Have a whale of a time tracking sea life

WHALE WATCH ... a minke whale, a species often seen in the North Sea.
WHALE WATCH ... a minke whale, a species often seen in the North Sea.

A CHARITY is calling on South Tyneside’s sea lovers to help them spot dolphins and whales in the North Sea.

UK-based marine conservation charity Orca is recruiting volunteer ‘whale watchers’ to help track the creatures as they visit and feed in local waters.

A training session will be held at Souter Lighthouse in Coast Road, Whitburn, on Sunday, April 21, from 11am to 2pm.

Alison Lomax, Orca community engagement officer, said: “The North Sea is home to a remarkable number of whales and dolphins and our volunteers have seen harbour porpoises and groups of up to 20 white-beaked dolphins while watching from the coast.”

“We already have a small team of watchers who are supporting our conservation efforts and have formed a friendly group monitoring the coastline at Souter Lighthouse.

“We’re hoping, with more pairs of eyes, we’ll start to understand when and how often these incredible creatures are using our coastline.”

Orca has teamed up with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) Shorewatch programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Community Foundation, Northumberland Tyne and Wear, to create the course.

It will teach volunteers how to identify common marine mammal species found in the region’s waters, use specialised watching equipment and how to record sightings before they begin regular 10-minute watches from the lighthouse.

There is no minimum level of commitment; volunteers can contribute to data collection on daily, weekly or monthly basis, whatever suits best.

Each survey takes only 10 minutes and so can easily fit round other commitments.

Equipment is made available at Souter Lighthouse for volunteers to pick up during opening hours.

Mick Simpson, National Trust warden at Souter Lighthouse, said: “It’s fantastic to be involved with this project as it will lead to the establishment of a dedicated team of observers monitoring and recording whale and dolphin movements along this beautiful stretch of coastline.

“This will lead to a great understanding of the ecology of these fascinating creatures.”

Training is free, but must be booked in advance.

To reserve a place on the course, contact Alison Lomax by e-mailingalison.lomax@orcaweb.org.uk, or call 2936 202.

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