The otter is listed in Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats Directive and is fully protected along with its habitat in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations 1994 (the Habitats Regulations), as amended. In summary under this various legislation, it is illegal to deliberately or recklessly capture, kill, injure or disturb otters, or to damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place for otters.
Otters are listed as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) (JNCC, 1994) - they are also listed on the Scottish Biodiversity List as a species of importance for the purpose of conservation of biodiversity in Scotland.
Surveys for otters can be carried out all year round. Ideally the survey should take place after 3 dry days to allow for spraint observation.
Couch, an above ground resting place and holts, an underground chamber both require a license if they might be disturbed. Disturbance is within 30m for a couch or holt and 100m for a natal or breeding holt.