Nature

Volunteer citizen scientists invited to survey cetaceans in British and Irish waters

Get your binoculars ready, National Whale and Dolphin Watch is coming!

Long finned pilot whales sighted in the Moray Firth, Scotland, during last year NWDW event. Photo credit: North 58 Sea Adventures

Get your binoculars ready, National Whale and Dolphin Watch is coming!

Scientists at Sea Watch Foundation are looking for marine mammal enthusiasts around the country who want to help to collect records of whales, dolphins and porpoises and become involved in their marine conservation work. Sea Watch Foundation has monitored whales, dolphins and porpoises in British and Irish waters for over forty years with the help of volunteer citizen scientists who have reported presence, location and numbers of cetaceans from around the country. For the past 16 years this has been spearheaded through an annual national recording event, the National Whale and Dolphin Watch (NWDW). The event this year is taking place from Saturday 28th July until Sunday 5th August 2018 and it marks the long-lasting collaboration between citizen scientists, wildlife enthusiasts, the general public and researchers alike. A young whale spotter looking out for whales and dolphins in Kinghorn, Scotland, during NWDW last year. Photo credit: Ronnie Mackie / Sea Watch Foundation

"At least 12 species of whales, dolphins and harbour porpoise are likely to be around the coast at this time of year, and we hope that with the help of observers and members of the public, we may even have sightings of some rare visitors. In past NWDW events, we’ve even had beluga whales spotted and filmed! The NWDW watches can really help us to improve our knowledge of numbers and conservation status of each species and contribute to understanding trends and population health" said Dr Chiara G. Bertulli, Sightings Officer at Sea Watch.

The NWDW 2017 recorded more than 1,500 hours of watches, 300 hours more than any other similar organized watch in the past, with participants looking out for whales, dolphins and porpoises all around the country from Shetland to the Isles of Scilly, and reporting around 6,600 individual animals of eleven species from land and at sea. The most memorable sightings recorded during the 2017 include long-finned pilot whales in the Moray Firth, striped dolphins near the Isles of Scilly, many sightings of killer whales in the north of Scotland, and humpback whale sightings in both the north-east of the UK and the Isle of Man.

All you need to bring with you is patience, a lot of enthusiasm, binoculars, and sightings forms and a cetacean identification guide (downloadable from the Sea Watch website). We are suggesting for people to conduct their land watches for a minimum of one hour and to work in groups to take turns during data collection. If you are an experienced watcher, you can easily identify species and fill in our website forms. If it is the first time for you, there are manned sites around the country where experienced watchers will be available to assist first timers.

Accredited wildlife tour operators and other recommended dolphin watching companies around the country are also taking part in the weekend (details can be found here). Please note that spaces on most boat trips need to be reserved first. Prices vary for these trips and you should contact the relevant operator directly. All marine wildlife operators abide by a voluntary code of conduct.

The National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2018 is just two weeks away and the research charity behind the event are urging people to register now to run watches of their own to contribute valuable data for the protection of these magnificent species!

Bottlenose dolphins sighted by a Sea Watch recommended wildlife boat operator off Cornwall during the 2017 NWDW. Photo credit: Newquay Sea Safari’s and fishing

Please get in touch to find out more and to take part!

Related articles
Nature
Dead Dolphins Stockpiled in French Coastal Town

Dead Dolphins Stockpiled in French Coastal Town

Sea Shepherd's gruesome discovery is the result of illegal fishing by French trawlers

Technology
Unique rewilding training aims to boost employability in rural economy

Unique rewilding training aims to boost employability in rural economy

Trees for Life hopes to attract people from groups poorly represented in nature conservation

Culture
Environment Agency Thames Flood Plain Scandal

Environment Agency Thames Flood Plain Scandal

An area the size of seven football pitches now useless