White-beaked dolphins appear for survey

Tuesday 14th August 2012

White-beaked Dolphin cpt Kirsten Smith

The sighting of more than 30 white beaked dolphins off the Northumberland coast helps to confirm the importance of the area to marine mammals.

During a dedicated three hour transect survey of the Farne Deeps, experts were lucky enough to record, film and photograph 32 white beaked dolphins, four harbour porpoise, two minke whales and two grey seals.  Seabirds including gannets, razorbills and puffins foraging offshore for food were also recorded.

We were delighted to see this recommended Marine Conservation Zone; the Farnes East is such a productive area, home to incredible wildlife

Experts and surveyors from MARINELife, the North East Cetacean Project and The Wildlife Trusts set sail on a 12 hour voyage on Tuesday 7 August using a Northumberland Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities vessel.

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.

Kirsten Smith, Living Seas Manager for the North Sea Wildlife Trusts, said:

“We were delighted to see this recommended Marine Conservation Zone; the Farnes East is such a productive area, home to incredible wildlife.  This was a fantastic survey, combining skills and resources from a range of organisations.  The results show 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 to come.”

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.”

Contact information:

Kirsten Smith (North Sea Living Seas Manager)
Office: 01904 659570
Email: kirsten.smith@ywt.org.uk

Images are available for use with this news release.  They are granted on a one-time use basis, in association with this release and the photographer must be credited.

Watch video footage of the dolphins, Steve Lowe (Head of Conservation for Northumberland Wildlife Trust), Martin Kitching (Northern Experience Wildlife Tours) and BBC Inside Out presenter Kirsten O’Brien discussing the survey and its results at http://youtu.be/Nbs289XVKr8

Notes for editors:

The Wildlife Trusts (TWT)  wildlifetrusts.org
There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK and the Isle of Man and Alderney.  All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone.  We have more than 800,000 members including 150,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch.  Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas.  We manage around 2,300 nature reserves and every year we advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife. We also run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife.  Every year we work with thousands of schools and our nature reserves and visitor centres receive millions of visitors.  Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.

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 it aims 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.  Further information on MARINElife can be found by visiting marine-life.org.uk 

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.  Of particular interest is 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. NECP has developed partnerships with a range of organisations including local Wildlife Trusts.

More information at marine-life.org.uk/north-east-cetacean-project.  Martin Kitching will be running some of the training courses listed in this press release.

Tagged with: Living Seas