Help wanted to chart Scotland’s ocean wildlife

Scientists at Sea Watch Foundation are looking for Scottish marine mammal enthusiasts to help with their survey of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Every year for nine days in late July, Sea Watch Foundation look for wildlife enthusiasts and around the UK to support National Whale and Dolphin Watch, a citizen science project organised by the Sea Watch Foundation.

Now in its 18th year, the event is taking place from Saturday 27 July until Sunday 4 August and it marks the long-lasting collaboration between citizen scientists, wildlife enthusiasts, the general public and researchers alike.

The NWDW 2018 recorded more than 1,300 hours of watches with participants looking out for whales, dolphins and porpoises all around the country from Shetland to the Isles of Scilly and reporting around 8,000 individual animals of thirteen species from land and at sea.

Last year the number of cetacean sightings recorded was 1,626 sightings which was the highest ever recorded, possibly due to the good stable weather recorded last summer, with high temperature which brought in warmer water species like striped dolphin, and created the conditions for plankton fronts to develop, attracting shoals of fish and in turn, whales and dolphins.

The most memorable sightings recorded during the 2018 include humpback whales in Yorkshire and Aberdeenshire, striped dolphins live stranding in South Wales, Sowerby’s beaked whale in East Lothian, fin whales in Northeast Scotland and Outer Hebrides, and large pods of short-beaked common dolphins off Puffin Island and Menai Bridge in North Wales.

No previous experience is needed, anyone who wants to and who is in the UK during the event can help. All that people need to bring is patience, a lot of enthusiasm, binoculars, and sightings forms and a cetacean identification guide (downloadable from the Sea Watch website).

Bottlenose dolphins off Chanonry Point in the Moray Firth

Sea Watch staff 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.

Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli, sightings officer at Sea Watch Foundation and lead organiser of this year’s event, said: ‘National Whale and Dolphin Watch is about involving people and allowing them to experience something they never thought they could be part of, it is about collecting vital data for the protection and conservation of local cetacean species, and it is about sharing this magical event with people from all other the country and have fun all together.’

Accredited wildlife tour operators and other recommended dolphin watching companies around the UK are also taking part in the weekend. 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.

Lots will be happening during National Whale and Dolphin Watch event from beach cleans to cliff walks, sandcastle competitions, face paintings and dolphin rescues.

Find out more about the event click HERE , or to register your own watch visit

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