With the 2014 Sea Watch Foundation Annual General Meeting taking place over the weekend we now have had time to reflect about amazing UK-wide research effort of all of our coordinators and volunteers. I must to begin by thanking all of our dedicated and enthusiastic members for their hard work over the previous year.
Coming from my sighting filled (yet wet and cold) morning Land Watch, I was eager to meet the people that are both behind the scenes and at the front line of Sea Watch’s campaign. The people who endeavour to see the charity move forward and continue to build year on year.
Tables and chairs were arranged in New Quay’s memorial hall on what was an all-round gloomy Saturday afternoon. As the room began to settle and the tea consumed, introductions were made around the room to get an idea as to the backgrounds of all the new faces. With a mixture of Trustees, Regional Coordinators, Volunteers and Interns from far and wide, it was wonderful to see the entire spectrum of people that are dedicated to the progression and success of Sea Watch.
Proceedings then got underway with the formalities of the Board of Trustees, where agreements were reached to remain in their designated positions for the 2014-2015 period. The next item on Saturday’s agenda was to hear talks presented by Dr Peter Evans, our new sightings officer Kathy James and our new Welsh development officer Katrin Lohrengel.
Dr Evans presented an interesting talk which covered areas such as effort based sighting coverage across the UK; highlighting the regions with good coverage and the ones that require a small improvement. Dr Evans also discussed the importance of the snapshot of information that the National Whale and Dolphin Watch yields, so emphasis was made to build on last year and to gain more participants.
Furthermore, Dr Evans gave us some of the latest information about the bottlenose dolphin population here in Cardigan Bay and in Angelsey.
Next up was Kathy our sightings officer based here in New Quay. As this role is still new to Kathy, she gave a general overview as to what she has been doing over the last few months and how she has been dealing with her hectic schedule! Having spoken to each regional coordinator over the phone in the preluding months, Kathy has now established that vital point of call for any of these coordinators. As well as this she has been attending events to extend the Sea Watch Foundation into the wider public and will also be attending upcoming events such as World Oceans Day in Liverpool in June.
Bringing Saturday to a close was our new Wales Development Officer Katrin. Katrin gave us all an overview as to the level of coverage surrounding the Welsh coastline, suggesting that areas in South Wales could use an increase in the level of effort based sightings. As well as this Katrin has also been organising additional boat based effort in North Wales , which is promising as it has the potential to increase the amount of reliable boat operators that Sea Watch can count on for excellent data. A key area that Katrin has also worked on in her time in this role is to promote the image of Sea Watch through the medium of social media, with an ever increasing interest within the public domain to report their Cetacean sightings.
Saturday evening allowed for an opportunity to network and socialise with everyone that had joined us in New Quay over a fantastic Indian meal (or so I am told as I unfortunately had to work!!). Nevertheless, the response from everyone was that it was a fantastic evening.
On another wetand windy day in New Quay, the prospect of joining New Quay Dolphin Spotting Boat Trips was doubtful. Unfortunately we were unable to join them on one of their amazing trips due to the bad weather! But hopefully next time!
Sunday’s agenda allowed for us to hear from the regional coordinators that had made it here (as well as some that had not!). It was really nice to hear some of the presentations from the regional coordinators that had been unable to make it, and to see how well they have got on in the past year. Top points must go to Colin Bird and his son who put together a presentation which was voiced over and synced up (even if the trial version lady had her piece to say as well!). All these presentations yielded positive results from their respective regions, with increases in public participation, social media introduction and good levels of effort based watches.
Kicking off the live presentations was Stuart Baines who had been observing a variety of cetaceans over the past year on Marine Drive in Scarborough, which included a vast array of harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin and even the odd minke whale.
Stuart has also got in contact with the local council and has had permission for Sea Watch boards to be placed on the sea walls of Marine Drive later next month, which is really good news with the summer tourist season around the corner. This should hopefully increase some public participation with Stuart!
Next up was the regional coordinator for Merseyside and Cheshire, Matt Clough. Matt has had a weather hampered but promising start to 2014, with some real improvements in understanding some of the movement patterns of the harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphins around Merseyside. As well as this, Matt and his volunteers have documented Cardigan Bay/Anglesey Bottlenose Dolphins around the Merseyside coastline, which is really interesting!
Not only this but Matt and the Sea Watch team had a successful dedicated survey last year which brought some really good sightings, where their trip took them from the Mersey up to Blackpool and back down. Katrin, our Wales Development Officer has once again been able to secure funding to carry out further research in this area during 2014. Other efforts that this group have made have included trawling through social media to try and unearth people in Merseyside who have spotted a cetacean but have been unable to report it. This has enabled the group to start posting these sightings as well as bringing the public’s attention to Sea Watch through social media.
As the morning came to an end so did this year’s Sea Watch Foundation AGM. Two days had flown by in an instant and final opportunities were made to chat with staff and coordinators before everyone parted their separate ways, to continue the hard work that they have been carrying out over the past year.
Sea Watch Intern