0477/25 90 06 0475/46 60 68 0473/95 30 59

     Bird, covered in oil
    Call the rescue center for birds and wild animals (VOC) in Ootend at 059/80 67 66. You can also bring the bird yourself every day from 9 to 12 and from 13h30 to 17h30.

    Provinciaal Domein Raversijde

    Nieuwpoortsesteenweg 642

    8400 Oostende

  • Shoud I be afraid of jellyfish?

    There is no need to be afraid of the jellyfish you will find along our coast. Most of these are not dangerous.

    Four types can be spotted regularly along our coast:

    Moon jellyfish: has a white pattern on its hood in the shape of four little 'ears'. This jellyfish does not cause skin irritations. Appears during spring and early summer.

    Blue jellyfish: typically found during spring. This type of jellyfish can sting.

    Compass jellyfish: Most common jellyfish in summer. Has a brown, compass-like pattern and long tentacles.  Is likely to cause severe skin irritation.

    Barrel or rootmouth jellyfish: large, blue jellyfish which appears during late summer and autumn. This jellyfish does not have tentacles and will not cause skin irritations.

    The Lion's mane jellyfish also used to visit our coast during summer. They can measure up to half a metre. Usually this jellyfish is yellow, but red-coloured species also exist. These jellyfish can cause nasty stings. It has been a few years since they were last seen on our coast.

    The word 'jellyfish' is a misnomer, since jellyfish are not actually fish, but plankton. They cannot swim, they float along with the tides and the wind, sometimes washing ashore. Jellyfish feed off little fish and planktonlike animals which end up between their tentacles.

    Jellyfish are composed of more than 95% water with a membrane around it. That's where the name 'jelly'fish comes from. They have a sort of 'hood' with tentacles attached to it. Under the hood is a cavity serving both as mouth and stomach.

    There is still a lot to learn about these animals. Scientist carry out research into the biology of jellyfish and try to scientifically forecast strandings.
    You can help them by reporting information on observations of jellyfish along the Belgian coast. Send your message to number) or (massive number).
    You can also download a form to report your observation on

    Read more on being stung by a jellyfish

    Thanks to: Francis Kerckhof, RBIN/OD Nature

  • What can I do when I have been stung by a jellyfish?

    On the tentacles of a jellyfish venomonous cells are located. When being touched, jellyfish inject these cells containing venom into the victim.  Depending on the type of jellyfish and the victim's sensitivity, the pain can be less or more severe. Usually being stung by jellyfish on our coast is not dangerous or mortal.

    When you have been stung, carefully remove any parts of tentacles which may have been left on the skin. Do this by rinsing the wound with salt water (not fresh water). Avoid rubbing the wound! Rinsing with salt water or applying a cold compress may help to relieve the pain. In case of severe discomfort, painkillers may prove necessary.
    Take care: even beached and dying jellyfish can still sting when touched!

    Read more on jellyfish

    Thanks to Francis Kerckhof, RBIN/OD Nature


  • What is a cuttle fish?


    A cuttle fish is a ten-armed squid. At first sight you would think that a cuttle fish only has eight arms, but in between, two longer arms are hidden which they use to grab their prey. Mostly they live off shrimp and crabs. Cuttle fish are common in the North Sea. They can grow as big as 50 cm but are granted only a short time of life: the males will live up to three years and a female will die after only one year (after having laid her eggs).

    Cuttle fish are also known as sepia. They change colours when under threat or when they are angry. Sepias bury themselves into the sand. Upon fleeing,they emit a brownlike liquid (sepia) to disturb their enemy's sight.
    Cuttle fish are shellfish and do not have bones. Most shellfish live inside a shell, but the sepia's (skeletal) shell is located internally. These shells often wash ashore during summer and are known to most people as cuttle fish bone, a delicacy for many birds.

  • When a seal is lying on a breakwater or a sandbank, is it sick?

    Not necessarily. Healthy seals need their daily dose of sun. It is important that they can rest, so do not get to close to them and keep dogs on a leash, so as not to disturb the seals.

    A sick seal looks frail and listless and will stay put, even when you come closer. Keep your distance and definitely do not touch the seal. When feeling threatened, it can bite you and transfer germs. Call the  Sea Life Centre Blankenberge: 0032 (0)50 42 43 00.

    The Management Unit of the North Sea Mathematical Models (MUMM) keeps a database with sightings and beachings of seals and other sea mammals. 


  • Why can't I feed seagulls?

    It is not necessary to share your pack of french fries or your portion of fresh shrimp with seagulls. They do have food enough. If they are constantly fed by humans, they will no longer go find food themselves. They will tear garbage bags open which causes the street to be full of litter and which attracts vermin. Rooftops, cars and sidewalks are covered in seagull excrement. Moreover, seagulls are known to come and steal food out of people's hands, which can prove dangerous, especially for small children.

    Did you know that is forbidden by law to feed seagulls? If you go ahead and do it anyway, you risk a heavy fine in most coastal municipalities along the Belgian coast.

  • Why is it that starfish occasionally wash up ashore in large numbers?

    Mass starfish strandings typically occur in winter and as a result of stormy weather. Strong currents pluck the starfish off the seabed. Because of the low water temperature, they are too feeble to reattach themselves, so they keep floating around. Strong currents can carry them to the shore and so they end up on the beach. 

    The phenomenom of mass strandings shows that the common starfish is widely present in the North Sea and their population seems to be growing. Adult starfish have few enemies, except for the herring gull. Nonetheless, they should be cautious around precisely their own: young starfish are often attacked by bigger ones and certain starfish species actively hunt their colleagues.