Help Monitor The Whales and Dolphins of Scotland

wdc_shorewatchA community-led citizen science project is seeking dedicated volunteers to monitor the whales and dolphins of Scotland.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) runs the Shorewatch project, a network of volunteers watching out for cetacean species at designated sites across Scotland. WDC uses sighting information from volunteers to aid in the protection of whales and dolphins across the country.

There is a great variety of marine wildlife around Scotland, and the Shorewatch programme recorded more than 1,000 sightings last year alone – and have had further fantastic sightings this year. The Moray Firth is home to a population of around 190 bottlenose dolphins that travel throughout the firth and as far down the east coast as Scarborough in England. From the visitor centre at the Scottish Dolphin Centre in Spey Bay, Whale and Dolphin Conservation have been recording sightings of these dolphins, as well as other cetacean species in the area, for over ten years, and are now seeking passionate volunteers to support this work in coastal areas across the country.

Along with the resident bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise populations off the Scottish coasts, Shorewatch volunteers have also recorded sightings of Minke whale, Humpback whale and even Orca, among others. Katie Dyke, Scottish Conservation officer at WDC, says ‘Scotland is an amazing place to see whales and dolphins. WDC Shorewatch works in 23 coastal communities across Scotland, training local volunteers to record their whale and dolphin sightings’. She added, ‘It is so important to have eyes on the sea to protect and monitor the species’. The data provided through Shorewatch will help to better understand where the animals are going, and in turn help in their protection. All gathered data is distributed to national organisations to form plans to protect these magnificent animals.

The Shorewatch project currently has over 150 active volunteers, stretching around the northeast and north-west coasts from Aberdeen to the Outer Hebrides, and saw twelve different species of cetacean last year alone. These volunteers are vital to the continued running of the project, and WDC Shorewatch seeks further volunteers to aid in this initiative. WDC Shorewatch runs training days for anyone that is interested in becoming a volunteer and joining the Shorewatch project. Following their training, in which attendees are trained to identify the variety of cetacean species around Scotland and record their sightings data, volunteers are provided with watching equipment, including binoculars, and begin to record their Shorewatch efforts from designated coastal sites.

The Shorewatch team will be visiting Tiree on the 15th and 16th of June (more info in the poster within this article) and would love to meet keen volunteers; we will also be offering Shorewatch training sessions. Anyone interested in attending or learning more information can contact the Spey Bay centre on 01343 829065, or email the Shorewatch team at shorewatch@whales.org.

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