Cetacean Surveys – Summer 2020

a successful summer of cetacean surveys

Our Wilder Coast Officer, Jacky Watson, has just put behind her a successful season of cetacean surveys. While coronavirus restrictions were in full force, she has been busy all along Teesside’s coastline involving people in socially distanced cetacean surveys. These activities were part of the wider North Sea Cetacean Recording Project. So far, over 20 volunteers have enjoyed watching the antics of bottlenose dolphins and searching for sightings of whales and porpoises. 20 more are signed up to be involved. We provide all the training you will need to become proficient at spotting and identifying the different cetaceans that inhabit or north east coastline.

This project works with the Seawatch Foundation and several other North Sea Wildlife Trusts.

Because there’s never any guarantee that our cetacean cousins will make an appearance on cue, we need plenty of surveyors out at different times. But 2020, disappointing in so many ways, did at least provide us with many fantastic cetacean sightings. Most frequently spotted were bottlenose dolphins. Their highly visible behaviour included playing and feeding, breeching vertically and racing along at great speed. What a sight it is to see so many fins arching through the water!

Dolphins do their own PR

Because of all the sightings, the public imagination was well and truly captivated. Local photographers captured some fantastic pictures and created a great buzz on social media and the local press. About 100 bottlenose dolphins used the waters along the Teesside coastline throughout the summer. Using some ‘celebrity’ dolphins – identifiable by their distinctive markings – St. Andrews University is carrying out a study to track them through photos submitted by the public. If you are lucky enough to get a picture, the Citizen Fins project would love to see it.

With continuing pressures from human activity (climate change and pollution, for example), it has never been more important to understand the habits of our cetaceans. There is still a lot we don’t know and cetacean surveys are a great way to find out more. This project, and others like it, are crucial to inform future protection measures. If you can help by becoming a cetacean surveyor, you can e-mail Jacky: education@teeswildlife.org, or by making a donation to allow our work to continue. Because we all benefit from a thriving marine environment, we can all take some responsibility for making it possible.

You can read the full story in the Winter Issue of Wild Tees Magazine. Become a member and you will receive your issue of Wild Tees Magazine and much more. Hit that ‘Join’ button at the top of the page!