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Environment / Whale and dolphin spotters wanted for citizen science project

WILDLIFE charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is calling for volunteers from across Shetland and Orkney to help spot and protect whales and dolphins by signing up as volunteers to a citizen science project.

The charity has received a grant from the National Lottery heritage fund to expand its Shorewatchprogramme to the Northern Isles.

The are looking for volunteers to undertake training to identify the whales and dolphins that can regularly be seen from the shoreline and to carry out regular 10-minute watches at designated sites to scientifically record the mammals’ movement.

WDC policy officer Emma Steel said no previous experience is necessary to sign up as expert training as well as equipment will be provided.

Shorewatchers. Photo: WDC

“It is vital to understand which areas might be key habitat for whales and dolphins,” she said.

“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.”

In addition to learning how to identify the 18 different species of whales and dolphins that can be seen from the shores of the Northern Isles, volunteers have the opportunity to learn how to recognise and report any disturbance, and will also learn how best to raise awareness of the threats whales and dolphins face in Scotland today.

The call for volunteers coincides with an incident off Brae last week where a boat is alleged to have disturbed a pod of orcas. Police are investigating.

Shorewatch volunteer Holly Peek, based in Orkney, said: “Shorewatch is a great opportunity to get actively involved in protecting whales and dolphins.”

Anyone interested in joining the WDC Shorewatch programme can contact them via e-mail northernisles@shorewatch.org

A Rissos dolphin. Photo: Nicola Hodgins/WDC