Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Whale watching.

Scientists are using evidence of whale sightings off the North-East coast to help in their conservation.

The National Whale and Dolphin Watch took place around Britain from July 27 to August 4.

Of the more than 400 sightings, the North-East coast was the only place to record a Humpback whale, while the Yorkshire coast was the only site to spot a sei whale.

A minke whale and a Humpback were recorded off Whitburn Coastal Park, near Sunderland, while other Minkes were seen feeding for three consecutive days off Scarborough, including among them a group of three. A Minke was also spotted off the coast at Saltburn.

The Sei whale was seen near Whitby, along with white beaked dolphins and a harbour porpoise.

Harbour porpoises and Minke whales were also seen off Seahouses in Northumberland.

The results of the count, which is organised by the national marine research and conservation charity, the Sea Watch Foundation, will be analysed by the North-East Environmental Records Information Centre and the charity, Orca, and will be made public by the end of the month. It is expected that the number of sightings will rise considerably.

Sea Watch sightings officer, Danielle Gibas, said: "The event really captured the hearts and minds of members of the public. The good weather throughout much of the watch helped to engage people and we will be able to create a very clear picture of what species were around the coast."

A cetacean map will be drawn up plotting the sightings to give a picture of the distribution and numbers of the ten different species recorded across the UK.

While there was plenty of good news, there was also a potentially worrying development - a lack of reports of pilot and fin whales.

"We have had some very interesting sightings which we will now be analysing," said Ms Gibas. "The watch has confirmed, for instance, common dolphins now range to the north of Scotland and beyond - and the use of the North-East coast by significant numbers of minke whales."

"We know that pilot and fin whales are also regular visitors to our coastal waters. They have already been seen this year and we would expect them to be seen again during the summer."

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