White beaked dolphins don’t disappoint
Monday 13th August 2012
© Martin Kitching NE Cetacean Project
The sighting of more than 30 white beaked dolphins off the Northumberland coast helps to confirm the importance of the area to marine mammals, according to Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
During a dedicated three-hour transect survey of the Farne Deeps, experts were lucky enough to record, film and photograph 32 white beaked dolphins, 4 harbour porpoise, 2 minke whales and 2 grey seals. Seabirds including gannets, razorbills and puffins foraging offshore for food were also recorded.
Experts and surveyors from MARINELife, the North East Cetacean Project and Northumberland Wildlife Trust embarked on a 12-hour voyage in a vessel supplied by the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority.
The Farne Deeps is a deep glacial tunnel located 20 miles offshore from the Northumberland Coast; its deep channels result in areas of nutrient upwelling and changes in tidal currents which bring with them rich supplies of food. As a result it attracts high numbers of travelling marine mammals as well as seabirds.
Steve Lowe, Head of Conservation at Northumberland Wildlife Trust said:
“I am delighted the white beaked dolphins chose to put in an appearance at just the right time. This proposed Marine Conservation Zone, is such a productive area and is home to some incredible wildlife. This was a fantastic survey, combining skills and resources from a range of organisations and its results show that the North Sea has wildlife in need of protection.
“The deep glacial tunnels provide foraging and breeding grounds for white beaked dolphin, a species which has been under-recorded in the
past; with new data we can identify ways to best protect this species for future generations.”
Martin Kitching, North East Cetacean Project, said: “The sea may all look the same on the surface but what we can’t see obviously is that the different heights of the seabed play a considerable role in what’s found there. Two weeks ago in this area we had 100 white beaked dolphins. We know they use this area and we know it’s important to them. It is important that we protect it for them and other marine wildlife too.”
MARINElife is a charity which was established to co-ordinate and to develop a growing portfolio of whale, dolphin and seabird research and monitoring projects. Through scientific investigation and education we aim to further the conservation of the wildlife of coasts and oceans.
The core work of MARINElife since 1995 has been in researching the distribution, abundance and population trends for whales, dolphins and seabirds from commercial vessels in the Channel, Bay of Biscay, North Sea, Irish Sea and beyond. Volunteers play a crucial role in helping collect scientific data on the current status of such animals. This in turn helps MARINElife to recommend how to best conserve their populations to policy makers.
MARINElife conducts monthly research surveys on over 10 different ferry routes around the UK and works in partnership with a number of other research groups, spearheading an international initiative, the Atlantic Research Coalition (ARC) that aims to describe changes in the status of whales and dolphins at a European scale.
North East Cetacean Project
The North East Cetacean Project (NECP) aims to generate up-to-date information on the status of cetaceans off the Northumberland coastline and beyond, including the coastal areas around Whitby, Bridlington and Scarborough. We are particularly interested in the White-beaked Dolphin, a cold water species which is threatened with warming sea temperatures brought about through climate change. The cold, deep waters of the North Sea are suspected to be an important area for this dolphin species, but current data is lacking.
Other important species regularly recorded off the North East coast include Bottlenose Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise, Minke Whale, whilst rarer species recorded have included Pilot Whale, Common Dolphin and Humpback Whale. Thanks initially to funding from Natural England and the Tyneside Bird Club a winter survey of the Farne Deeps and surrounding waters for White-beaked Dolphins and other marine animals was undertaken and a report compiled with historic sightings information.
Research work continues to develop and is coordinated by Martin Kitching, the MARINElife Regional Officer for the North East. The project continues to grow and has extended into Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. We have developed partnerships with a range of organisations including the local Wildlife Trusts.
More information at www.marine-life.org.uk/north-east-cetacean-project.