Join Stacey McCarthy for a heart-to-heart conversation with Robin Petch, Sea Watch Ambassador and creator of their newly launched Membership Scheme.
1. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My career, since 1985, was in primary school education and before resigning at the end of 2014 to become www.TheWhaleandDolphinMan.co.uk I had been a head teacher for 12 years. Throughout that time I was involved in local environmental activity, rescuing frogs, recycling aluminium cans, planting trees and creating wildlife gardens. I was also a supporter of the “Save the Whale” campaign and actively involved in helping close Britain’s last dolphinarium at Flamingoland. After meeting Dr Horace Dobbs, in 1991 I became Education Director for International Dolphin Watch and also helped set up a local sightings recording network in Yorkshire and bought a boat, launching Dolphinicity Surveys, and later Dolphinspotter to gather sightings in the North Sea during the school holidays.
2. Can you give me an overview of your work with Sea Watch including how you became an ambassador?
Whilst up in Scotland, supporting surveys of the Moray Firth Dolphins, in 1999 I met Sea Watch Director Dr Peter Evans and was asked to become Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Regional Co-ordinator. I later passed on Lincolnshire to the Wildlife Trust but until recently was Co-ordinator for both East and North Yorkshire. In 2009 I became a Sea Watch Trustee and served as Chair from 2012 until the end of 2019. I am still very much involved in Yorkshire and in contact with the Director and Board but as I now travel a great deal, working as a naturalist and speaker on cruise ships all over the world, the Ambassador role allows me to promote Sea Watch’s work wherever I go whilst others have taken on my old roles.
3. How did the idea of the Sea Watch membership come about?
Actually there always was a small membership but nothing with a proper structure so the idea of setting up a membership scheme with a regular newsletter was often discussed in Trustee meetings but the problem was always finding someone who could spare the time to set up and run it. If we were going to do it, it had to be done right. When I left my full-time employment, I was determined to make it happen and then Hannah Parkinson, another volunteer, agreed to produce the magazine and bulletins and suddenly it began falling into place quite rapidly.
4. Can you give an overview of the Sea Watch membership and what its goal is?
We have three tiers of membership and each can be either monthly or annual payment. Ordinary Membership is £3.50/£42, Family Membership is £5/£60 and Premium Membership is £7.50/£90. All Members get the superb Sea Watcher magazine quarterly and a Bulletin and Sightings Report monthly as well as access to our new “My Sea Watch” website. Family and Premium Members also receive the Adopt a Dolphin newsletter “Newsplash” monthly and Premium Members get additional content, digital photographs and a free copy of the Sea Watch Marine Mammal Observers Manual.
The goals are twofold really. One is to provide high quality information and images about our work, cetacean and marine studies and conservation both here and around the world and where and how to see cetaceans and get involved as a citizen scientist. We want people to be part of something important and to feel that they are valued and involved. The second goal is to raise much needed funds to make sure we can continue, and expand, our vital work.
5. Why should people consider getting the membership?
Members receive regular and high quality information not only about Sea Watch but about cetaceans, research, conservation, whale and dolphin watching and much more. Additionally, every penny is going to support this work because the scheme has been set up and is run by volunteers who are also passionate about supporting the vital work Sea Watch does to study and protect our cetaceans.
6. Do you have any future projects or goals in mind for your work with Sea Watch?
My main goals will remain running, developing and marketing the Sea Watch Members scheme and promoting Sea Watch and supporting other volunteers including Regional Co-ordinators as I travel. Although no longer a Trustee, I will continue to provide advice and support to the Director and Board as required and help with fundraising. I will also be very involved with Orca Watch 2021, as will Hannah, so there’s plenty to keep me busy!
To know more about the Sea Watch Membership Scheme click here.
If you are interested in learning how to conduct land and boat watches and help the Sea Watch staff collecting valuable records of whale, dolphin and porpoise species, contact their Sightings Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sea Watch Regional Coordinator