Play your part in keeping track of marine life around the Isles

A Minke whale is just one of the many mammals which travel along our coastal waters. Picture courtesy of the Sea Watch Foundation.

A Minke whale is just one of the many mammals which travel along our coastal waters. Picture courtesy of the Sea Watch Foundation.

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Isle of Lewis residents and visitors are being urged to help marine research charity Sea Watch keep track of the dolphin and whales living around the UK’s coastline during this summer’s annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch (NWDW).

Anyone can join in NWDW which runs from Friday 5 August to Sunday 7 August by attending a manned watch or by doing their own watch and sending in sightings to Sea Watch.

A manned watch will take place at the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse on 6 August between 10am and 12.30pm.

Local Sea Watch representative, Julie Sievewright, is co-ordinating the event.

She said: “During the watch at the Butt of Lewis there is the opportunity to see a variety of marine wildlife, from seals and dolphins through to birds such as gannets,” she explains.

“We also get regular sightings of basking sharks in the summer. There have already been a number of orca sightings at the lighthouse this year so hopefully that bodes well for plenty more throughout the summer.

“I had a fantastic turn out for last year’s shore watch and I’m hoping people will join me again for this year’s event and help contribute towards the work that is being done to understand more about marine mammals in our waters.”

Species you can expect to see along this coastline include the bottlenose dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin and Risso’s dolphin, minke, humpback and killer whales and the harbour porpoise.

Danielle Gibas, Sea Watch’s sightings officer, is urging as many people as possible to join the watch.

“The information we collect creates a snapshot of the distribution of dolphins, whales and porpoises – cetaceans - around the coast, which is then fed into scientific discussions on abundance and distribution,” she explains.

“We gather data on sightings throughout the year providing essential background on the relative abundance and distribution of cetaceans. This helps shape marine conservation policies aimed at protecting the whales, dolphins and porpoises around our coast.”

In total, 28 species of dolphins, whales and porpoises have been recorded in UK and Irish waters, 12 of these during a National Whale and Dolphin Watch.

Details of how to take part, and of all manned watches across the UK, can be found on www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk

You can also follow Sea Watch’s activities via the charity’s Facebook site or help protect the UK’s whales and dolphins by adopting a Cardigan Bay dolphin on www.adoptadolphin.org.uk