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National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2018: the results are in!



2018 marked the 17th year of Sea Watch Foundation’s National Whale and Dolphin Watch event, a citizen science project which has gained tremendous popularity over the years.

Last year’s event, which took place 28th July – 5th August, revealed striking biodiversity with an impressive 13 species of cetaceans seen around the British Isles in just those few days, a number which was only been recorded once before. The total number of sightings collected was larger than last year, and the highest reported so far. The 2018 event totalled 1,328 hours of watches conducted, over 100 hours more than in 2016. Over 43% of the total amount of hours spent collecting effort-related data came from land-based locations.

Students from the University of Hull conducting a land watch from Filey Brigg. Photo credit: University of Hull

“I am very proud of what we achieved with the help of wildlife enthusiasts and conservation and recording organisations around the country, who have contributed data collected from boats (inshore and offshore) and from land stations in different parts of the UK”, says Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli, organiser of this year’s national event for the UK national research charity, Sea Watch Foundation.

South Grampian, Outer Hebrides, South Devon, Northeast and Northwest Scotland as well as West Wales are at the top of the list with sighting rates far superior to “2” (indicating an average of two or more cetaceans seen per hour of watching). Based on this year’s results, the UK’s national average sightings rate has increased compared to last year with over one cetacean seen for each hour of watching.

“The most memorable sightings from this past year’s Watch week”, adds Chiara, “include humpback whales in Yorkshire and Aberdeenshire, striped dolphins live stranding in South Wales, Sowerby’s beaked whale in East Lothian, fin whales in Northeast Scotland and Outer Hebrides, and large pods of short-beaked common dolphins off Puffin Island and Menai Bridge in North Wales.”

Common minke whale photographed off Penzance, Cornwall, on August 3rd. Photo credit: Hannah Jones / Marine Discovery Penzance

During the 2018 NWDW event, species such as harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, and minke whale continued to have a widespread coastal distribution and, as the results show, most of their sightings were actually recorded in coastal waters from land. Short-beaked common dolphins, an ocean species known for their offshore distribution, were mainly sighted from motorised vessels. Striped dolphins, which were only recorded once were also sighted from a vessel. Atlantic white-sided dolphins were sighted six times, and, unusually, 83% of those times it was from land.

The ability to detect cetaceans and collect sightings information is strongly affected by several weather parameters such as sea state, glare, swell height and visibility. When the weather deteriorates due to strong winds and/or heavy rain, watches may even be cancelled altogether as conditions are no longer suitable to collect presence and absence data. Taking this into account, every year, NWDW is organized over a period of nine days to increase the chances of getting favourable weather conditions to conduct land and boat watches at different sites around the UK. Last year, weather was changeable, with temperatures generally well above average.

Bottlenose dolphins photographed off Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, on July 31st. Photo credit: Amber Thomas

Of the species recorded during the 2018 NWDW event, the harbour porpoise was the most commonly seen in most parts of the UK, followed by bottlenose dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin and common minke whale.

With regards to the distribution of cetacean sightings around the UK, Scotland recorded the highest number of sightings, with the most sightings coming from South-West Scotland and Inner Hebrides, Outer Hebrides and North-West Scotland. England was second with the neighbouring regions of Cornwall, South Devon providing the most sightings followed by Yorkshire. Wales placed third with West Wales collecting most of sightings. Around the Channel Islands, observers reported 26 sightings, and there were nine reports from around the Isle of Man. Six sightings were also recorded in Northern Ireland.

Sea Watch Foundation are seeking volunteers to come forward to take part in the National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2019 this summer, which takes place 27th July – 4th August. Surveys can take place from your favourite or closest bit of coastline and boat-users are urged to get in touch too. No experience is necessary as the team at Sea Watch will offer you training and advice on how to take part.

Download a copy of the full 2018 National Whale and Dolphin Watch report HERE. 

Find out more about the 2019 NWDW event HERE.

Anyone interested in spending more time looking for whales, dolphins and porpoises around the UK should visit the Sightings Network webpage at or submit their sightings online at


Jeff chats to… Underwater Photographer Ellen Cuylaerts (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Ellen Cuylaerts about her diving and underwater photographic career.

As an underwater and wildlife photographer, Fellow of The Explorers Club and having a front seat in exploration being part of the Flag and Honours Committee, Ellen is also a Member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame. She travels the world and tries to make the most of every destination and the path that leads her there. Ellen acts as an ocean citizen and believes as divers we should all be ocean ambassadors and lead by example. She is now based in the UK after many years in Grand Cayman.

Find out more about Ellen and her work at

Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Huge thresher shark is the latest of six murals to be painted around the Solent this summer



The murals celebrate the Solent’s extraordinary marine life – marking National Marine Week.

Secrets of the Solent have commissioned street artist ATM to paint a series of marine-themed artworks at various locations around the Solent this summer. The latest mural to be finished shows a thresher shark on the Langstone Harbour Office. Langstone Harbour is an important area for wildlife as well as a bustling seaside destination for sailing and water sports.

Artist ATM, who is painting all six murals, is well-known for his iconic wildlife street art. This, his second artwork of the series, took three days to paint freehand, from a scaffolding platform. The thresher shark was chosen out of six marine species to be the subject of the artwork by the local community, who were asked to vote via an online form or in person on the Hayling Ferry.

Secrets of the Solent hope the mural will become a landmark in Langstone Harbour and inspire visitors to learn more about this enigmatic oceanic shark. The project, which is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, works to celebrate and raise awareness of Solent’s diverse marine environment.

Aiming to highlight the exotic and unusual creatures found close to our coasts, artist ATM says: “I really enjoyed painting the thresher shark because it’s such an amazing looking animal, with a tail as long as its body. I hope when people see the murals, they will become more aware of what lives under the waves and the importance of protecting the vital habitats within the Solent.”

Dr Tim Ferrero, Senior Marine Biologist at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust says: “The thresher shark is a wonderful animal that visits our waters every summer. It comes to an area to the east of the Isle of Wight, and this appears to be where the sharks breed and have their young. Not many people know that we have thresher sharks in our region, and so having our mural here on the side of the Langstone Harbour Office building is a fantastic way of raising awareness of this mysterious ocean wanderer. I really hope that people will come away with the knowledge that the Solent, our harbours and our seas are incredibly important for wildlife.”

Rachel Bryan, Project Manager for Secrets of the Solent at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust comments: “We are really excited to have street artist ATM painting a thresher shark on the side of the Langstone Harbour Office building. We chose this building because of its prominent location right on the entrance to Langstone Harbour so that anyone who’s visiting, whether that’s walkers, cyclists or people coming in and out of the harbour on their jet-skis or sailing boats, will all be able to see our thresher shark. People on the Portsmouth side of the harbour will also be able to see the mural from across the water.”

The thresher shark is a mysterious predator which spends most of its time in oceanic waters. It uses its huge whip-like tail as an incredibly effective tool for hunting its prey. Herding small fish into tight shoals, the shark will lash at them with its tail, stunning several in one hit and making them easier to catch.

Secrets of the Solent hope to work with the species this summer to discover more about its behaviour.

Dr Tim Ferrero explains: “Nobody really knows where thresher sharks go in the ocean. Later this summer we are hoping that we are going to be able to attach a satellite tag to a thresher shark and monitor its progress for an entire year. This will provide really important information that will help us learn so much more about the shark’s annual life cycle.”

The new thresher shark mural is a fantastic start to National Marine Week (24th July – 8th August), which celebrates the unique marine wildlife and habitats we have here in the UK. Over the two weeks, Wildlife Trusts around the country will be running a series of exciting events to celebrate the marine environment. We really hope people will be inspired by our murals and want to learn more about each chosen species.

Events in the Solent include the launch of a new Solent marine film on the 29th July, installation of a new Seabin on the 4th August to reduce marine litter, and citizen science surveys throughout summer.

For more information click here.

Header image: Bret Charman

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email

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