About ORCA

Our vision

Oceans alive with whales and dolphins

Our mission

Giving everyone who cares about whales and dolphins an active role to safeguard their future

Who we are

With our unique take on marine conservation, ORCA is a charity that’s entirely dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK and European waters.

We work to identify and protect critical whale and dolphin habitats in our waters and beyond. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters we help to create safer places for whales and dolphins ultimately promoting the health of our seas.

ORCA is passionate about people; in fact our work is as much about people as it is about whales and dolphins. What makes ORCA unique is our dedication to combining accessible marine education with our conservation activities allowing us to give ordinary people opportunities to take an active role in marine science and conservation.

The identification of important whale and dolphin habitats is carried out by ORCA’s Marine Mammal Survey Teams, who are all volunteers. This is what makes us so unique. It’s our own volunteer teams on board ferries and cruise ships in European waters that conduct the monthly scientific surveys, recording the species we see, where they are and what they’re doing. They run talks for passengers and activities on deck, providing expert knowledge of the astonishing marine wildlife on our doorstep.

ORCA is characterised by its openness, allowing people from all walks of life to get involved, as long as they have the enthusiasm. I have had some wildlife encounters that will live forever in my memory, and I sincerely believe that ORCA’s work is a vital in spreading environmental awareness and working towards a sustainable future.
Evan Landy, Volunteer Marine Mammal Surveyor

By getting members of the public to join our team, we’re not just helping to save whales and dolphins – we’re also giving people from all walks of life an opportunity to be close to these amazing animals in the wild, while collecting vital information that helps us work towards solving the problems they face.

Our aim is to enable local communities to become stewards of local whales and dolphins and the marine environment in which they live.

Why we do what we do

Did you know that UK and European waters are home to a third of the world’s whales, dolphin and porpoise species?

We have over 23 cetacean species living alongside us, ranging from the tiny harbour porpoise to the shy Cuvier's beaked whale and the acrobatic common dolphin. All these and more have been sighted in and around UK waters. Even the largest animal to have ever lived, the blue whale, visits us from time to time.

Sadly, many of these species aren’t protected by international conventions, so their populations are being severely impacted by increasing human activity such as overfishing, pollution, destruction of their habitats and the impact of climate change.

With so many of the planet’s whales, dolphins and porpoises in our own waters, ORCA is perfectly placed to make a difference to the conservation population of these amazing animals. And we believe that conservation, like charity, starts locally.

That’s where ORCA comes in

The importance of what ORCA does cannot be overestimated. They enthuse all who come close with a desire to know more.
Chris Packham, ORCA Patron, TV presenter and wildlife expert

We know that the threats faced by whales and dolphins are a huge global problem that seems far too big and wide to tackle here in the UK.

But ORCA believes that the only way to protect our whales and dolphins is to identify areas where they’re vulnerable and study their habitats. That way, we can protect these places by changing the way we use them. That includes shipping, fishing, noise pollution, marine litter and more. Best of all, this information can be shared and used across the globe. And that’s the local solution to the global problem.

ORCA’s work is at the heart of this solution. With a third of the world’s whale, dolphin and porpoise species living in UK and European waters, there are huge global consequences to their lack of protection here. That’s why creating ways to protect these animals locally is a critical part of the international marine conservation movement, all working towards protecting whales and dolphins for future generations.

The UK government relies on ORCA’s crucial work to help it meet its obligations under the EU Habitats Directive (1992). This means that our work is contributing directly to the development of marine protected areas around our coastline, providing sanctuary for our whales and dolphins. Furthermore ORCA’s vital work is guiding cetacean conservation policy across the European Union enabling the creation of more safe havens for whales and dolphins in European waters. Without our involvement and our conservation partners there would be fewer safe places for whales and dolphins to live.

When it comes to influencing change across the continent, the need for ORCA and its work is at the very heart of whale and dolphin protection.

ORCA Inspiring & Educating People

What we’ve achieved so far

  • 1. We’re helping to identify and establish marine protected areas for whales and dolphins.
  • 2. We’ve identified an area with one of the highest recorded density of the elusive and rare Cuvier's beaked whale in the North Atlantic, helping governments create ways to study and protect them.
  • 3. We’ve created a national network of trained Marine Mammal Surveyors from all walks of life.
And there’s so much more we’re hoping to achieve to protect our whales and dolphins in the next few years, with your help.

Be inspired with ORCA...

Wildlife Officer Programme

Ocean Conservation

Working with our partners we send expert conservationists out on ferries and cruise ships to give unforgettable wildlife experiences whilst collecting vital scientific data so we can safeguard these animals for future generations. 

Sea Safari mini-cruises

Sea Safari mini-cruise

ORCA works with Brittany Ferries to offer unforgettable opportunities to discover and learn more about whales, dolphins and seabirds in the Bay of Biscay - one of the world’s most renowned whale watching locations.

ORCA in Schools

ORCA in Schools

ORCA educational programme teaching people of all ages about whales and dolphins. Every October, schools across the country celebrate our wonderful whales, dolphins and porpoises by taking part in Whale Education Month.