2017 - Grant Award - £750

The Sea Watch Foundation (SWF) is a marine research charity focusing on the conservation of UK cetaceans; monitoring cetacean populations and distribution as well as threats such as over-fishing, bycatch and climate change. Bottlenose dolphins are a protected iconic species with significant ecological and cultural importance. Cardigan Bay is home to one of only two semi-resident populations of bottlenose dolphins in the UK. SWF have been reporting systematically on the status of the bottlenose dolphin population since 2001 and in recent years have seen a significant decline in the number of animals occupying the Cardigan Bay SAC. This project will be a pilot study to trial and optimise the collection of respiratory samples using a non-invasive method that has not been previously used in sampling of small bodied cetaceans, such as bottlenose dolphins, although it has successfully been applied in baleen whale species and larger dolphin species, such as killer whales. Successful collection of these samples will provide invaluable information on microbial load and genotypes of Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphins that will tie into an existing long-term data set to improve the understanding of the dolphin population and management of the species within the Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

2017 - Grant Award - £490

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.


2015 Grant Award - £500

The Welsh Sea Watchers Project aims to monitor cetaceans using citizen science, raising public awareness and involving local communities. Many people are unaware of the presence of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in UK waters.

Public awareness and education is crucial to the success of our long-term conservation goals and we recognise, and utilise, citizen science as an important resource for our work. This Sea Changers funding will fund two training courses with associated boat based cetacean surveys around the Welsh coast to train volunteers of the Welsh Sea Watchers Project in ecological data collection, giving them the skill set to contribute to our ecological monitoring. The course will cover both land based and boat based data recording The courses will enable our volunteers, members of the general public, to connect with local wildlife, enhancing their quality of life, as well as meaningfully contributing to our coastal surveys. With our increased understanding and awareness of Welsh cetaceans comes increased wildlife-tourism, which is already shown to have greatly benefitted the Welsh economy and employment prospects. It is our hope that people reached through these activities continue to use their new ecological survey skills and promote discussion and awareness of marine mammal ecology after the project has finished.


2014 Grant award - £500

The Sea Watch Foundation is a marine research charity focusing on the study and conservation of UK cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises); monitoring cetacean populations and distribution as well as threats such as over-fishing, bycatch and climate change.

Much of Sea Watch’s research has focused on the semi-resident population of bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay, West Wales, where two Special Areas of Conservation have been designated for their protection. However, recent Sea Watch surveys suggest that Cardigan Bay dolphins may be spending significant amounts of time around the North Wales coast, which has been subject to extensive coastal development.

The Sea Changers grant will enable Sea Watch to conduct a dedicated survey off the North Wales coast. The aim of the survey will be to carry out photo-identification of any bottlenose dolphins encountered in order to further assess habitat use and population dynamics.


2012 Grant award - £500

Part of Sea Watch sightings network is the North West Sea Watch group, based in Birkenhead, Merseyside. Regional Coordinator, Katrin Lohrengel, started setting up a regional sightings network in 2012, with great success! Not only were local students and business keen to get involved, but sighting rates from landbased watches were also unexpectedly high for both harbour porpoises and bottlenose dolphins. This raised a lot of interesting questions but also concerns with Liverpool Bay being highly industrialised area with plans for further developments in the near future. The bottlenose dolphin sightings were of particular interest to Sea Watch, who hold detailed records on the movement of the resident bottlenose dolphin population in Cardigan Bay. Although members of this resident population have been spotted as far away as Anglesey and the Isle of Man, so far there have been no records of individuals from this population in Liverpool Bay and with no funding for boat based surveys, the chances of getting photo-identification pictures were slim.

That’s where the Sea-Changers grant comes in! By providing funding for a photo-identification survey of Liverpool Bay; Sea Watch hope to increase their knowledge of bottlenose dolphin habitat use in the North West, identifying cetacean hot spots and maybe even finding some matches between individuals in Cardigan Bay and Liverpool which could significantly alter our understanding of bottlenose dolphin home ranges. It will also allow local volunteers to get valuable field experience and help us raise awareness for our local marine wildlife.

The survey took place in July 2013.


Bottlenose dolphin socialising during  first Sea Watch survey of Liverpool Bay    

Harbour porpoise by Burbo Banks wind farm off the Wirral, spotted on Sea Watch survey

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