Volunteers wanted to watch our seas for sealife

The National Whale and Dolphin Watch gets underway this weekend.

Every year, scientists at the Sea Watch Foundation lead a campaign to get members of the general public contributing to science to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises and they’re calling on you to get involved between 27 July and 4 August.

For over 40 years, Sea Watch Foundation scientists as well as volunteer observers all around the coast of the British Isles from Shetland to the Isles of Scilly have been reporting sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) to inform Sea Watch’s huge database of records.

The scheme is one of the oldest and longest running citizen science projects in the world. Anyone can take part in this flagship summer event, the National Whale and Dolphin Watch , now in its 18th year.

Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli, sightings officer and lead organiser of this year’s NWDW event, said: ‘It’s all about reporting your whale, dolphin and porpoise sightings as well as getting out there to look for them.

‘Without collecting information about numbers, locations, and behaviour, it is impossible for scientists and conservationists to know how to develop plans to protect cetacean species in our seas.’

Sea Watch regional coordinator for the Inner and Outer Hebrides is the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust a charity which has got a unique programme of community-based programme where communities are directly involved in collecting biological recordings of local cetacean species.

Dr Lauren Hartny-Mills, the trust’s science officer, said: ‘With the help of our new sighting app, the Whale Track app, everyone (wildlife enthusiasts as well as boat operators) is now able to record and submit their sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises from across the Hebrides.’

Cetaceans can be found all around the coast of the UK and recently around the Scottish coast there have been many species spotted like orcas which have been sighted travelling off Sarclet, Caithness, and recognised to be part of the 27s pod, a group migrating between Iceland and Scotland every summer.

White-beaked dolphins have been sighted bow-riding and breaching few miles east of Helmsdale, and as far north as Shetland. Humpback whales were sighted surface from a cliff in Pettycur facing the Firth of Forth in North-East Scotland in February this year. Minke whales were also reported lunge feeding in association with seabirds off Burghead, Moray, on several occasions.

The charity encourages wildlife-lovers to head to the coast to collect watch data of their own. No experience is necessary and the team at Sea Watch will be happy to set you off on the right foot.

Chiara added: ‘We need as many eyes on the sea as possible. That means we’re looking for people all around the Scottish coast to arrange a watch for themselves and for everybody to report the animals that they see.’

During the nine-day 2018 event, thirteen different whales and dolphins were recorded in UK waters, a number which was only been recorded once before. Some 757 sightings were logged around Scotland, which held the highest number of sightings once again. For more facts and figures from last years’ event, please see the 2018 National Whale and Dolphin Watch report.

Find out more about the event at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw

Join a registered watch at https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw-2019-watch-list/