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National Whale and Dolphin Week: watchers’ efforts rewarded

People visiting the coast around Scotland to take part in this week’s National Whale and Dolphin Watch have spotted a variety of these marine mammals.

Karen Munro, a regular observer for the Sea Watch Foundation, saw a minke whale feeding in Thurso Bay on Monday as were harbour porpoise and five Risso’s dolphins that came in from the west and stayed for an hour before going back west with the tide.

On the East coast, a Risso’s dolphin was seen off Whaligoe Steps Ulbster near Wick on Tuesday and on Sunday evening more than 40 common dolphins were seen in the outer Moray Firth from the cliffs at Lybster.

“The group of 40 were some way off the coast but were spread over about half a mile, splashing and breaching. They are probably the same group that we have been seeing in this area in recent weeks,” explains Colin Bird, voluntary regional co-ordinator for Sea Watch, the charity that has organised National Whale and Dolphin Watch.

“They apparently come up the West coast and into the northern North Sea where they make forays into the Moray Firth. This used to be a rare event for a species that is most common in warmer waters off the south west coasts of Britain and Ireland, but now they are being seen in much larger numbers and a lot more often. This is yet more evidence of the effects of rising sea temperatures in the region.”

The National Whale and Dolphin Watch began on Saturday (18 July) and runs until Sunday (26 July).

Watches have been organised across the UK including various watches manned by Sea Watch volunteers around Scotland.

The charity is urging people to take part in the National Whale and Dolphin Watch by sending in their sightings using online forms or by joining trained observers.

All sightings of the 13 species of cetaceans known to live off or regularly visit UK and Irish waters, will help increase scientific understanding of their distribution which will contribute to discussions to develop effective conservation policies.  

Gemma Veneruso, sightings officer for Sea Watch, says: “Many people in the UK do not realise just how many species of marine mammals live around the UK coast, and the Scottish coast in particular.

“In total 28 different species have been recorded in the UK and Irish  waters and we hope that during the watch period we will be able to record many of the species that occur regularly in our seas and perhaps some of the visiting species as well.”

Details of how to take part are on www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk

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