Take part in this year's National Whale and Dolphin Watch

Bottlenose dolphin©Giovanna Pesante_Sea Watch Foundation
Hannah Downey

This year’s Sea Watch National Whale and Dolphin Watch takes place from Saturday 25th July to Sunday 2nd August 2020, and the Sea Watch Foundation are asking members of the public to help.

Collecting data about our resident cetaceans has never been more important. Rising sea surface temperatures and anthropogenic activities have been impacting marine species in the British waters for many years now. The most recent human lockdowns most certainly has had an effect on marine species which is also worth investigating.

Last year’s Watch revealed an impressive 13 separate species of whales and dolphins in British waters, and the highest (over 2,000) ever recorded number of cetacean sightings.

The event allows Sea Watch, a charity which has been running for 30 years, to take direct action to protect species. Sea Watch Foundation research studies of bottlenose dolphins helped lead to two areas in Cardigan Bay being recommended as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) for the species. Since 2001, the organisation has monitored the semi-resident bottlenose dolphin population in Cardigan Bay, providing data for the Welsh Government through Natural Resources Wales.

Who can help?

No previous experience is needed; anyone who is in the UK and near the sea during the event and wants to help can. All that people need to take part is safe access to the coast, patience, a lot of enthusiasm, binoculars, a copy of the Sea Watch recording forms and a cetacean identification guide (downloadable from the Sea Watch website). However, in order to ensure everyone follows UK-government Covid-19 restrictions and to comply with social distancing rules, Sea Watch advises people to conduct watches individually or with a member of their household, unless government guidelines instruct otherwise by the time of the event.

What might you see?

“The most memorable sightings from last year’s Watch week included humpback whales in Cornwall and the Outer Hebrides, Northern bottlenose whales in the Inner Hebrides, beaked whales off the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, fin whales in the Outer Hebrides, and large pods of Atlantic white-sided dolphins off Freester in Shetland.”, says Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli, Sightings Officer and lead organiser of the NWDW event for the Sea Watch Foundation. 

Which parts of the UK are key?

Scotland recorded the highest number of sightings particularly along the western coast and on the Inner and Outer Hebrides. In England, the greatest number of sightings was collected in the South around Cornwall and South Devon with similar numbers also collected on the North-East coast. In Wales, the highest number of sightings was collected on the West coast. But whales, dolphins and harbour porpoises can pop up anywhere all around the UK, so watching from any coastline is important.

Sea Watch Foundation are seeking volunteers to take part in the National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2020 this summer, which takes place 25th July – 2nd August.

The team at Sea Watch will offer online training and advice on how to take part: https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw-2020-online-training/

Sponsors have also donated amazing prizes for people who participate in the NWDW watches: https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/national-whale-dolphin-watch-2020-competition/

Visit https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw/ for details, or contact nwdw@seawatchfoundation.org.uk.