Pupils have a blue whale of a time at Portsmouth International Port

IMPACT Cottage Grove schoolchildren with the Mayor Frank Jonas, left, Nigel Marven, front, and port manager Martin Putman, right.
IMPACT Cottage Grove schoolchildren with the Mayor Frank Jonas, left, Nigel Marven, front, and port manager Martin Putman, right.
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A 50-foot long model of a blue whale brought to life the importance of this mammal for local schoolchildren.

The life-sized replica was used to launch a new UK-wide whale, dolphin and porpoise conservation initiative at Portsmouth International Port yesterday.

It’s a fantastic way for the public and local businesses and organisations who use the sea to get actively involved in marine conservation

TV wildlife expert Nigel Marven was in the passenger terminal to kick-start ORCA OceanWatch, which aims to help build a comprehensive picture of where whales, dolphins and porpoises are distributed in UK and European waters.

The charity has recently trained crews from The Royal Navy, P&O Cruises, Cunard, Wightlink and commercial shipping companies operating from Portsmouth International Port to spot cetaceans (the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises).

The reports from the bridge of each vessel will be collated to give a detailed view of current numbers and habitats.

Thirty children from Cottage Grove Primary School in Portsmouth listened intently as Nigel told them how they could see some of the world’s most amazing sea creatures by taking a ferry crossing from Portsmouth International Port.

Nigel said: ‘There’s a rich variety of creatures living in the sea just off the south coast, and the closer you get to the Bay of Biscay the more chance you have of seeing these majestic marine mammals.

‘Ferries from Portsmouth to Spain sail across the Bay of Biscay, one of the most important hotspots on the planet for whales, dolphins and porpoises.

By recording their numbers we will learn even more about them, and help protect their habitats.’

Sally Hamilton, UK Director of Portsmouth-based ORCA, said: ‘OceanWatch Week will be the offshore component to the national Whale and Dolphin Watch Week which is run every year by the Sea Watch Foundation.

‘We’ve enlisted the help of local seafaring businesses that use Portsmouth International Port and ports along the south of England.

‘It’s a fantastic way for the public and local businesses and organisations who use the sea to get actively involved in marine conservation.’

The launch also saw the start of a three-week long exhibition at the port, highlighting the work of ORCA and focusing on the creatures that passengers might see during their crossing. All ferry and cruise ship passengers will be able to enjoy the exhibition as the busy summer holiday season gets underway.

Free spotters guides are being given out so ferry and cruise ship customers can make the most of their time at sea.

For more information go to orcaweb.org.uk/get-involved/oceanwatch.