Scotland ranked top for marine sightings in annual whale and dolphin survey

Volunteers spot hundreds of cetaceans in Scottish waters for the UK’s National Whale and Dolphin Watch

Humpback whales were seen during the annual survey.

The results of the popular annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch reveal 323 sightings of whales and dolphins in Scotland, closely followed by 284 in England and 88 in Wales.

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While some survey from boats, others look out for whales and dolphins from the land. A volunteer perches on the rocks in Scrabster, Scotland. Credit: Zoe Doran
While some survey from boats, others look out for whales and dolphins from the land. A volunteer perches on the rocks in Scrabster, Scotland. Credit: Zoe Doran

Organised by the marine conservation charity Sea Watch Foundation, the survey took place between 25th July and 2nd August and involved hundreds of volunteer ‘citizen scientists’. Observations were recorded both on land and from boats at 280 locations across the British Isles, from South Devon to Shetland.

“The most memorable sightings from this year’s watch week,” says Chiara Giulia Bertulli, organiser of this year’s event, “include feeding humpback whales off Grishipoll in the Inner Hebrides; leaping and fast-swimming Risso’s dolphin groups sighted off the Outer Hebrides, Shetland, Orkney and the north-east of Scotland; killer whale pods sighted off Shetland and around Caithness; [and] common dolphins and large pods of Atlantic white-sided dolphins around Shetland.”

A volunteer photographs bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Sark in the Channel Islands. Credit: Laura Harm
A volunteer photographs bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Sark in the Channel Islands. Credit: Laura Harm

A total of 709 UK sightings were submitted after the nine-day event and continue to stream in online. Nine cetacean species and two non-cetacean species (basking shark and sun fish) have been recorded.

“Despite the troubling times with coronavirus, this year’s event has shown the strongly supportive and committed spirit of our volunteer observers, which gives us hope for the future of our seas”, says Bertulli.


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Main image: Humpback whales were seen during the annual survey. Credit: Chiara Giulia Bertulli