A rare visitor to the shores of the Netherlands coast occurred this week when a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) was sighted between 1st and 3rd August near Westerscheldt, Antwerp. The animal was then seen again further west from Cadzand on the 6th. Sightings of bottlenose dolphin species are an unusual sight in the southern North Sea. Usually they can be found along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe, commonly sighted near shore off the coasts of north-west France, western Ireland with resident populations in the Shannon estuary, Irish sea (Cardigan Bay) and north-east Scotland (the Moray Firth).
The dolphin visitor is suspected to be the same animal that was recorded the previous week hanging around with simmers at the coastal town of Knokke, Belgium on the 20th and 30th July 2010. Bottlenose dolphins have been recorded over the past few years off the coast of Belgium and the Netherlands. Back in 2002 a dolphin nicknamed ‘Randy’ appeared for a few days at the beginning of December in around Blankenberge and Antwerp harbours, and an unnamed but easily recognisable individual appeared off the Netherlands coast in 2007 and 2008.
Researches have been able to identify this particular individual as an adult male using photo ID from images taken by Michel Neve, even though the dorsal fin region is fairly unmarked it is hoped that researchers from both sides of the channel may be able to use other body scars to trace the origin of this individual.
The Sea Watch Foundation is running a Photo-a-fin campaign which is urging members of the public to help to solve the mysteries of the movements of certain UK cetacean populations by taking photos of the fins of any they spot.
Sea Watch asks people to send in any photos of dolphins and whales that show details of nicks and markings on fins to firstname.lastname@example.org. The pictures can then be compared to others held on national ID databases at the charity’s base in Wales, and with catalogues held by other organisations in the UK. Alongside the pictures Sea Watch will need to know where and when they were taken.