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Conservation

Summer holiday for whales - in the North Sea!

by Paul Robinson 22 Oct 2013
Summer holiday for whales - in the North Sea!

Of all the whales squeezing into the North Sea this summer, the fin whale seemed to have the most tickets. Here is a magnificent, clear photograph from Juan Gracia; Fin whale image; Credit: © Shutterstock

The state of whale and dolphin populations in the area of developed urbanised nations has to be considered if conservation is ever to be valid in oceans worldwide. With leakage of radiation across the Pacific from Fukushima likely, at least in small concentrations, our present and past pollutions need to be considered. We must think about ourselves and our fishy diet as well as the wellbeing of all the food-webs we cut short. Baleen whales sample the producers of the food-webs efficiently while the toothed dolphins and whales sit as top predators, sampling the whole caboodle.

Orca is a charity supporting whale conservation issues in Europe and particularly in the NE Atlantic. Their recent fortnightly reports consider the increasing number of observers on board ferries rather than any increase in cetacean numbers in the North Sea. It is good to see that many species are currently thriving there, following such an industrial and rapacious past. Oil and fishing have supported many country's economies there for many centuries. The tourist industry is naturally an interest group too.

The spectacle of a cold grey sea, full of frolicking whales is hard to keep in your mind, but the shallow sea, though remaining colder than surrounding stretches of ocean, seems to suit the blubbery personnel that appeared in the summer of 2013:

LARGE SPECIES:

74 fin whales were recorded as the maximum number for a species;

but only 6 northern bottlenose whale turned up;

10 sperm whales found the lack of depth no problem;

DOLPHINS AND PORPOISES:

Only 1 Risso's dolphin must have been lonely;

while it was tremendous to see 3 orcas at the end of September;

3,449 common dolphins turned up;

while a disappointing 59 harbour porpoise continued to decrease in their numbers. Many were seen, though, on a Newcastle-Amsterdam crossing recently, along with a tremendous number of white-beaked dolphins.

The orcas have been located over several years by observers in Scotland, so it was a surprise to catch this trio in September in mid-ocean (in the Bay of Biscay).

The fuller results can be read in Orca's reports, including their enthusiastic orca sighting of a bull and two females in the Orcaweb.


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