The Sea Watch Foundation monitors cetaceans within British and Irish waters through its team of volunteers. Sightings from the shore provide essential background on the relative abundance and distribution of different inshore species. Complementing these, the offshore surveys often have several aims: they provide information for species occurring mainly offshore; they are ideal opportunities to study a species or area in detail; and they can also be used to train volunteers in field techniques and test new equipment.
Just in terms of diversity, 29 species have been recorded this century in British or Irish territorial waters. Common dolphin, striped dolphin, minke whale are among those species where numbers sighted have increased since 1980. Harbour porpoises, on the other hand, showed widespread decline in the 1970’s-1980’s; and northern bottlenose whales have remained uncommon since the 1960’s. None of this information would be available to us without the efforts of Sea Watch volunteers recording and reporting their sightings.