ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors Set Sail for the First Saga Cruise of 2024!


Since 2007 teams of dedicated and highly trained ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors have been invited onboard Saga cruise ships to provide guests with incredible wildlife experiences, and collect vital scientific data on the whales, dolphins and porpoises that they encounter. Teams of four ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors will be on 12 of Saga’s itineraries in 2024, travelling to locations including the Caribbean, Africa, the USA, the Mediterranean, Iceland and Norway.

ORCA has built up an impressive long-term data set, containing hundreds of thousands of recorded animals, from thousands of km’s of surveys in European waters and beyond. This data is used to report on cetacean populations and critical habitats. The data collected by Marine Mammal Surveyors onboard Saga cruises is highly valuable in identifying critical habitats for whales and dolphins, either by highlighting the distribution and range of species, or by identifying important areas such as breeding grounds, feeding areas, or migration routes. The data is often collected in data-deficient offshore areas further highlighting the conservation value of these cruises.

In 2023 ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors recorded over 5,000 animals from 32 different species onboard Saga cruises, with common dolphins being by far the most numerous species sighted.

Whilst onboard, ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors will not only be conducting deck watches and collecting data, they will also be delivering lectures, workshops and providing a range of other activities for guests, focussing on the incredible wildlife they can see on their trip! Last week saw the first team of ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors board the Saga Spirit of Discovery in Portsmouth, for a trip to the Caribbean.

ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors onboard the Saga Spirit of Discovery departing from Portsmouth for the first ORCA Saga cruise of 2024 – From Left-Right, Steve, Jan, Charlotte and Terry

They have already had some wonderful wildlife sightings, with guests joining them out on deck to see common dolphins, striped dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, fin whales, pilot whales, sperm whales, and even some breaching Sowerby’s beaked whales!

Guests join the ORCA team for a deck watch onboard Saga’s Spirit of Discovery and enjoy watching acrobatic dolphins

The Sowerby’s beaked whales were the first cetacean sighting recorded by ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors this year. Generally, Sowerby’s beaked whales are incredibly shy animals, with little known about their behaviour. They are a species that is not commonly seen at sea due to their deep diving nature, with most of the information we know about them being taken from strandings around the northeast Atlantic. This sighting was not only wonderful for the ORCA team and guests onboard, but also important in helping us build a better understanding of the lives of these fascinating animals.

Breaching Sowerby’s beaked whales – the first species recorded by ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors from Saga cruises in 2024

The only way we can protect whales and dolphins is by understanding their distribution, and so monitoring is vital for effective conservation. Become a citizen scientist with ORCA to help us identify and study important whale hotspots around the world.

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