The scheme is one of the oldest and longest running citizen science schemes in the world.
Every year, scientists at the Sea Watch Foundation lead the National Whale and Dolphin Watch – a campaign to get members of the public contributing to science to protect whales and dolphins. They are calling on people across Scotland to get involved with this year’s event, which runs from 29 July-6 August 2017.
“Many people don’t realise the wealth of whales and dolphins we have around our coasts. You don’t need to go abroad to go whale watching or to have a dolphin experience,” says Kathy James, Sightings Officer for Sea Watch Foundation.
“For a few months now, killer whales have been spotted from the Moray Firth round the north of Scotland to the west coast. Large whales, possibly fin whales – second only in size to blue whales – have been spotted out in the Hebrides and reports of bottlenose dolphins have been coming in from the Moray Firth as well as south towards the border.”
Since National Whale and Dolphin Watch began in 2002, around 4,500 sightings have been made in locations from the Channel Islands and the Scillies to the Shetland Isles – encompassing places as varied as Brighton, Plymouth, Anglesey, Aberdeen, Whitby and Hull.
During the nine-day 2016 National Whale and Dolphin Watch, 11 different whales and dolphins were recorded in UK waters, as well as the tiny harbour porpoise, which measures just a metre and a half when fully grown. Some 1424 sightings were logged and 7,622 individual animals included.
People are being urged to register to run watches of their own during National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2017, so that they can contribute valuable data for the protection of these magnificent species.
Brendan Montague is the contributing editor to The Ecologist and can be found on twitter at @EcoMontague.