[MARMAM] New White-Beaked Dolphin Project in Northumberland, UK

Adrian Shephard adrian.shephard at marine-life.org.uk
Mon Feb 1 14:32:11 PST 2010

Marinelife and Natural England launch a new project to monitor
White-Beaked Dolphins and other marine wildlife in the waters off the
Northumberland coast with Northern Experience Wildlife Tours.

The White-Beaked Dolphin is a little studied species which occurs around
the coast of the UK and is vulnerable to the effects of global warming. It
lives in the cold waters of the northern Atlantic and its available habitat
is thought to be shrinking. There is little detailed information on the
status of the species around the UK and the charity Marinelife has been
studying these dolphins as well as other marine mammal species and
seabirds off the south west coast of the UK for a number of years.

Now thanks to funding from Natural England (£17,700) and the
Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club (£1000), a new project starts
this month to discover more about White-Beaked Dolphins and other species
in the rarely studied Farne Deeps off the Northumberland coast. The
partnership includes Marinelife, Natural England, the Northumberland and
Tyneside Bird Club, the University of Aberdeen, and Northern Experience
Wildlife Tours - who will coordinate the winter surveys in the Farne Deeps
and surrounding waters.

Dr. Tom Brereton, Research Director for Marinelife commented: “Our
work along the coast of the south west has provided useful information on
the distribution of White-Beaked Dolphins and their preferred habitats and
this project will help complement and extend the existing work. Anecdotal
evidence suggests that the area around the Farne Deeps will be important
not only for White-Beaked Dolphins, but also for wintering
As with the project along the south west coast, the aim is to engage the
local community in the conservation work and the value of safeguarding
this species. It is believed the work can also raise the profile of
Northumberland as an eco-tourism destination. A sightings website and
postcard survey will be launched for local fishermen, recreational dive
and angling boats, and yachtsmen to submit any sightings of White-beaked
Dolphin and other cetacean species.

Dr. Catherine Scott, Marine Advisor for Natural England North East added:
“Natural England is delighted to be supporting this exciting
project. The survey will help us understand more about the importance of
the sea off Northumberland for these little-known marine mammals, which
are a priority species for wider marine protection. This is a great way
for the North East to mark the start of the International Year of
Biodiversity and it’s possible that this survey will discover that
we have a nationally important stronghold for White-Beaked Dolphins off
the coast of Northumberland. Through this new project, the North East is
playing a vital role in identifying the areas which need protection to
safeguard the future for this species around the UK.”

Dr. Martin Kitching, lead surveyor from Northern Experience said: "We have
been recording White-Beaked Dolphins and other wildlife along the coast of
Northumberland for seven years, and now systematically investigating the
off-shore waters during the winter months, and engaging with the local
community, provides a real opportunity to define the North Sea off
Northumberland as an important area for conservation efforts".

The project also involves setting up a photographic database of dolphins
that will help experts to identify individual animals. In future, the
‘photo fits’ taken of dolphins in waters off South West and
North East England will help find out how wide ranging the animals are and
whether the two populations are linked.

White-Beaked Dolphins are a species limited in distribution to the colder
waters of the Atlantic. The North Sea represents some of the coldest
waters around the UK coastline and this new project will strengthen the
scientific data about this and other species in this area and help support
conservation efforts for this vulnerable species.

For further information please contact:
Adrian Shephard
PR & Publicity Officer
Tel: +44 (0) 7789 657617
E: adrian.shephard at marine-life.org.uk

Dr Tom Brereton
Research Director
Tel: +44 (0) 7816 786173
E: tom.brereton at biscay-dolphin.org.uk

Martin Kitching
Northern Experience
Tel: +44 (0) 1670 827465
E: martin at newtltd.co.uk

Natural England
David Hirst
Press Officer, Natural England North East
Tel: 03000 601720
E: david.hirst at naturalengland.org.uk

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