The first-ever positive matches have been confirmed between bottlenose dolphins seen in Liverpool Bay and those in Cardigan Bay in Wales.
Scientists from Sea Watch Foundation were on board a survey funded by the marine conservation charity Sea-Changers last week when they came across grey seals, harbour porpoises and, most interestingly a large group of bottlenose dolphins.
Sea Watch Regional Co-ordinator Katrin Lohrengel managed to take pictures of the fins of 18 of the bottlenose dolphins. These have since been compared with Sea Watch’s records of dolphins from Wales, particularly Cardigan Bay, with nine positive matches.
One of the matched dolphins has been known to Sea Watch since 1993, having previously been recorded in the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and off Anglesey and the Isle of Man. Another was only recorded for the first time in January this year after being spotted off Anglesey.
Dolphin fins act as ‘fingerprints’ enabling scientists to match individual dolphins by the unique markings on their fins.
Sea Watch Director Peter Evans says: “We have had occasional sighting records of bottlenose dolphins in Liverpool Bay, but have never before had the pictures which could help us individually identify them. This was the first time we had been able to survey Liverpool Bay from a boat and it has proved a landmark moment, helping us to better understand the areas of coastline used by bottlenose dolphins.
“As the years go by, the impression that seems to be building up is of individuals with favoured areas whether it be in southern Cardigan Bay, northern Cardigan Bay, Anglesey and adjacent waters, and beyond (possibly all the way up to Northern Ireland/SW Scotland).
“In the past we have focused upon those dolphins that are more or less resident to Cardigan Bay SAC, but now we are finding increasingly that some individuals have preferred home ranges well away from here, such as around Anglesey the Isle of Man and other parts of the north-eastern Irish Sea.
“There is still a lot to discover – some for instance may prove to be more or less permanent emigrants from Cardigan Bay. This knowledge of the areas used by bottlenose dolphins is crucial in helping to develop effective conservation policies.”