ORCA state of the European Cetaceans 2019 report launched

ORCA whale report

Data collected by the network of ORCA volunteers from across the UK has been analysed and the 2019 The State of European Cetaceans report has launched.

This report is the latest landmark in ORCA’s ongoing mission to use citizen science to better understand the status of cetaceans within UK and European waters.

The State of European Cetaceans is ORCA's report series, documenting the results of our survey findings, and more importantly, drawing conclusions about what the results mean for whales, dolphins and porpoise in the wild. With significant and emerging threats continuing to adversely impact these animals and their habitats, the findings are crucial in providing evidence to conserve these animals in the future. 

This report builds upon the first three editions and includes new analyses, sections and contributors. OCRA are showcasing the work that their Wildlife Officers have done over the last five years in the Bay of Biscay, Celtic Sea, English Channel, North Sea and the Hebrides. Collecting data for almost every day, for up to nine months of the year, there is a treasure trove of data that hasn’t been looked at in any detail before. ORCA has summarised the data that has been collected over this time, and have started to use this for novel analyses that investigates areas of importance for our European cetaceans.

In this year’s report they also use data that has been collected by Wildlife Officers to investigate how shipping density and environmental variables influence fin whale occurrence in the Bay of Biscay and helps them to analyse the animals’ seasonality and interannual variation.

ORCA Director Sally Hamilton said:

 “This report is the product of the dedication and hard work of our amazing volunteers, and we owe it to them to do everything we can to make sure it can be used to better protect our oceans. We need government, industry and researchers to work together to address the terrifying deterioration in the health of our oceans and ensure that we can safeguard it for future generations.”

Steve Jones from OCRA also commented: 

"This work wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of our ferry partners, and our collaboration with the shipping industry continues to give us an unparalleled opportunity to protect whales and dolphins. Our volunteers are looking forward to continuing to monitor the diverse and important habitats on our doorstep as they sail across the UK ferry network."

UK Chamber of Shipping Policy Director Anna Ziou said:

"The UK Chamber of Shipping and its members are committed to the protection of the marine environment for present and future generations. We therefore are glad to have supported the valuable research that ORCA has undertaken to improve our understanding on the status of our seas. The Chamber will continue to support and encourage shipping companies to engage in facilitating this research.’’

Their volunteer citizen scientists recorded data on over 12,000 cetaceans in 2018 alone, with 29 species observed during 113 surveys conducted from ferries and cruise ships. Species sighted included Northern right whale dolphins which were a first with ORCA, along with six other new species. 

Find out more and read the full The State of European Cetaceans report here.