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#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