ORCA OceanWatch

ORCA OceanWatch is an exciting initiative aimed at involving seafarers in the collection of data on whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) that they encounter whilst out to sea.

Critical cetacean habitat

The event aims to raise the profile of British and European cetaceans while collecting a large amount of data over a concentrated period of time. The data will also contribute to the National Whale and Dolphin Watch in collaboration with Sea Watch Foundation. 

ORCA OceanWatch 2017 took place between the 29th July and the 6th August 2017.  During this time, seafarers recorded their sightings, whilst ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors and Wildlife Officers were out in force to survey as much of our seas as possible. If you would like your vessels to be involved in ORCA OceanWatch 2018, please contact Anna Bunney on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Full training for bridge crews are delivered by the ORCA team, and each ship is given a comprehensive training pack.

ORCA OceanWatch
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These reports are produced by ORCA each year and are based marine mammal data collected by seafarers, wildlife officers and Marine Mammal Surveyors recording their sightings during a concentrated 9 day period.

Key facts of the 2017 ORCA OceanWatch include:
  • A total of 2611 animals were sighted during 9 day period
  • 25 killer whales were spotted
  • 175 bridge crew members were trained
  • 1232 common dolphins sighted

Report summary

  • 17 species of whale, dolphin and porpoise were sighted, recorded and positively identified.
  • 27 species of marine animal sighted, including cetaceans, seals, flying fish, sharks, polar bears and otters.
  • The sea regions with the highest species diversity are the Bay of Biscay (12 cetacean species recorded), the North Sea (11 species recorded) and Arctic Waters (10 species of cetacean recorded).
  • Atlantic spotted dolphins, beluga, Bryde’s whale and polar bear are all ORCA OceanWatch firsts.
  • ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors on board the Scillonian III passenger ferry to the Isles of Scilly sighted a pod of striped dolphin, the first ever reported sighting of this species in the area.
  • One blue whale was sighted in Arctic Waters. Blue whales are the largest animal to have ever lived on Planet Earth.
  • Other notable sightings include 3 sightings of orcas, totalling 9 individuals sighted from the John O’Groat’s Ferry and 150 Atlantic spotted dolphins sighted from the P&O Cruises Ventura.
  • The common dolphin was the most frequently sighted cetacean, with 126 sightings over the nine-day period. For the third year running, the common dolphin was the species with the most individual animals seen, with 1,232 recorded. As the name suggests, common dolphins are the most abundant dolphin species in the world.
  • The sightings highlight for ORCA OceanWatch 2017 has to be the 20 belugas and a polar bear sighted in the Arctic from the Silver Explorer cruise ship.

THANKS!

The ORCA team would like to extend our thanks to our OceanWatch partners and all people and organisations involved in ORCA OceanWatch 2017.

Our volunteer surveyors

ORCA volunteers have freely given their time and effort to generate the citizen science which is the foundation of this report. They have all done so with the selfless objective of creating a more complete picture of our whales, dolphins and porpoises, so that they can be afforded greater protection and conservation where this is required. One of the notable findings of their research has been the fluid and transitory nature of whale and dolphin populations, in terms of geography, the seasons, location of prey species and so on.

We anticipate just as much change and movement in the future, and look forward to welcoming new generations of volunteers to map the mercurial habits and life cycles of these mysterious animals.

A very special thank you

This report would not have been possible without the support of the Brittany Ferries, DFDS, Isles of Scilly Travel, Caledonian MacBrayne, Saga, Silversea, Cunard, NorthLink, John O’Groats Ferries, P&O Cruises, P&O Ferries, Red Funnel, WightLink, Discover Ferries, Sea Watch Foundation, Portsmouth International Port and the UK Chamber of Shipping

Share your views

How do you think we can we take this data forward?  What should those in power be doing to protect our whales, dolphins and porpoises more? Please get involved and let us know...
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