After finishing my masters degree in Marine Biology last November, in March this year I began working for the whale and dolphin charity ORCA (Organisation Cetacea). ORCA have been working with international ferry operator DFDS Seaways by placing Wildlife Officers on-board the DFDS King Seaways for nine years in an effort to educate passengers about and survey the wildlife rich waters of the North Sea. This is the second season I have worked for ORCA; in the spring of 2014 I spent three months in a voluntary capacity on a Brittany Ferries ship in the Bay of Biscay.
This year working on the King Seaways travelling between Newcastle and Amsterdam I was the Senior Wildlife Officer. Alongside running the Wildlife Centre on-board, I was also responsible for the training of our Wildlife Officer Placement Volunteers who ranged from recent graduates to those looking at changing careers.
My favourite part of my job had to have been providing opportunities for passengers to see their first whale or dolphin! Seeing someone’s reaction when they spot their first whale or dolphin is very special, even more so when they never expected to see an animal in the North Sea.
A large proportion of the general public do not realise the extent of wildlife that can be observed in the North Sea. This isn’t just our magnificent whales and dolphins but a whole variety of bird life can also be spotted while sailing.
Since 2007 on our route between Newcastle and Amsterdam 10 species of cetacean have been positively identified, ranging from the tiny harbour porpoise to the second largest animal on the planet; the mighty fin whale. The three most common species that we spot however are the harbour porpoise, white-beaked dolphin and minke whale. Also this year we have seen bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins and Atlantic white-sided dolphins!
With the crossing being overnight we spend a lot of our time in the ORCA Wildlife Centre located on the ship. This for me is a wonderful space. It allows us to provide a wide range of fun and engaging environmental education for all passengers from 2 to 102 about North Sea wildlife and the marine environment with plenty of audience participation.
I have said my favourite part of this job is watching people’s faces light up with excitement when they first spot a whale or dolphin. A close second would be the dawn of understanding on a child’s face when they learn something new about our oceans. whether that be through conversation, games, or experimentation!
A brilliant new addition to the ORCA Wildlife Centre this year was ‘Debris’ the Marine Litter Porpoise! Created entirely out of rubbish that we collected from beaches around the North East coastline during early Spring this year. Debris is entirely made from the litter collected… no wire frame, or hollow inside; in fact the only thing on her not cleared from beaches is the glue holding her together! I love her, and she makes such an impact to everyone that sees her! She is a life size harbour porpoise. When people first look at her their response is “oh look at the multicoloured porpoise”… they then look a bit closet and start to realise what she is made of. I like to describe her as beautiful, yet terrifying. This is a unique and beautiful piece of art created by an environmental marine artist, writer, teacher and TV presenter Izzy Moreau. This may be a beautiful piece of art, but also a terrifying piece of art when you start to realise the quantity and variety of litter that ‘Debris’ is created from!
I have loved being out at sea this year and can’t wait to get back out to sea again soon! If you fancy reading more about my time on-board the DFDS King Seaways this summer you can read ORCA’s North Sea blog here.
Do you fancy getting involved? You can find out more about ORCA’s work and how you could get involved here.