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Watching out for Dolphins off the Isles of Scilly

6th July 2009

The waters around the Isles of Scilly and Land’s End are a great place to look out for porpoises, dolphins and even whales. Owing to its position, this area is visited by coastal species like Harbour Porpoises as well as their more oceanic cousins like Common Dolphins.

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust is keen to help everyone participate and be able to spot these fabulous creatures as they pass through our seas during National Whale and Dolphin Watch Week from the 18th to 26th July this year. The week is organised by the Sea Watch Foundation and events are run all around the country.

On Thursday 23rd July the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust’s expert whale watching guide, Paul Semmens will be onboard the Scillonian ferry helping to point out marine species, especially cetaceans which occasionally come and bowride in the ship’s wake. Paul runs a marine sightings project for the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust onboard the Scillonian, which involves weekly recordings of the marine species that he sees from the deck. So far this year Paul has had sightings of Harbour Porpoises, Common Dolphins and even Minke Whales. There have also been good numbers of Ocean Sunfish and Basking Sharks.

The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company supports the project which is run in collaboration with Marine Life, an organisation which runs ferry-based surveys on many of the continental ferry routes. From time to time the Scillonian’s passengers and crew are rewarded with unprecedented views of marine wildlCommon Dolphins Scillonian III photo by Paul Semmensife. Paul Semmens says, ‘The ship is a wonderful platform for spotting these marine mammals, often the passengers are surprised at what can be seen in our waters, so close to home.’ The Scillonian sails at 9:15am from Penzance, returning from the islands at 4:30pm.

But you do not have to go out on a boat to see whales and dolphins, which is why the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust has also organised a cliff watch on Thursday 23rd July at Penninis Head on St Mary’s. Using binoculars and telescopes, cliff watchers will scan the sea for signs of life. Harbour porpoises are frequently spotted from this headland and recently two Minke Whales were also seen just offshore. Paul Semmens will be on hand to talk about how to identify these species and to discuss their conservation. The half hour event is free to come to and starts at 1pm by the Lighthouse at Penninis.

Both events will be used to gather real data which will help to build up better understanding of the movement patterns and distribution of these species. By joining in with thousands of other whale and dolphin watchers around the country, people can make a real contribution to the conservation of our charismatic marine wildlife. Look out for events run by Cornwall Wildlife Trust during the same week.

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