OF BISCAY 2003
Through an introduction from the Sea Mammal Research
Unit Seamark got in touch with Orca who record whale
and dolphin sightings in the area of the Bay of Biscay.
Orca’s information is gained from trips on
scheduled ferries from Southampton to Bilboa.
Apart from recording information for ORCA we had
recently refitted our survey vessel and it was essential
to give all new systems a thorough shake down on
a long journey. We were also keen to help ORCA and
contribute to the database by recording their sightings
on route to Spain through the English Channel and
Bay of Biscay. Currently, most of the data contributed
to the ORCA database comes from the above mentioned
ferry-based surveys in the eastern Bay of Biscay.
We offered Orca information from a route that would
follow a line much further west. ORCA was extremely
interested to collate the records on the marine life
we would encounter. Equipped with ORCA marine survey
forms, we set off from Southampton on 3rd August
2003 for a one-month voyage.
In total, 43 sightings including cetaceans and sunfish
were recorded . Dolphins were the species
most frequently encountered, and most of these were
thought to be common dolphin. Groups of dolphins
ranged in size from single individuals to groups
of 80. The species list also included Risso’s
dolphin, a pilot whale and three sightings of sunfish.
Most sightings occurred on the continental shelf
but cetaceans were also recorded in very deep waters
in western Biscay. Dolphins were particularly common
off the Galician coast, which is an area that hit
the headlines last November because of the oil spill
that resulted from the stricken Prestige tanker.
Two whales were also recorded close to shore along
On the way back the boat was joined by a number
of migratory birds, resting from the heavy winds.
They included a whinchat and a reed warbler
, precariously situated beneath the yacht’s “swatter”!
This survey is just the beginning of what we hope
will be a fruitful collaboration between The Seamark
Trust and Orca . We hope to organise future surveys.
In the Spring of 2004 Orca held a seminar in Oxford
for Seamark Trust volunteers on survey techniques
and species identification.
10 Seamark Trust volunteers attended.