UK Conservation Research

2.1 UK surveillance and monitoring programme

The Sea Mammal Research Unit has used spatial modelling to estimate abundance and explore species-habitat relationships of cetaceans in European Atlantic waters. The analysis combined data from SCANS-II (surveyed in 2005), CODA (surveyed in 2007) and the Faroes block of TNASS (surveyed in 2007). Species for which abundance could be estimated were: harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), white-beaked dolphin, white-sided dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin, striped dolphin, long-finned pilot whale, minke whale, fin whale, sperm whale, and all beaked whale species combined. Preliminary results were presented in December 2011 to the Biennial Conference on Marine Mammal Biology in Tampa. Recently discovered minor issues with the processing of the SCANS-II and CODA data, which are currently being addressed, will alter the results very slightly. The final results will be available later this year.

Annual monitoring of bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise populations continued in Cardigan Bay, West Wales using photo-ID (bottlenose dolphin) and line transect survey (both species) (Veneruso & Evans, 2012). After earlier (2001-07) increases, abundance estimates of the bottlenose dolphin population of Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation show a general decline. In 2011, the overall Cardigan Bay abundance estimate for bottlenose dolphin was 296 (CV=28.8) and for harbour porpoise was 990 (CV=27.1), from line transect surveys. Life history parameters measured from photo-ID for bottlenose dolphin indicate a mean annual birth rate of between 5.2% and 7.7% (2001-11) depending upon whether a closed or open population model is adopted; an inter-calf interval ranging from 2-5 years, with 3 years being the most common; and calf mortality rates of 20.4% (year 1), 24.5% (year 2), and 10.2% (year 3) (Veneruso & Evans, 2012). Bottlenose dolphins from Cardigan Bay disperse in winter and generally move northwards in November to waters between Anglesey and the Isle of Man (and probably beyond) where they largely remain until the following April (Veneruso & Evans, 2012). Acoustic studies using TPODs and C-PODs have been undertaken between 2009-12 (Hanna Nuuttila, PhD student, University of Bangor), extending other acoustic monitoring & research by SWF within Cardigan Bay SAC (Simon et al., 2010; Meier, 2010; Nurminem, 2010; Wahlberg et al., 2011).

In Jersey, the marine biology section of the Societe Jersiaise receive and collate information from the public concerning cetacean sightings. This data is available online. Sighting data is also recorded by the States of Jersey Fisheries Protection Vessel. Dolphins were sighted on 18 separate occasions in 2011. This was a decrease on 2010’s figures, but still higher than most previous years and above the 10 year average (Fig. 10). All sightings were identified as bottlenose dolphins. Sightings occurred mainly to the north, east and south of the Island ranging from Les Écréhous in the north to Les Minquiers in the south. In total 124 adult dolphins and 15 Juveniles were observed. Juveniles represented 12% of sightings in 2011, compared to 9% in 2010, 10% in 2009 and just 3% in 2008. Pattern and frequency of patrols was reduced in 2011, with days at sea slightly less than in 2010 due to section re-structuring.

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surveillance and monitoring is conducted by a number of organisations