Help us Monitor North East Whales and Dolphins
Thursday 13th May, 2010
NORTHERN EXPERIENCE, MARINELIFE, NATURAL ENGLAND, ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY AND NORTHUMBERLAND & TYNESIDE BIRD CLUB
EMBARGO; Immediate release
HELP US MONITOR NORTH EAST WHALES AND DOLPHINS
Sightings website and postcard survey launches
In January this year, a partnership of organisations launched the North East Cetacean Project (NECP) to discover more about dolphins and whales off the Northumberland coast. The partnership includes Marinelife, Natural England, the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club, the University of Aberdeen, and Northern Experience Wildlife Tours.
A series of winter surveys, funded by Natural England and lead by Martin Kitching of Northern Experience Wildlife Tours were undertaken, targeted in the cold, deep waters of the Farne Deeps, which have been described by local fishermen as an important wintering ground for White-beaked Dolphin.
The surveys generated some both anticipated and unexpected results. Harbour Porpoise, a small cousin of dolphins, were, as anticipated, encountered during the surveys. However, rather than White-Beaked Dolphin, a species limited in distribution to the colder waters of the Atlantic, Common Dolphin, a warmer water species was found.
Dr Tom Brereton, Marinelife Research Director who analysed the results commented “This was disappointing but not unexpected as Common Dolphins have been spreading north in recent years, presumably due to warming sea temperatures. However, occurrence in Northumberland waters is a potential cause of concern because studies in other regions have shown that the arrival Common Dolphins coincides with a corresponding disappearance of White-beaked Dolphins.”
The project also analysed data submitted by members of the public since 2003, with the majority of sightings being recorded from land. The results indicate that whales and dolphins are possibly changing their North Sea distributions. There is an urgent need for more offshore data to fully understand these changes, especially in light of new Government initiatives to improve conservation measures in our seas.
To this end the project has now launched a sightings website (www.northeastcetaceans.org.uk) and a postcard survey from this spring to engage the local community, including local fishermen, recreational dive and angling boats, yachtsmen, pleasure craft operators and the general public to get involved and help increase the understanding on where dolphins, whales and porpoises are found off the North East coast of England.
The website and the postcards contain information on the different species which are likely to be encountered and requests information on the number of each species seen, where the sighting was made and when.
Dr Martin Kitching, lead surveyor from Northern Experience said: “With the start of the spring and summer season, the number of boats on the water will increase and this offers a great opportunity to find out more about the whales, dolphins and porpoises off the Northumberland coast – please get in touch with your sightings and help us with this important research project.
How you can help: If you see a dolphin or whale, please report the information to us. You can use our online recording form at www.northeastcetaceans.org.uk, fill in a sightings postcard, available from North East Cetacean Project (NECP), 18 Frances Ville, Scotland Gate, Northumberland, NE62 5ST, or phone in you sightings to NECP co-ordinator Martin Kitching on 01670 827465 or mobile: 07908 119535.
- ends –
For further information including interviews and images please contact:
Marinelife PR & Publicity Officer
Tel: +44 (0) 7789 657617
Dr Tom Brereton
Marinelife Research Director
Tel: +44 (0) 7816 786173
Dr Martin Kitching
Northern Experience Lead Surveyor
Tel: +44 (0) 1670 827465
Press Officer, Natural England North East
Tel: 03000 601720
NOTES TO EDITORS
North East Cetacean Project
The project was initiated to discover more about the whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) found off the Northumberland coastline. A sightings website and postcard survey have been launched to engage the public in the project and gather more information on these species from the multiple work and pleasure craft which will be out on the waters of the North Sea off the Northumberland Coast during from spring 2010. Further information can be found at www.northeastcetaceans.org.uk
Marinelife is a Charitable Limited Company established to co-ordinate and develop a growing portfolio of global research and monitoring projects. Through these we aim to further the conservation of the wildlife of coasts and oceans through scientific investigation and educational activities. Marinelife continues to work 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 our website at www.marine-life.org.uk
Natural England is the government’s independent advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.
• We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.
• We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Marine Conservation Zones, and advising widely on their conservation.
• We run England’s Environmental Stewardship green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.
• We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.
Northern Experience Wildlife Tours
Northern Experience Wildlife Tours was founded in 2006, offering guided wildlife and bird-watching trips throughout Northeast England year-round and offshore wildlife cruises in July, August and September. Northern Experience owner, Martin Kitching, has organised offshore wildlife trips from Northumberland since 1998 and was one of the finders of the first Wilson's Petrel to be seen in the British North Sea. Martin Kitching is the former Field Trips Officer for the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club and former editor, and current author, and sub-editor, of the highly rated annual report, Birds in Northumbria. Further information can be found by visiting our website at www.northernexperiencewildlifetours.co.uk
International Year of Biodiversity
2010 has been designated as International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) by the United Nations. Since 2002 some 200 countries have been working towards targets to significantly reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity and in the UK this is being led by the Natural History Museum funded by DEFRA and supported by over 150 partners including Natural England.
The focus will be to increase awareness of the importance of biodiversity, why it matters to everyone at both a global and local level, and to raise awareness of the importance of safeguarding biodiversity by outlining threats as well as accomplishments by individuals, communities and governments to the problem. It will be a chance for people to get involved and help conservation efforts needed to save our native species which are currently being lost at a rate 100 times greater than the natural rate of extinction and explain how we can all play a part in achieving this.