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Nature / Whale watch scheme to be rolled out in Northern Isles

While he had seen killer whales many times before, Ivan said it was a great experience to observe them up close and personal. Photo: Ivan ReidShorewatch will focus on whales and dolphins. Photo: Ivan Reid

A WHALE and dolphin conservation charity is to extend its ‘Shorewatch’ scheme to Orkney and Shetland in a bid to help save cetaceans.

Thanks to a successful National Lottery bid, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) will extend its citizen science scheme to monitor at risk species of whale, dolphin and harbour porpoise in the Northern Isles.

The grant of £190,400 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund coincides with 2020 as Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters.

Shorewatch encourages people of all ages to train as volunteers to identify and scientifically record the movements of legally protected species of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

It is possible to spot up to 18 different species from the coasts of the Northern Isles, according to the charity.

Shorewatch policy officer Katie Dyke said: “Whales, dolphins and porpoises are facing a number of threats in UK waters, but it is not too late to make a positive change. Creating a connection with the ocean and these incredible creatures is key to empower communities to protect them.

“This National Lottery Heritage Fund grant will not only allow us to collect vital data to better understand how species use the waters around the Northern Isles, but it will allow us to work closely with local committees and nurture an education, connection and love for these amazing creatures we are lucky enough to be able to watch from our coastline.”

Around 180 people will be involved in collecting vital data about where they breed, feed and travel.

Their findings will feed into marine conservation planning, influencing policy and development decisions to ensure better protection for whales and dolphins.