Scotland’s west coast is a hotspot for cetaceans and basking sharks
Published on Monday, 15th October 2018
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has released a new marine atlas capturing key discoveries made over the past 15 years and has called for better protection for the animals which it has been studying.
The charity has been undertaking regular research expeditions on its specialised yacht, Silurian, to learn more about the west coast of Scotland’s biodiversity, particularly its whales, dolphins and porpoise (collectively known as ‘cetaceans’) and basking sharks.
So far, 23 species of cetacean – a quarter of all known globally – have been recorded in the Hebrides. Since 2002, Silurian has travelled more than 100,000 kilometres – the equivalent of sailing two and a half times around the world – recording 30,000 animals in the process.
It has been discovered that the Hebrides is a vital feeding ground for minke whales and basking sharks, and the region is a particularly important one for European harbour porpoise.
The research also discovered that the Hebrides supports the UK’s only resident population of killer whales or orca – a group of eight individuals which is likely to go extinct within a generation, as no calves have ever been seen.
‘This pioneering research is transforming our understanding of the Hebrides’ remarkable cetaceans, while offering new insights about trends and changes in the marine environment,’ said Dr Lauren Hartny-Mills, Science and Policy Manger at the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
‘It is increasingly clear that the Hebrides is a truly special place for cetaceans and basking sharks, and that we need to do far more to protect them and their environment,’ added television presenter Liz Bonnin, a patron of the charity.
‘I had the great pleasure of sailing on Silurian and I am thrilled to be able to lend my support to such an outstanding organisation which works directly towards these goals.’
Currently the Trust is monitoring trends in common dolphin sightings in the area and is recruiting volunteers for its citizen science programme. More information on this programme and on the Hebridean Marine Mammal Atlas can be found on the charity’s website.