Whale and dolphin-watching around the UK – how you can get involved!
Sea Watch is a national marine environmental charity working to improve the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the seas around Britain and Ireland. You may not know our name, however we’ve been recording cetacean sightings around the UK for over forty years! Sea Watch Foundation was made a registered research charity back in 1991 and prior to that had been the Cetacean Group formed out of the Mammal Society by our founder and director, Dr Peter Evans.
We’re proud to have been one of the first citizen science schemes in the world, asking scientists, naturalists and members of the public to submit their cetacean sightings to our UK-wide database. Consequently, we have a dataset spanning forty years, with some occasional older records too. Prior to Dr Evans setting up the cetacean database, it had been considered nigh on impossible to ascertain scientific information about cetaceans by studying live animals; after all, they live underwater! In fact, we’ve shown how valuable this data can be and continue to provide data to inform and advise on policy.
As well as recording whales, dolphins and porpoises we also aim to spread awareness of these special creatures, which can be found all around our shores, whilst enthusing people to strive to protect them.
We’re always looking for new volunteers to help us document cetacean status and distribution around the UK, whether wildlife professionals or interested members of the public. Getting involved is easy; please use the contact details at the end of this article. Volunteering is also tailored to suit your lifestyle, we value your time and appreciate what you can do for us so even if you can only contribute occasionally it’s greatly appreciated! One way you can help is by conducting land-based watches from the coast. This can be a spot you survey regularly, perhaps if you work or live at a coastal location or somewhere opportunistic when you are visiting the coast. You can also help from home by helping us with data entry, fund raising or even graphic design!
Our flagship event is the National Whale & Dolphin Watch which we’ve been running for the past thirteen years. This year’s event takes place between July 25th and August 2nd so please make that a date in your diary, whether you can arrange an event through your workplace, conduct a private watch or attend an organised watch. Through the years, we’ve created a snapshot of cetacean activity around the UK for this same period of each year. The event is building year on year, but ultimately we’d like everyone to know that during that nine day period, they can take to the coasts to take part in the National Whale & Dolphin Watch. It’s a great way to spread awareness of cetaceans and the message of marine conservation as well as a valuable data collection tool.
During the 2014 National Whale and Dolphin Watch 1150 sightings were reported, amounting to 5426 individual animals. These sightings covered eleven different species of cetacean up, down and across the UK. It really is terrific what we can spot when there’s a concerted effort!
As well as the public data collection we also work on specific projects, the most long-standing of which being our Cardigan Bay Monitoring Project in West Wales. Each year a team of well qualified interns volunteer their time to assist with the bottlenose dolphin monitoring project under the supervision of our Monitoring Officer. We attract applicants from all around the world and feel privileged to work alongside them. We monitor the animals from the land and sea, with land-based observations in New Quay taking place from seven in the morning until nine at night (weather and daylight permitting). Opportunistically, we charter a survey vessel to conduct photo-identification surveys and line transects in the bay. Bottlenose dolphins return en-masse to the area seasonally and the New Quay team chart their progress between April and October. In the winter months, our research has shown that many of the dolphins found in Cardigan Bay travel northwards and can be found off the East coast of Anglesey, Liverpool Bay and even as far north as the Isle of Man. If you are lucky enough to get a good dorsal fin shot of a bottlenose dolphin then please send it to us so we can compare it to our catalogue. It’s worth noting that this can be very challenging when not on a dedicated research vessel which is licensed to spend a longer period of time with dolphins.
You don’t need to be on a boat to achieve fin shots of dolphins however. We’re lucky in the UK to have two knockout opportunities to watch bottlenose dolphins from the shore; the aforementioned New Quay in Ceredigion as well as Chanonry Point in the Moray Firth, Scotland.
We offer training to professionals and interested individuals who would like to further their understanding of UK cetaceans and how to monitor them at our base in New Quay. To find out more about these and ways to contribute to our sightings scheme, please visit our website or write to me on the email address given below.
Seeing a cetacean in the wild is an incredible experience that is difficult to forget. Our latest National Whale and Dolphin Watch results showed that for every two hours watching at the end of July and early August, on average around the UK, you could spot one cetacean – that’s pretty good going!
01545 561227 firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated information July 2017
During the 2016 National Whale and Dolphin Watch 1424 sightings were reported, amounting to 7622 individual animals. These sightings covered twelve different species of cetacean up, down and across the UK. It really is terrific what we can spot when there’s a concerted effort!
2017 National Whale and Dolphin Watch runs from 29th July- 6th August 2017.
Find out more on http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw/