UK - Dolphin Scientists Set Out To Discover Secrets Of The Moray Firth's Dolphins And Whales
In a year which could see the oil and gas industry move into the Moray Firth dolphin sanctuary threatening a unique and vulnerable group of bottlenose dolphins, scientists from WDCS are embarking on a new research project to learn more about whales and dolphins in the area.
The research began this week and aims to help fill a huge gap in current understanding of whale and dolphin populations in the Moray Firth area.
“Although researchers have been studying the dolphins of the Inner Moray Firth for a number of years, information about those animals further out to sea and the myriad other species which live around the UK coast is severely lacking. Without information on their movements and how they use the seas – we cannot ensure these animals are adequately protected,” said Sarah Dolman, Moray Firth Campaign Manager for WDCS.
To ensure detection of all the animals present, the research team will survey the area using visual observations combined with acoustic listening techniques using underwater hydrophones. Photographs and video footage will also help to build a picture of how the different whale and dolphin species, including minke whales, harbour porpoises, common, bottlenose and other dolphins, use the outer Firth area in particular. The research will last for at least one year, taking place in every season, to show how the distribution patterns of these species change throughout the year.
Trained volunteers working with the WDCS Wildlife Centre in Spey Bay will be a vital part of the study.
“Our work is reliant on passionate and dedicated volunteers who give their time freely to help with our field research and campaigns. They are an invaluable part of the team and essential to bring our work to fruition,” continued Sarah Dolman.
The research is urgently needed to help protect the animals from a growing trend in marine developments, including oil and gas exploration and production, offshore wind farms, and new marina developments to name but a few in this important area.
WDCS has recently launched its ‘Protect Our Dolphins’ campaign, calling on the Government to protect the small and vulnerable bottlenose dolphin population in the Moray Firth from the threat of oil and gas exploration and production in the sanctuary designated for its protection. For more information and to sign the petition, go to www.protectourdolphins.org