Public asked to watch for sea mammals for national event

A dolphin in Shoreham
A dolphin in Shoreham

August has kicked off with National Whale and Dolphin Watch Week.

Organized by the Sea Watch Foundation, this annual event sees members of the public making valuable contributions to sea mammal conservation by watching for sea mammals in their area.

Now in its 16th year, National Whale and Dolphin Watch provides a valuable annual snapshot of sea mammal activity across the 35 UK regional groups and is part of the foundation’s ongoing observation programme to survey and protect UK dolphins and whales.

Steve Savage, regional coordinator for Sussex, said: “The species most commonly seen off Sussex is the Bottlenose dolphin. They are a summer visitor to Sussex and can be seen as close as 100 m from the shore. Unfortunately you never know when they will be seen, which is why we monitor the coast with the help of volunteers. While bottlenose dolphins are the most common species seen in Sussex waters, we occasionally observe pilot whale, harbour porpoise and common dolphins. Local sightings are usually of small numbers but occasionally they are spotted in larger groups such as the 10 bottlenose dolphins spotted off Newhaven in May this year or the large groups of 30 bottlenose dolphins that passed Shoreham in 2016”.

Ongoing monitoring through the 35 regional groups and information gathered during National Whale and Dolphin Watch feeds into scientific discussions on trends and distribution to help develop effective conservation policies. In total, a surprising 29 species of dolphins, whales and porpoises have been recorded in UK and Irish waters, 12 of these during a National Whale and Dolphin Watch.

Dolphins face a number of threats including accidental capture in fishing nets, marine pollution including plastic debris, noise disturbance and depletion of fish stocks. They may also be affected by rising sea temperatures as a result of global climate change.

National Whale and Dolphin Watch runs until Sunday. For more information, visit www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw-2017/ or report a sighting at Seawatch17@yahoo.co.uk.

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