ORCA OceanWatch

ORCA OceanWatch is an exciting initiative involving seafarers in the collection of data on whales, dolphins & porpoises that they encounter whilst out to sea as well as educating bridge crews about the risk of ship strike (whales being hit by ships).

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. 

Every year in late July the Sea Watch Foundation organises National Whale and Dolphin Watch, a citizen science project now in its 18th year, involving the general public, wildlife enthusiasts, and researchers alike in watches (land and boat-based) hoping to catch a glimpse of whales, dolphins and porpoises visiting the seas around the British Isles. In the last 6 years, ORCA has teamed up with Sea Watch to provide data from ferries and cruise ships upon which it has volunteer observers. 

During OceanWatch seafarers recorded their sightings, whilst ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors and Wildlife Officers are out in force to survey as much of our seas as possible. In 2019 ORCA OceanWatch will be taking place between the 27th July and the 4th August. If you would like to get involved in 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 is delivered by the ORCA team, and each ship is given a comprehensive training pack.

ORCA OceanWatch
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ORCA OceanWatch Results

This analysis is produced by ORCA each year and is based on 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 2018 ORCA OceanWatch include:

  • A total of 2751 animals were sighted during 9 day period

  • 83 basking sharks were sighted

  • 13 ferry and cruise companies participated

  • 18 species of cetacean recorded


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...