Visitor restrictions in Matsalu National Park

Matsalu National Park has been established for the protection of birds' stopover, nesting, feeding and moulting sites (Matsalu Bay, Väinameri archipelago area), for the renovation and preservation of endangered seminatural communities (floodplain meadows of the mouth of the Kasari river, coastal and wooded meadows) and for studying, introducing and protecting the rich heritage culture in the area surrounding the Väinameri sea.
The territory of the national park is divided into protected zones of three restriction classes: seven strict nature reserves, thirty-one special management zones and a limited management zone. Map of the protected zones of Matsalu National Park and the restrictions established for the zones is here
To guarantee that everyone could enjoy the birds here, the use of fast motor boats, incl. water scooters, personal watercraft and speedboats is prohibited on Matsalu Bay. The highest permitted speed for watercraft is 15 knots. The use of sailboats, pedaloes, water skis and rafts is also prohibited.
When you travel in the waters of the national park please note masses of birds and, if possible, keep away from them. When birdwatching, please also keep to the distance and avoid disturbing the birds. Use of binoculars or scope is recommended for birdwatching.
The shallow part of Matsalu Bay to the east of the Keemu-Haeska line with the Kolmenasva islet and the Haeska islets is a particularly important stopover site for nesting and migrating birds and therefore, access is closed for visitors. Restrictions do not apply to scientific fieldwork and supervision or rescue works.
It is also forbidden to go to other islands in Matsalu National Park – so these small patches of land in the sea are reserved for birds only. The results of interference may be fatal, because when adult birds are scared away from the nest there is a great risk that the young ones fall prey to predatory birds. Islands provide an undisturbed nesting site for birds. Furthermore, numerous migratory birds stopover and feed on the islands and the surrounding shallow water in spring and autumn; and swans, geese and ducks gather here for moulting in summer. The migration of waders starts at the end of June already and lasts until October-November, when the last peewits (northern lapwings) leave.
To disturb the birds as little as possible, it is forbidden to move and fish in the close surrounds of the islands: the protection zone around the islands of Liia, Tauksi, Sõmeri, Suurrahu, Koharahu, Kuivrahu, Näripea, Laeka-Mustakivirahu, Siimu islets, Kumari, Valgerahu and Papilaid is 200 metres wide;
and around Anemaa, Suur and Väike-Härjamaa, Tondirahu, Sipelgarahu, and Papirahu, 500 metres wide.
Recreational fishing is allowed in Matsalu National Park based on a fishing card. The fishing card can be obtained online at You may also send an application via mail or e-mail, or submit an application at the offices of the Environmental Board in Haapsalu and Penijõe. Recreational fishing without a fishing card is allowed on the left bank of the Penijõgi river from the border of the protected area to Bogeri, and on the jetties of the ports within the territory of the national park – recreational fishing rights apply there pursuant to the general principles.
The Matsalu Bay is surrounded by coastal meadows that are maintained by cattle. During the ice-free period, access to the coastal meadows is prohibited. This enables geese to stop and feed in the meadows and helps to keep them away from grainfields. Waders and terns, who also need peace, nest in the coastal meadows in early spring. Visitors are allowed to move around in the special management zones of the coastal meadows and floodplains from the formation to melting of ice or in ice-free winters from 16 November to the end of February.
In wooded meadows access is prohibited to visitors from 15 May to the end of the hay-making period.
Dogs running around freely may disturb the peace of birds as much as or even more than people do. Please keep dogs on leads! Do not take dogs with you to trails where there are cattle.
Public events in special management zones are permitted only with the consent of the manager of the protected area. In the limited management zone, public events for up to 50 participants are permitted in prepared places; events with more participants and all public events in non-prepared locations must be coordinated with the manager of the protected area.
Signposted hiking trails and observation towers are open for public use throughout the year. Cycling outside paths and roads, and driving and parking motor vehicles outside designated roads and parking areas is prohibited in the protected area, except for scientific fieldwork, supervision and rescue works.
Camping and campfires are allowed in designated and signposted places only.
For further information and to apply for permits, please contact an office of the Western Region of the Environmental Board:
Haapsalu office
Phone: +372 472 4720
Fax: +372 472 4730
Kiltsi tee 10, 90403 Haapsalu
Penijõe office
Phone: +372 472 4720
Fax: +372 477 8088
Penijõe village 90305, Lääneranna municipality, Pärnu County

To report an environmental offence, please call 1313.