This paper examines current seabird survey guidance and norms for wet renewable projects against practical experience and survey results gained by Natural Research Projects Ltd (NRP) during surveys at seven ‘wet renewable’ sites around Scotland over the past five years. Marine renewable energy projects by their very nature are targeted at sites that have high energy environments and consequently commonly present challenging conditions for boat-based and shore-based survey methods. The first part of the paper aims to serve as a reality check on undertaking visual surveys for seabirds at wet renewable sites. The second part goes on to consider in more detail how the practical constraints can be taken into account during the survey design and execution. NRP’s experience is that poor or unfavourable sea conditions are a significant constraint to undertaking surveys at most wet renewable sites. The practical realities of undertaking surveys in high energy sites are described and the implications of this for complying with survey guidance are examined. A key aspect of managing these constraints is consideration of the data quality and survey frequency requirements. The current norm for EIA studies is to undertake a two-year programme of monthly survey work. Results from the sites surveyed by NRP are briefly examined to see how well such a generic approach is appropriate for a range of seabird species. It is concluded that the appropriate amount of survey effort and quality of data required vary between species, sites and the type of technology to be deployed, and these factors should be taken into account at the survey design stage. It is further concluded that survey guidance and monitoring will need to be updated and revised as knowledge of the impacts of wet renewables on marine wildlife improves. In the same way that has occurred for terrestrial wind farms, there is likely to be a shift away from generic surveys aimed at all species towards surveys that focus on priority species and issues and conducted only at the times of year when significant impacts are plausible.