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Sea Watch Foundation

 "The survey was a fantastic experience for me. Both as a young scientist starting out, and as a nature enthusiast, it was a fascinating, eye-opening insight into the amazing marine wildlife right here, on my doorstep as well as providing me with a great opportunity to apply and build on my field skills.”

“There have been reports of dolphins off Merseyside for some time and it was amazing to be part of a project that finally documented their presence and contributed to our understanding of their use of this habitat."

Grants awarded - £500 in 2012, £500 in 2013, £500 in 2015, £490 in 2017

Sea Watch Foundation is a national charity working to improve the conservation and protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises in British and Irish waters.

2012 - Liverpool Bay - through our funding for a photo-identification survey of Liverpool Bay, Sea Watch have increase their knowledge of bottlenose dolphin habitat use in the North West, identifying cetacean hot spots which may significantly alter understanding of bottlenose dolphin home ranges. It also allowed local volunteers to get valuable field experience and help raise awareness for local marine wildlife. 

2013 - North East Wales - Sea Watch conducted 2 surveys with the help of Sea-Changers' funding.  Among the photographed individuals they identified several rarely sighted individuals including one individual formerly sighted primarily in Cardigan Bay and presumed missing until this sighting. They also photographed a number of individuals primarily sighted around Anglesey, including a few that were only added to the catalogue in recent years. Especially for these rarely sighted individuals, this survey provide valuable additional information, which will contribute to an increased understanding of Welsh bottlenose dolphin habitat use. 

Although they did not encounter bottlenose dolphins during the second survey, the team was still able to collect valuable data on marine mammal distribution along the North East Wales coast. The surveys also gave 12 Sea Watch Foundation volunteers the chance to gain valuable marine biological field skills, the chance to experience marine mammals at close range and engage with the local community and media to raise awareness of local marine wildlife.

2015 - West Wales - We funded two surveys - on the first, the team saw 15 harbour porpoise in eight separate sightings and numerous seals. Sadly, they made no sightings on the second trip. All this data is, however, valuable for building a more accurate picture of the marine life found around the coast of Wales and understanding when and where we find cetaceans most commonly in different habitats. Data from the Gower is also valuable in improving knowledge of porpoise use of the area as the western edge of the Gower will form part of a new harbour porpoise Special Area of Conservation. The surveys gave 13 Welsh Sea Watcher volunteers the chance to gain valuable marine biological field skills, the chance to experience marine mammals at close range and engage with the local and wider community (through social media) and press to raise awareness of Welsh marine wildlife.

2017 - One of Sea Watch’s flagship projects is the Cardigan Bay Monitoring Project that studies the semi-resident population of bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay. Sea Watch works closely with a list of recommended wildlife tour boat operators, such as Bay to Remember; a Cardigan based wildlife trip that covers an area often frequented by bottlenose dolphins but is less often systematically surveyed during Sea Watch surveys. The latest analysis of SWF data has suggested that in the last 10 years, there has been a significant decline in the bottlenose dolphin population within Cardigan Bay SAC, highlighting the need for additional monitoring. The funding from Sea Changers will enable Sea Watch to significantly improve data collection in southern Cardigan Bay from Bay to Remember boat trips, contributing to abundance estimates as well as home range and habitat use analysis as well as educating the public about cetacean conservation and sustainable wildlife watching practices by giving talks to paying customers and publicising survey results through blog articles and social media.

Outcomes

2012 - Overall, 13 grey seals, 14 harbour porpoise and 24 bottlenose dolphins were recorded over the 10-hour survey period. Out of the 24 bottlenose dolphins sighted, 18 were photographed and 9 individuals were matched to the Cardigan Bay photo-identification catalogue. There were distinct differences in sighting patterns between identified individuals; three animals ranged from Cardigan Bay to North Wales and the Isle of Man, four animals have only been sighted off Anglesey, and the remaining two have been recorded in the Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau SAC and Anglesey but not in the Cardigan Bay SAC or the Isle of Man. One of the identified individuals was only sighted once before, at the beginning of 2013 off Anglesey

2013 - Overall, 3 grey seals, 3 harbour porpoise and about 40 bottlenose dolphins were recorded during the first survey and 7 grey seals and 9 harbour porpoise were recorded during the second survey. Out of the 40 bottlenose dolphins sighted during the first survey including at least 2 juveniles and 3 calves, 38 animals were photographed and 18 individuals were matched to the Cardigan Bay photo-identification catalogue.

2015 - Both surveys gave the Welsh Watcher volunteers an excellent opportunity to gain valuable skills in boat based surveying that can otherwise be difficult to attain. The skills are very important when collecting data about cetaceans and the surveys themselves provide valuable data for Sea Watch. While no bottlenose dolphins were sighted, the team did sight harbour porpoise and were able to take pictures of these animals providing important training for photographing cetaceans.  There was an excellent response to the trip on social media and the team built upon that with press coverage.  

2017 - This project is still running and hasn't been evaluated yet.

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