Help needed to monitor whales and dolphins

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A community-led project is seeking dedicated volunteers to help monitor and protect whales and dolphins around the Scottish coastline.

Shorewatch, which is run by wildlife charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), consists of network of volunteers watching out for different whale and dolphin species at designated sites across Scotland.

WDC uses sighting information collected from these volunteers to help protect 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.

The team have had further fantastic sightings this year too. From their headquarters at the Scottish Dolphin Centre in Spey Bay, WDC Shorewatch teams have been recording sightings of these dolphins, as well as other 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 whales, Humpback whales 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 these amazing creatures are going, and in turn help in their protection.

All gathered data is distributed to national organisations to form protection plans.

The Shorewatch project currently has 115 volunteers, stretching around the north-east and north-west coasts from Aberdeen to the Outer Hebrides, and saw twelve different species of whale or dolphin last year alone.

These volunteers are vital to the continued running of the project, which is why we need more of them.

WDC runs training days for anyone that is interested in becoming a volunteer and joining the Shorewatch project.

Following their training, which includes how to identify and record different species, volunteers are provided with watching equipment, including binoculars, and begin to record their Shorewatch efforts from designated coastal sites.

Upcoming training sessions will take place on Lewis and Harris in July.

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.

Further information can also be found at: here

Picture courtesy of Charlie Phillips.