The State of European Cetaceans 2018 has launched!

Author // James Robbins Categories // Survey & Sightings News

The State of European Cetaceans 2018 has launched!
Photo credit: Chrys Mellos

ORCA’s latest report highlights a shift in important areas for marine mammals in UK waters

Data collected by our network of volunteers from across the UK has been analysed and today our 2018 The State of European Cetaceans report has launched!  This report is the latest landmark in ORCA’s ongoing mission to use citizen science to better understand the status of cetaceans within UK and European waters.

The State of European Cetaceans is ORCA's report series, documenting the results of our survey findings, and more importantly, drawing conclusions about what the results mean for whales, dolphins and porpoise in the wild. With significant and emerging threats continuing to adversely impact these animals and their habitats, our findings are crucial in providing evidence to conserve these animals in the future. 

This report builds upon the first two editions and looks at harbour porpoise distribution in the UK. The aim of the research is to provide valuable insights into harbour porpoise distribution and density and highlight areas of importance. The analysis utilises data collected by ORCA Marie Mammal Surveyors from ferries during 2006 – 2017 and calculates harbour porpoise densities in the English Channel, North Sea and the Celtic Sea. This work was undertaken by Kimberley Nielsen, a postgraduate student from the University of Plymouth.

The report highlights a shift in distribution of this species in the English Channel. This shift could potentially have a significant implication for efforts to protect this species, which is one of the most threatened marine mammals in Europe due to their preference for coastal waters. They are particularly vulnerable to bycatch and 1,500 porpoise have been killed in a year by UK fisheries.

Sally Hamilton, ORCA Director, said: “These findings highlight both the important role that citizen scientists can play in protecting whales and dolphins, and how critical it is to continue to monitor these animals to better understand where they can be found and how their distribution is changing. Harbour porpoises are one of the most elusive species of cetacean, so it is a testament to the hard work and skill of our volunteers that we have been able to come to such profound conclusions from their efforts.”

Our volunteer citizen scientists recorded data on over 13,500 cetaceans in 2017 alone, with 25 species observed during 85 surveys conducted from ferries and cruise ships. Species sighted included the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, with only 400 animals thought to be left. The State of European Cetaceans 2018 report wouldn't have been possible without the dedication of our members, supporters and volunteers. ORCA volunteers have freely given their time and effort to generate the citizen science which is the foundation of this report so we thank them all for their hard work.

ORCA are dependent on voluntary contributions from the public and much of our support comes through single donations that are an essential part of funding our work. By giving a donation you can help us to continue our surveys in the UK, Europe and beyond, and help to protect whales, dolphins and porpoise.

Find out more and read the full The State of European Cetaceans report here.