- 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 recenthuman 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: www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw-2020-online-training/
Sponsors have also donated amazing prizes for people who participate in the NWDW watches: www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/national-whale-dolphin-watch-2020-competition/
New Scottish MPAs to offer protection for iconic marine species
Minke whale, basking sharks and Risso’s dolphins will be among a wide range of biodiversity and geological features to be safeguarded following the designation of four new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
A further 12 sites have been given Special Protection Area status, providing additional protection to Scotland’s vulnerable marine birds including sea ducks, divers, grebes and our iconic seabirds.
A total of 230 sites are now subject to marine protection measures, covering around 227,622 square kilometres – 37% – of Scotland’s seas. The West of Scotland MPA, Europe’s largest Marine Protected Area, was designated in September and is regarded by the Convention on Biological Diversity as “internationally significant”.
Natural Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “It is our duty to help protect and enhance our marine environment so that it remains a prized asset for future generations. These designations continue Scotland’s commitment to lead by example on environmental protection.
“Not only are our seas fundamental to our way of life, they provide habitats for a hugely diverse range of marine wildlife and it is vital that we ensure appropriate protection for them.
“Scotland’s waters are home to many unique species and these designations ensure our MPA network is fully representative of our marine diversity, exceeding the proposed international target to achieve 30% of global MPA coverage by 2030.
“Protecting Scotland’s marine environment is also crucial for supporting the sustainable recovery of our marine industries and these designations will form a key element of our Blue Economy Action Plan.”
The four new Marine Protected Areas are:
- North-east Lewis: The protected features include Risso’s dolphins and sandeels.
- Sea of the Hebrides: The largest of the four new MPAs. The protected features include basking sharks and minke whale.
- Shiant East Bank: Located in the middle of the Minch, the sea which separates the Outer Hebrides from the Scottish mainland. The protected features include sponge habitats and sea fans, a variety of coral.
- Southern Trench.The protected features include minke whale.
The sites receiving Special Protection Area status are:
- Solway Firth
- Seas off St Kilda
- Seas off Foula
- Moray Firth
- Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch (extension)
- Outer Firth of Forth and Outer St Andrews Bay complex
- Bluemull and Colgrave Sounds
- East Mainland Coast Shetland
- Sound of Gigha
- Coll and Tiree
- West Coast of the Outer Hebrides
The announcement by the Scottish Government is great news for marine life in Scotland!
Video Series: The CCMI Reef Lectures – Part 4 (Watch Video)
Introduced by Jeff Goodman
Never before since human beings have had major influence over our earths climate and environments, have we come to so close to the brink of global disaster for our seas and marine life. We need to act now if we are not going to crash headlong into irreversible scenarios.
A good start to this is understanding how the marine environment works and what it means to our own continued survival. We can only do this by listening and talking to those with the experience and knowledge to guide us in the right direction.
CCMI (Central Caribbean Marine Institute) are hosting an annual Reef Lecture series that is open to the general public and Scubaverse will be sharing those lectures over the coming months.
Part 4: Stop Whining! Life as an Ocean Ambassador; Ellen Cuylaerts
Ellen Cuylaerts shares her insights on how to act, practice what you preach and use your voice to contribute to constructive change. Ellen is a wildlife and underwater photographer and chooses to take images of subjects that are hard to encounter like harp seal pups, polar bears, orcas, beluga whales and sharks, to name a few. By telling the stories about their environment and the challenges they face, she raises awareness about the effect of climate change on arctic species, the cruel act of shark finning and keeping marine mammals in captivity.
During this seminar, Ellen will take you on a virtual trip and show you the stories behind the shots: how to get there, how to prepare, how to create the most chances to come home with a shot, and how to never give up!
Ellen Cuylaerts is an ocean advocate, underwater & wildlife photographer, explorer, and public speaker.
For more information about the CCMI click here.
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