Marine mammal watch training session success

Common dolphin

Common dolphin

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Some 22 volunteers completed a training course so they can take part in boat surveys of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

The marine mammal surveyor training was carried out at the iMuseum by members of UK charity ORCA, which is dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises in British and European waters.

Minke whale

Minke whale

Participants who completed the training can now go on any of ORCA’s survey routes for free.

Their work includes surveying Manx waters on-board the Ben my Chree, a route which ORCA and the Manx Society for Marine Conservation has worked to reinstate.

ORCA community wildlife officer Anna Bunney said: ‘There are five species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) most commonly sighted in Manx waters; harbour porpoise, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin and Minke whale.

‘Rarer species that could also be sighted in Manx waters include the long finned pilot whale, killer whale (or orca) and fin whale.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

‘On the most recent ORCA survey on board the Isle of Man Steam Packet’s Ben my Chree last Thursday (May 19), we even sighted the first basking shark of the season!’

So, next time you’re on the boat or taking a walk along the island’s coastline keep an eye out for the following cetaceans.

Harbour porpoise

l Size: 1.5 – 1.7m.

Risso's dolphin

Risso's dolphin

l The harbour porpoise’s dorsal fin is shaped like an equilateral triangle, and the animal is dark grey in colour.

l The harbour porpoise is the smallest cetacean in UK waters and is the only porpoise to be found in UK waters.

l Coastal, shallow water species.

l They can be seen on their own or in small pods. It is only possible to spot these animals in calm seas because of their small size (smaller than the dolphins) and shy behaviour.

Basking shark

Basking shark

Common dolphin

l Size: 1.7 – 2.5m.

l Striking yellow and grey figure-of-eight pattern on their side, and they have a black stripe through their eye.

l They are extremely energetic and travel fast.

They can be in large pods (500-plus individuals), but are usually sighted in pods of about 30 individuals.

l They are often attracted to ships, giving passengers an exhilarating display of acrobatics.

Harbour porpoise

Anna Bunney

Harbour porpoise Anna Bunney

Bottlenose dolphin

l Size: Up to 4m.

l Gunmetal grey in colour

l Often seen in Manx waters during the winter months

l Large, robust dolphin reaching up to 4m in length.

Risso’s dolphin

l Size: 2.6 – 3.8m.

l A key feature of the Risso’s dolphin is their body scarring. Young Risso’s dolphins are dark grey, and with age, light white scars build up until most older Risso’s dolphins appear almost white.

This scarring is caused from teeth scrapes from other Risso’s dolphins and injuries from parasites and squid.

l They have a rounded head with no beak.

l They feed mainly during the night so their daytime behaviour usually consists of logging at the surface and travelling slowly.

Minke whale

l Size: Up to 10m.

l Minke whales are the smallest of the Rorqual whales. Rorqual is the folds of skin under the lower jaw, which allows the mouth to expand when taking in large amounts of water to sieve through the baleen for food.

l Dark grey and like whales, their dorsal fin is two-thirds of the way along their back.

l They have white stripes on their pectoral fins (the fins on the side of their body) to confuse fish as a feeding strategy.

l Usually seen alone or in pairs.

The ORCA Whale-spotting training event, held at the iMuseum

Lucy Babey, from ORCA, talking to Michaela Connelly, who travelled over from Chester especially to take part in the course

The ORCA Whale-spotting training event, held at the iMuseum Lucy Babey, from ORCA, talking to Michaela Connelly, who travelled over from Chester especially to take part in the course

The ORCA Whale-spotting training event, held at the iMuseum

Anne Bunney talking to volunteer spotters

The ORCA Whale-spotting training event, held at the iMuseum Anne Bunney talking to volunteer spotters

The ORCA Whale-spotting training event, held at the iMuseum

The ORCA Whale-spotting training event, held at the iMuseum

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