A new partnership is set to boost data collected on whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) seen around the UK at a time when warming coastal waters mean changes in species numbers and distribution are predicted.
The link-up between Sea Watch Foundation, a national UK marine research and education charity, and WiSe (Wildlife Safe), the UK standard for commercial marine wildlife watching, aims to encourage many more marine wildlife watching boat operators to become part of a nationwide network of volunteers providing data.
Under the agreement, joint training events are being held to better equip more WiSe (www.wisescheme.org ) boat operators to provide Sea Watch scientists with reliable and detailed data on the whales, dolphin and porpoises they see on their trips. Details of the training events are available via www.wisescheme.org and www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk
The waters around the UK are home to a fantastic variety of marine wildlife, but many are vulnerable to disturbance if not approached in a manner that respects their wild nature. All WiSe accredited boat operators have been trained to safeguard wildlife from unintentional disturbance.
Sea Watch’s national computer sightings database of cetaceans is the largest and longest running of any in Europe. Research Director Dr Peter Evans says: “This partnership has the potential to significantly increase the numbers of people systematically recording data on sightings at sea, and submitting them to us.
“Our coastal waters are frequented by 12 different species, with records of rare visitors bringing the total number of species seen off our shores to 27. As ocean waters warm we are anticipating changes in the species we see, and the distributions as they, in turn, follow changes in distribution of their prey. By collecting more data at sea we will be able to spot early trends in distribution and abundance.
“It is only by having a full understanding of the species around the coast that we can work with Government and other policy makers to develop truly effective conservation plans.”
The WiSe Scheme trains and accredits operators of registered passenger and charter vessels that offer marine wildlife tours; working with operators of service and support boats that may interact with marine wildlife and liaising with organisations and members of the public interested in marine wildlife.
WiSe Project Director Colin Speedie says: “Passengers choosing WiSe accredited operators for wildlife watching tours can be sure they enjoy wildlife without disturbing and endangering it. WiSE operators who become recognised marine mammal observers will also be actively contributing to scientific research.
WiSe operators will be amongst those taking part in National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2013 from 27th July to 4th August. The watch is an opportunity for the public to help in developing a ‘snapshot’ of species around the entire UK coast. For more details of how to take part go to the NWDW page.