The annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch event started in July around the UK and so many fantastic cetacean sightings have already been submitted!

Every year, scientists at the Sea Watch Foundation lead a campaign to help members of the general public contribute to scientific endeavours to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises, and are calling on thousands of people to get involved with the National Whale and Dolphin Watch.

For over forty years, Sea Watch Foundation scientists as well as volunteer observers all around the coast of the British Isles from Shetland to the Isles of Scilly have been reporting sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) to inform Sea Watch’s huge database of records. The scheme is one of the oldest and longest running citizen science projects in the world. Anyone can take part in this flagship summer event, the ‘National Whale and Dolphin Watch’, now in its 17th year.

Cetaceans can be found all around the coast of the UK and, already, there have been a record number of species spotted. At the time of writing, more than two hundred records have been entered from Shetland down to South Devon and from the west coast of Wales to the Outer Hebrides. It is expected that the count will rise as people find time to enter their sightings after they finish their watches which have been organized in many different locations around the country.

Bottlenose dolphins

Cetacean species spotted include not just the more familiar species such as bottlenose dolphins which are presently being sighted daily in New Quay along the west coast of Wales, and off Chanonry Point in the Moray Firth as well as regularly in Aberdeen harbour; they have also been sighted in Liverpool Bay, around the Isle of Man, off the coast of Cornwall, and in the Channel Islands to name just a few other places. Harbour porpoises are the commonest and most widespread species in Britain. They can be spotted almost anywhere, and records are coming in from all around the British Isles.

Minkes around Scotland…

White-beaked dolphins have been sighted just off the coast of Northumbria as well as all along the east coast of Scotland, in the northern Hebrides, and in Lyme Bay in Southern England. And there is no reason to travel as far as Norway or Iceland to see orcas, minkes or humpback whales as all three have been reported in the last few days – orcas in Shetland; minkes around Scotland and the east coast of England, and even the mighty humpback whale in the North Sea off the Aberdeenshire coast and off Flamborough Head in Yorkshire.

A rare visitor to Fife…

A rare visitor to British waters, the Sowerby’s beaked whale, was seen off the Fife coast at Dunbar, sadly then live stranding. Common dolphins have entered the Menai Straits between Anglesey and the north Wales mainland, playing in the “Swellies” all this week. Atlantic white-sided dolphins have been seen in Stromness Harbour, Orkney.  Lots of porpoises have already been recorded at Berry Head in South Devon and Capstone Point in North Devon. Common dolphins and a minke whale have been seen a few times this week in Falmouth Bay, Cornwall. And several minke whales have been observed this week at a wide range of locations in the Hebrides – Colonsay, Lochaber, Staffin on the Isle of Skye, Peterburn by Gairloch, and off the coast of the Isle of Lewis to name just a few places.

Join in…

It’s not too late for people to join in with the national effort to monitor whales and dolphins and the scientists behind the event are urging people to head to the coast to take part. “No experience is necessary, you just need to download a watch form from our website, record the environmental conditions every fifteen minutes and watch for at least an hour” says Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli, Sightings Officer for Sea Watch Foundation.

“We need as many eyes on the sea as possible. That means we’re looking for people all around the UK coast to join a manned watch or arrange a watch for themselves, and for everybody to report the animals that they see as soon as possible” adds Chiara.

“For me, National Whale and Dolphin Watch is about involving people and allowing them to experience something they never thought they could be part of, it is about collecting vital data for the protection and conservation of local cetacean species, and it is about sharing this magical event with people from all other the country and have fun all together” continues Chiara.

1410 sightings

During the nine-day event in 2017, eleven different whales and dolphins were recorded in UK waters. Commonest of all was the tiny harbour porpoise which measures just a metre and a half when fully grown. Some 1410 sightings were logged around the UK that week, which was the higher than in previous years. Although we are only halfway through this year’s event, it looks as if we could break all records.  For more facts and figures from last years’ event, please read our 2017 National Whale and Dolphin Watch report.

All the verified sightings so far can be viewed on line ( where they are updated as more reports come in

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