ORCA – The State of European Cetaceans (2006–2015) Report

Today, ORCA launches its first ‘The State of European Cetaceans’ report, which is the culmination of 10 years’ worth of sightings and environmental data collected during the 376 ORCA surveys conducted between 2006-2015 using vessels of opportunity (namely ferries and cruise ships).

This report, compiled by ORCA with support from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Plymouth University, summarises the distribution and range of cetacean populations in and around Europe’s waters and identifies marine areas and species that are of greatest importance. This insight is crucial to make authoritative and informed decisions about the protection required for cetaceans.

The report has shown;

  • The Bay of Biscay is a critical habitat for cetaceans, with the highest diversity recorded here and we are calling for it to be designated as an Important Marine Mammal Area

  • Seasonal occurrence of white-beaked dolphins in the North Sea suggests the inshore waters around North Shields to be important nursery grounds

  • Peaks in minke whale sightings in the summer through the English Channel and North Sea, reveals that their seasonal migration puts them at risk of commercial whaling in Arctic Waters

  • Devon and Cornwall waters identified as a key cetacean area, with highest encounter rates and diversity occurring off the south coasts and around the Isles of Scilly

  • The southern Bay of Biscay clearly identified as the preferred habitat for beaked whales. All sightings of Cuvier’s beaked whale occurred here, therefore measures to reduce the impact of known threats to this species, such as military sonar must be implemented

  • The North Sea remains a hotspot for harbour porpoise, with an apparent shift in distribution from northern to southern areas.  With invasive commercial activities increasing and posing a serious threat, harbour porpoise sites must be capable of expanding in response to emerging evidence, with the ability to place immediate restrictions in the zones designated for protection

  • Rare and remarkable encounter of a humpback whale in the Strait of Dover in March 2015

  • Whilst ORCA can provide real-time, long-term data, we also need action from key decision makers when our evidence demonstrates an emerging threat or change to the animals themselves or their marine environment

The State of European Cetaceans is ORCA’s report series, documenting the results of its survey findings, and more importantly, drawing conclusions about what the results mean for whales, dolphins and porpoises in the wild. Further reports will highlight particular sets of findings across geographies, species and issues. With significant and emerging threats continuing to adversely impact these animals and their habitats, ORCA’s findings are crucial in providing evidence to conserve these animals in the future.

The full report can be read here www.orcaweb.org.uk/our-work/the-state-of-european-cetaceans-report

This is the report infographic: