What is Shorewatch?
WDC Shorewatch is a network of trained volunteers monitoring the presence and absence of whales and dolphins at selected sites around the Scottish coastline, in order to raise awareness and capture vital data crucial to the long term future of these amazing animals.
What does this mean?
‘Shorewatches’ are 10-minute whale, dolphin and porpoise surveys carried out by teams of trained volunteers at specific sites around Scotland to determine if animals are present in the area.
All Shorewatch volunteers attend a full or half-day training course in which they learn how to identify common whale, dolphin and porpoise species found in Scottish waters and how to do a 10-minute WDC Shorewatch. This means that all watches are carried out in the same way and that we can compare watches between observers.
Presence and absence
WDC Shorewatch is different than simply reporting that a whale or dolphin has been seen. We record every watch that observers complete - even when a whale or dolphin was not sighted - so that we know whether animals were sighted 1 in 10 times or 1 in 100 times. We can then compare this sighting rate (frequency) between seasons and years.
We currently have 18 Shorewatch sites in the Moray Firth, West Coast, North Coast, Outer Hebrides and Angus region. Shorewatch volunteers will share equipment and complete watches from selected sites so that we can build up effort in these locations rather than spread along the coast. This enables us to compare sighting rates between locations and identify areas that are regularly used by whales and dolphins which might need protection. We can also see if these ‘hot spots’ change over time.
Shorewatch volunteers are given training so that they are comfortable and confident answering questions about their watches and whales and dolphins. Many visitors and even local people are unaware that they can see these amazing animals in Scotland and that we must protect their marine environment. Shorewatch volunteers become ambassadors for the whales and dolphins.
The data collected by volunteers is used to monitor cetacean presence to better understand movements of coastal species, highlighting changes in distribution and behaviour. It is vital to understand which areas might be key habitat for whales and dolphins and monitor how they use these areas over time. Shorewatch will allow us to identify areas of particular importance (hot spots) enabling WDC to focus conservation efforts in those places.
Long term future
We aim to collect data over a long period of time, to determine long term trends. WDC will use the data that you collect to inform decision makers. Such data will also be valuable towards informing planning decisions in future developments.
There are over 28 species of cetacean found in Scottish waters, 20 of which are seen regularly. So far we have recorded the following species: bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise, minke whale, Risso's dolphin, common dolphin, orca and fin whale!
WDC Head of Scottish Policy, Sarah Dolman, commented on the need for the Shorewatch Programme saying, “It is vital to understand which areas might be key habitat for these amazing animals. We basically need to have eyes on the sea around the entire Scottish coastline; this is why community participation is so important to the long term management of marine species and their homes.”
Download our pdf with more information about Shorewatch.