Ships with a porpoise track whales across the ocean

Lucy Babey and Anna Bunne, wildlife officers at ORCA
Lucy Babey and Anna Bunne, wildlife officers at ORCA
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RESEARCHERS have had more sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises on routes from Portsmouth International Port than any other UK port.

Nearly 800 creatures were spotted from ships which sailed from the port during the marine wildlife charity ORCA’s OceanWatch week, which ran from July 23 to 31.

Portsmouth charity ORCA developed a training package designed specifically for bridge crews on the ships which go in and out of the port.

This enabled them to identify a wide range of European cetaceans – as whales, dolphins and porpoises are known – and also how to collect scientific data on the marine mammals.

In total, 63 bridge crews from 13 vessels were trained to record their observations.

This was supplemented by 47 volunteer ORCA marine mammal surveyors, who conducted surveys on a further 11 vessels.

Sally Hamilton, director of ORCA, said: ‘ORCA OceanWatch 2016 was a great success, with more vessels and partners involved than last year, building an even better picture of marine life in our oceans.

‘Fourteen species of cetaceans were sighted in six European sea regions, which is an outstanding result.’

Portsmouth-based Brittany Ferries recorded 460 whales, dolphins and porpoises during the survey week, with passengers contributing to data collected by joining ORCA wildlife officers on board ferries heading to and from France and Spain.

This was the second ORCA OceanWatch, with cruise company Swan Hellenic also joining the survey.

Its ship Minerva sailed from Portsmouth International Port with an ORCA wildlife officer onboard.

Along with bridge crew and passengers she recorded 330 animals on a cruise through the Bay of Biscay to Portugal and Spain.

The data helps the charity create a living map of important habitats.

This information is key to offering more protection for endangered species, and understanding more about the distribution of whales, dolphins and porpoises in European waters.