Ferry operator CalMac has seconded a full time ORCA wildlife officer to help educate crew and passengers about marine life across the west coast.
CalMac has been partnering with wildlife charity ORCA for four years monitoring mammals in the Minch and the two organisations are now working together to expand their conservation work next summer.
Andy Gilbert has spent decades pursuing his passion for wildlife and conservation first as a volunteer, and most recently as an ORCA wildlife officer in both the Bay of Biscay and in the Hebrides aboard the MV Loch Nevis.
He will be bringing his experience to the west coast in 2018, working as a full-time conservation expert across the CalMac fleet.
“The opportunity to spend 2018 working in the Hebrides and helping deliver the ORCA Wildlife Officer programme, in partnership with CalMac, is an exciting next step in my career. I can’t wait to start helping to spread the message about marine conservation across their network of routes,” said Andy.
“The more we learn about the diversity of what lives in our seas, the greater understanding we will have about how to conserve it for future generations.”
ORCA is a UK whale and dolphin conservation charity dedicated to the long-term protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises. They coordinate a network of volunteers across the UK who collect data about whales, dolphins and porpoises, helping with marine conservation efforts across the country.
The ORCA OceanWatch programme brings together shipping companies across Europe to collect data on marine mammals to increase understanding of the animals’ distribution around the coast.
This year’s OceanWatch saw 302 sightings of marine mammals off the west coast plus exciting encounters with basking sharks.
Common dolphins were the most abundant species spotted across the Mallaig to the Small Isles, Oban to Colonsay and Oban to Coll, Tiree and Barra routes, followed by harbour porpoise, grey seals and minke whales.
CalMac’s Environmental Manager, Klare Chamberlain said: “The survey shows that the waters we sail have some of the most abundant marine mammals in the UK and we have a duty to do what we can to help protect them.
“We’re really looking forward to working with Andy to help raise awareness of the terrific diversity of wildlife we are privileged to work alongside every day.”
ORCA is coordinating a new programme of surveys in the Hebrides in Spring 2018.