ORCA in the Spotlight

Categories // Bay of Biscay Wildlife Officer

ORCA in the Spotlight

Did you catch Wildlife Officer Bex on BBC Spotlight last week? 

As the south coast of England grows on the horizon, I’ve had some stunning coastal sightings from the Pont-Aven. Harbour porpoise, blue sharks, sunfish and common dolphin have all been spotted on my deck watches as the Cornish and Devonshire hills slide into view. It was therefore such a joy when BBC Spotlight Southwest joined me on board in Plymouth to discuss the work ORCA does to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans)! Since April, we have recorded 4,936 animals from the Pont-Aven and still have a month left of surveying as Wildlife Officers! It’s amazing to think of the thousands of passanegrs who have also been present to witness these sightings, popping out for some fresh air right at the moment a fin whale breaches, or striped dolphin bursts from the surface. Counts of animals can fluctuate annual depending on how suitable the weather is for surveying as well as natural variation in numbers due to changes in prey distribution or death/birth rates. Recently, it’s been interesting to see a see-saw (sea-saw...sorry, I can’t resist a pun) in the dolphin to whale ratio in the Biscay. If there are pods and pods of dolphin, the whales seem to be elsewhere. I’m looking forward to see if this continues into September!

The BBC Spotlight team have helped ORCA get the word out about UK marine diversity, and that everyone can help us look out for cetaceans! Do join us on a Sea Safari to search for wildlife in the channel and Bay of Biscay, or perhaps train up as a Marine Mammal Surveyor. Check here for your nearest course.

Back on board and sailing south to Spain, many passengers and I could tick off another cetacean species on our check list – we saw a Sowerby’s beaked whale! These slender grey whales have a long beak and may dive over 1000m, feeding on squid and Atlantic cod. They face threats from bycatch and noise pollution, particularly sonar, which is why it’s so important to maintain our surveys for them and other cetaceans in the busy shipping lanes of the Biscay.

Thank you so much to the BBC Spotlight Southwest team for interviewing me, and the amazing support from ORCA headquarters.  After a smashing time on board, it’s time to hand over to AJ. See you in September!


ORCA Wildlife Officer – The Bay of Biscay