On a crossing of the English Channel aboard the P&O Cruise Ferry, the Pride of Bilbao on the 5th of May, a large group of approximately 30 Bottlenose Dolphin was sighted by Clive Martin, Director for the wildlife charity Marinelife and senior Wildlife Officer for the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme.
The dolphins, which are threatened in UK waters, were recorded 4 miles off of St. Catherine’s point on the Isle of Wight – a truly rare occurrence.
Clive Martin said: “In over 10 years of research in the English Channel, Marinelife have never before recorded Bottlenose Dolphin in this location or in such large numbers in the central part of the Channel – it represents a significant sighting and together with other recent sighting, may indicate that the central part of the Channel is again becoming part of the territory for a range of dolphins.”
The English Channel is generally thought of as an area of coastline which is under populated or depleted of whales and dolphins, but whilst sighting tend to be sporadic, they are being recorded.
A small population of Bottlenose Dolphin are known to spend time within the Western portion of the English Channel and they are regularly sighting during Marinelife research trips from Plymouth to Roscoff aboard Brittany Ferries and by the Durlston Marine Project around Swanage. However, sighting of Bottlenose Dolphin in the central and eastern parts of the Channel are more unusual, but individuals are occasionally seen – these are thought to be adolescent males, which are known to roam over considerable distances and may spend considerable time in busy areas of coast or harbours, attracting much attention from people. An example was “Spinnaker”, the Bottlenose Dolphin which spent some time in Portsmouth harbour, before being accidentally killed in a tragic accident with a boat’s propeller.
Other recent sightings in the Channel include Common Dolphin, again seen off of the Isle of Wight and a young animal rescued by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in Eastbourne harbour. Risso’s Dolphin have been recorded at Torpoint in Devon, regular sightings of Harbour Porpoise and Common Dolphin have been made by Marinelife in the western portion of the Channel and Pilot Whale have been seen near Portland in Dorset recently.
Marinelife’s research will continue to monitor for these and other whales and dolphins in the Channel and beyond and this will help build greater understanding of their movements, distribution, abundance and threats.
The Bottlenose Dolphin is one of the most threatened cetacean species in Europe, and consequently has extensive legislative protection at a European level. It is listed on Appendix II of CITES, Appendix II of the Bern Convention and Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats Directive. It is also on Appendix 2 of the Bonn Convention and is covered by ASCOBANS. CITES is the Convention International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
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