Court Injunctions help Protect Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

In December 2001, the Dorset and East Devon coastline (the Jurassic Coast), was awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO.  It is England’s first recognised natural World Heritage site, ranking alongside such historic locations as the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands.  Now two court injunctions issued against unscrupulous fossil collectors are helping to protect and preserve this unique set of fossil bearing geological formations.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have been lucky enough to have visited the Lyme Regis and Charmouth area on many occasions, it is a truly beautiful part of the coastline of southern England.  Although collecting fossils from the beach is a fun and very satisfying pursuit, often providing children with their first experience of fossils, parts of the cliff have been made more dangerous due to the activities of some rogue commercial fossil hunters.

The Jurassic Cliffs between Charmouth and Lyme Regis

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Jurassic Coast

The National Trust and Charmouth council secured the first order banning a Somerset man from extracting fossils out of the cliffs as it was feared that these activities could endanger others if there were landslips.  In a similar move, a second injunction was also made by Taunton County Court banning “unknown persons” from digging in the Dorset coast area.

A Replica of a Belemnite

CollectA Belemnite model.

CollectA Age of Dinosaurs Popular Size Belemnite model.

For replicas of iconic prehistoric animals, fossils of which can be found on the Jurassic Coast: Replicas of Iconic Fossil Animals.

A spokesperson for the National Trust, the organisation responsible for the management of much of the UNESCO World Heritage coastline in conjunction with the local councils said that fossils could still be collected from the beach but these orders would prevent extraction of fossils from cliff faces and help prevent coastal erosion.

The spokesperson went onto add:

“The man has been involved in extracting large numbers of fossils by digging expressly against the wishes of the landowners and the guidance of the West Dorset fossil collecting code of conduct.  His actions have also placed the public, including walkers and families, at risk from falling rocks.”

Any person or persons, breaking the injunction, which came into force in time for the Spring tourist season, could be arrested.  We at Everything Dinosaur, welcome this move as we are very aware how unstable the cliffs are and indeed we have been shocked and appalled by some of the activities of commercial fossil hunters in the area in recent years.

Fortunately, for every rogue dealer than are many more highly professional fossil collectors who respect their environment and work within the confines of the Fossil Collecting Code of Conduct – a code we ourselves have done much to publicise and promote.

Helen Mann, the National Trust property manager in Dorset, went onto add:

“These injunctions are not about stopping people picking up the fossils on the beaches.  We know thousands of families enjoy collecting fossils as a memento of their visit to the Jurassic Coastline and this is a valuable educational activity for many families and schools.  This is about preventing inappropriate and unlawful fossil collection which damages the coastline.”

She went onto add:

“Wholesale digging into the cliffs, prospecting along fossil-rich layers, is dangerous and unacceptable.”

We at Everything Dinosaur wholeheartedly support this action by the authorities and we hope that the threat of arrest will deter those commercial collectors who migrate to the Dorset coast with the sole objective of taking out as many fossils as they can in as quick a time as possible with a view to selling them to private collectors and on auction websites.

If you would like to visit the Jurassic coast and take part in an organised fossil hunting walk with local experts, we are happy to recommend a number of Dorset based professional fossil collectors who conduct a number of daily guided walks along England’s historic Jurassic coastline.

For further information visit: Guided Fossil Walks at Lyme Regis.