This year, not one, but two ORCA Ocean Conservationists joined CalMac Ferries to record sightings of marine mammals on the ferry routes and help CalMac passengers to experience the incredible marine wildlife of the Hebrides.
Peter focused on surveying two routes this year – Oban to Castlebay (Barra), via Tiree and Coll, and Oban to Craignure (Mull). Jess was based further north and surveyed on three routes – Uig (Skye) to Tarbert (Harris) and Lochmaddy (North Uist), Mallaig to Lochboisdale (South Uist), and Ullapool to Stornoway (Lewis).
Highlights of the year
This year both Peter and Jess recorded orcas, also known as killer whales, on their surveys, once on the Oban to Castlebay sailing and once on the Mallaig to Lochboisdale sailing. The orcas were identified as John Coe and Aquarius, two known individuals on the West coast of Scotland. These two adult males are from a pod known as the West Coast Community and are genetically unique. They are an eco-type of killer whale, also known as Eastern North Atlantic Type 2 killer whales, that specialise in hunting mammals. Sadly, they are the only two left of their eco-type and so seeing them in the Hebrides is a real privilege and an important sighting.
Peter and Jess engaged with approximately 1737 passengers on the CalMac network this year. ORCA has been working in partnership with CalMac Ferries since 2017, collecting vital data on marine mammal species and their critically important habitats. ORCA is incredibly grateful to CalMac for giving us a platform in the form of their vessels from which we can engage with passengers and collect this data so that we can continue to monitor and protect marine species and their habitats for years to come.
2022 sightings summary:
- Minke whale: 13 sightings 14 animals in total
- Harbour porpoise: 58 sightings 152 animals in total
- Common dolphin: 60 sightings 354 animals in total
- Bottlenose dolphin: 3 sightings 7 animals in total
- Orca: 2 sightings 4 animals in total (same individuals seen twice)
- Risso’s dolphin: 1 sighting 2 animals in total
- Unidentified dolphin: 38 sightings 113 animals in total
- Unidentified whale: 8 sightings 8 animals in total
- Unidentified cetacean: 6 sightings 6 animals in total
Total: 660 individual cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) from 6 species were recorded from 11th April – 18th October
Bird species of interest seen: Gannet, Guillemot, Puffin, Manx Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Razorbill, White-tailed Eagle, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Greater Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Storm Petrel, Great Northern Diver.