Despite 2021 once again looking a little unusual for ORCA, it turned out to be an exciting year with Ocean Conservationists and Marine Mammal Surveyors back out to sea and the launch of a brand new programme and app! Here are some of our highlights from this year:
In June we were delighted to announce the launch of our brand new programme; ORCA OceanWatchers.
We designed ORCA OceanWatchers to enable everyone to collect data in a flexible way and give anyone the opportunity to contribute to our work to protect the ocean and the animals that call it their home. This new initiative allows us to monitor important ocean habitats so we can continue to drive policy and help create protected areas in UK and European waters.
Along with a brand new interactive course in partnership with The Field Studies Council, we launched a bespoke ORCA OceanWatchers surveying app which means anyone who completed the course had the opportunity to collect effort-based data about whales, dolphins and porpoises wherever and whenever they can see the sea.
We are delighted with the success of ORCA OceanWatchers and are continuing to work to make improvements to the app to ensure it is the best it can be and can’t wait to share these with you! We want to say a big thank you to everyone that has taken part in the OceanWatchers programme so far. If you want to find out more and get involved click here.
ORCA’s The State of European Cetaceans
In May we launched the fifth edition of our State of Europeans Report. This was the latest milestone in ORCA’s ongoing mission to use data collected by citizen scientists, to improve the protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises within UK and European waters.
This edition summarised the distribution and range of cetacean populations with a focus in and around UK and European waters. In particular, it looked at how citizen science can be used to better understand why in recent years common dolphins have been observed inshore around the West coast of Scotland and the Hebrides. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this edition also presented key findings from our surveys in 2019.
You can read the full report here.
Whale Education Month
Whale Education Month is a fixture in the ORCA calendar and each October we provide schools with free material to inspire their pupils about wonderful whales and dolphins.
In 2021 the resources looked at ‘Incredible Journeys’ and included three lessons; ‘All About Migration’, ‘Incredible Whale Journeys’ and ‘Dangerous Journeys’. By using these resources, students learnt all about migration, why whales travel on such epic journeys and the threats they face on these journeys.
This year over 3,000 people from all around the world signed up to take part, including teachers and home educators, and it is estimated that over 10,000 students used the resources.
We were delighted to once again have teams of Marine Mammal Surveyors invited onboard Saga ships the Spirit of Adventure and Spirit of Discovery in 2021. Marine Mammal Surveyors travelled through UK waters, and some were lucky enough to visit The Mediterranean, Canary Islands and Portugal. The teams had some wonderful sightings and encounters with fin whales, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins and even orcas!
In July we were excited for our Ocean Conservationists to head back out to sea and since then, they have been visiting some of the richest and most exciting marine habitats across the globe, including the Arctic, Barbados and Antarctica.
In Norway Ocean Conservationists on the Hurtigruten Coastal service, were thrilled to see the first humpback whales of the season as well as pilot whales which delighted guests. In Antarctica, humpback whales were seen almost every day as well as lots of penguins and in Barbados, spinner dolphins and pantropical spotted dolphins were recorded!
Ambassador anti-whaling campaign
The ORCA and Ambassador partnership was announced in December which saw the new Cruise Line launching the first-ever cruise Anti-whaling campaign. Tourism is one of the key drivers of commercial whaling and Ambassador guests will be encouraged not to consume any whale meat. Executive Director of Ambassador, Christian Verhounig, has also formally written the Faroese Prime Minister, following the Grindadráp in September 2021, where 1428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were driven to their death. Ambassador are monitoring the outcome of the review of the Grindadráp which the Faroes Government are planning. In the letter, Christian Verhounig stated that he will reconsider the cruise lines position and planned future to the islands. If activity in a destination contradicts the cruise lines pledge they will cancel the port of call. Ambassador have also made the decision not to include any destination experiences to Oceanariums or experiences that involve captive marine mammals.
We are so proud of this new and ambitious partnership which will see the work undertaken having a direct impact on whales, dolphins and porpoises.
We are so excited about 2022, so keep an eye on our social media channels for real-time updates of all our work areas.
We would like to thank all of you for your support in helping us continue our vital work to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises in 2021. Please help us continue our critical work and support our vision to see the oceans alive with whales and dolphins. Just visit the ORCA website to make a donation. Your contribution could make a critical difference.