Southwest Bottlenose Dolphin Project

Aim: To collate existing evidence and co-ordinate bottlenose dolphin research in Cornwall and Southwest England.

We are incredibly lucky here in the Southwest of England to have bottlenose dolphins in our waters and to regularly see them from land and boat. Sadly however, there is currently no specific protection offered to this resident population and the Joint Nature Conservancy Council (JNCC), advisor to Government on nature conservation issues, are only likely to support the establishment of protection measures if robust data are available in support of such a proposal. The lack of co-ordinated and validated ecological data on our local bottlenose dolphins is something we aim to rectify through this work.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust has been collecting data (sightings and acoustic) on cetaceans for over 20 years. The Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS) also holds and manages numerous records on this enigmatic species. There are also various boat operators, research groups and a whole host of others have also been collecting photographic data on our resident bottlenose dolphins for several years, and there is a wealth of scientific expertise in the region.

 Together with many of these people we have formed a collaborative partnership within the region called the SW Bottlenose Dolphin Consortium. The aims of this group is to collate both historic data, and to co-ordinate collection of new survey and photographic data. We held a very successful conference in October 2016 with expert workshops which distilled thoughts and helped to formulate our programme of work. We are currently analysing all historic photo-identification images to try to answer the following questions:


  • Is there a distinct inshore coastal group of BND in SW?
  • What is the population abundance of BND in SW?
  • What is the population range of these regional animals?


We are calling on anyone who has bottlenose dolphin records and particularly photographs which could be used for photo identification, to join us in this collaborative project to collate this data and help to build a better picture of our resident bottlenose dolphins and ensure they are adequatley protected.

If you have any questions about our bottlenose dolphin work or to discuss sharing photos and data please contact 

Ruth Williams, Living Seas Manager, via email or call (01872) 302261.

See also:
Twitter: @rhdudley30