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BBC Wildlife Presenter Delighted by Results of First ORCA OceanWatch Week

8th October 2015

#Whales&Dolphins - The first ever ORCA OceanWatch Week saw crews’ record sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises on commercial ships, ferries and naval vessels leaving Portsmouth and other UK ports.

Those involved had been trained by experts at ORCA, the Portsmouth based whale, dolphin and porpoise conservation charity, who have collated hundreds of reports from dozens of vessels. adds that the ORCA survey included ferries from the Isle of Man Steam Packet's Douglas-Heysham route and Brittany Ferries Cork-Roscoff service.

ORCA has just released the figures, which exceeded the charity’s expectations. Nearly 2,000 individual cetaceans, the name given to whales, dolphins and porpoises, were spotted during OceanWatch, the first monitoring event of its kind.

Well known BBC TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham, who is a Patron of ORCA, has been at the Hampshire port to meet the team and discuss the outcome of the survey. Chris said, “It's a fantastic result and great to see so many organisations working together on such an important issue. ORCA will now be able to create an even more authoritative map, showing where these amazing creatures are living, and helping to protect them in the future. Now let's aim to double those sightings in 2016!”

Chris Packham was at Portsmouth International Port to join one of Brittany Ferries’ popular whale watching mini cruises to Spain. The ferry operator was a major contributor to ORCA OceanWatch Week, with its vessels crisscrossing the Bay of Biscay, one of the world’s hotspots for whales and dolphins.

Martin Putman, Port Manager, was on hand to welcome the popular presenter back to the UK ferryport. He said, “We were delighted to host the launch of ORCA OceanWatch, and it’s great to hear that the charity has been able to gather so much important information. It’s a tribute to their hard work, and the determination of the crews who have gone to great lengths to accurately record the sightings.”

The common dolphin was the most frequently seen cetacean, with 50 sightings, totalling 747 individuals. Highlights of the survey included four blue whales seen in the Bay of Biscay from the Cunard Queen Elizabeth (a visitor off Dun Laoghaire Harbour in 2013) and 750 pilot whales seen in one day in Arctic Waters on board the Saga Pearl II.

271 sightings of cetaceans totalling 1,939 individual animals were reported during ORCA OceanWatch. These reports included 16 different species of cetacean; harbour porpoise, common dolphin, striped dolphin, white-beaked dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Rissos dolphin, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, pilot whale, minke whale, Sei whale, fin whale, humpback whale, blue whale, sperm whale, Cuvier's beaked whale and northern bottlenose whale.

The surveys were recorded in the following seven sea regions: Arctic Waters, Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast, Celtic Sea, English Channel, North Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Wider Atlantic Ocean.

The full 2015 ORCA OceanWatch will be available to view on the ORCA website soon:

As above in the YouTube footage is Nigel Marven at the launch of the event held at the port in July.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!