Introducing Brittany Ferries Ocean Conservationists

Bay of Biscay


Around the globe , ORCA’s dedicated Ocean Conservationists brave the predictably unpredictable weather conditions while keeping their eyes peeled for amazing whales, dolphins, and porpoises. During their time at sea, they’ll engage the guests with presentations, deck watches, mini-talks, quizzes, and even some fun activities to get the little ones involved too! Each one of ORCA’s Ocean Conservationists has their own special way of getting people excited about the wonders of our waters, from fascinating storytelling, experience sharing, and of course, the (awful) jokes they try to make along the way.

ORCA has been especially fortunate to have built an incredibly supportive partnership with Brittany Ferries, and have been working alongside them since 2001. Brittany Ferries have shown kindness, enthusiasm, and active participation in all that ORCA stands for. The crews never fail to express their excitement about any sightings of whales or dolphins during the sailing; and if they have a spare 10 minutes, they have even been known to join in on deck watch. If our Ocean Conservationists are lucky, Pierre the bear will come out and help too! Ocean Conservationists are distributed across all four Brittany Ferries ships: Galicia sailing from Portsmouth to Bilbao, Pont Aven sailing from Plymouth to Santander; Salamanca sailing from Rosslare to Santander, and the newly developed Santona sailing from Portsmouth to Santander, which set sail March 2023! So, if you’re ever on one of the ships, don’t be afraid to say hi to our on board Ocean Conservationists, who will very happily chat to you about whales, dolphins, and porpoises – some might even say they’re a very ‘whale-coming’ bunch!

Alongside ORCA’s day-to-day work on board the Brittany Ferries ships, they are also in the process of conducting training for the crew. This includes cetacean ID tips, (i.e., whale blows or splashes) but also how to reduce a ship’s impact on the sea and its residents. Brittany Ferries are aware of the increasing risk of ship strike, which typically threatens the larger baleen whales, so they are actively looking for new ways to be as eco and whale-friendly as possible. If ORCA highlights a potential hotspot for whales, this information will be it passed onto the captains, who will either direct their ship around the area or, if they have to go through, they will do so at a much slower speed, reducing the risk of any impact. With these collaborations in place, not only have there been vast improvements regarding welfare, but also awareness and insights have been spread, inspiring those to protect the cetaceans.

Forging partnerships like this with amazing shipping companies really puts into perspective what we can achieve if we all work together! What better thing to witness while on your travels France or Spain than dolphin acrobatics, the breaching of whales, and the peculiarity of the beaked whales! All of which can be achieved thanks to Brittany Ferries and ORCA.

Our amazing conservationists have some lovely things to say about the Ocean Conservationist programme:

Dawn (Santona)

‘The squeals of delight accompanying any sighting remind me how lucky I am to be showing people some of the most charismatic creatures on the planet. Whilst so far it’s been just fleeting glimpses of silver backs shimmering in the hazy sun as thrill-seeking dolphins ride the bow waves, we’ve nevertheless all been utterly enchanted and humbled.’

Tiago ( Salamanca)

‘Hello! I am Tiago and I am going to start my OC program aboard the Salamanca on the 24th. I am very excited about watching the sunrises and sunsets at sea, and in a small way experience the life of a Jules Verne novel. I hope the passengers I meet along the way leave the boat more in love with the ocean and better equipped to help protect it. I would love to see mixed pods out there, since I find nothing more beautiful than different species living together.’

Daisy (Pont Aven)

‘As my time as an Ocean Conservationist so far with ORCA partnered with Brittany Ferries has been a journey of its own and one I never thought I’d be exposed to. Having extreme weather conditions to calming conditions means I can really show the passengers what my job is about and if I can inspire and engage with as many passengers as possible then I feel I have achieved a part of marine sector I so adore and care for’.

Chris ( Galicia)

‘I was looking forward to travelling across the Bay of Biscay regularly to try and see as many species as possible and to being able to share those sightings with passengers who may never have seen a dolphin before. I was also looking forward to seeing large pods of dolphins and hoping for at least a few crossings with very good sea conditions. What I didn’t expect was to see over 150 dolphins and numerous whale blows in perfect conditions on the first journey from Bilbao!’

Andy (Galicia)

'I am looking forward to educating people about whales and dolphins, whilst conducting important conservation work! Making a difference both in the field and to people's perspectives via inspiration is something I never thought I would have the incredible opportunity to accomplish. This is going to be an amazing journey, and I have ORCA to thank for that!'