Get your binoculars ready, National Whale and Dolphin Watch is coming!
Long-finned pilot whales sighted in the Moray Firth, Scotland © North 58 Sea Adventures
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 28 July until Sunday 5 August 2018 and it marks the long-lasting collaboration between citizen scientists, wildlife enthusiasts, the general public and researchers alike.
"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 watch 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). It's suggested that people 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. 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!