Anna Bunney, ORCA’s Education Coordinator, is pictured with Captain Paul Roche (left) and cadet Ross Gilbert on board P&O Ferries’ European Causeway, launching ORCA OceanWatch Week.

Anna Bunney, ORCA’s Education Coordinator, is pictured with Captain Paul Roche (left) and cadet Ross Gilbert on board P&O Ferries’ European Causeway, launching ORCA OceanWatch Week.

Get on-board with annual survey of whales, dolphins and porpoises during ORCA OceanWatch Week

Saturday 28th July – Sunday 5th August, 2018.

This summer, P&O Ferries will once again support the work of ORCA, the whale and dolphin conservation charity by taking part in their third annual ORCA OceanWatch Week survey which takes place from Saturday 28th July – Sunday 5th August, 2018.

On Sunday 29 July, during ORCA OceanWatch week, Heather Bodie, a Wildlife Officer from ORCA will be on board the 1030 and 1630 sailings from Larne to help our budding volunteers count the whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) that they see. Armed with tips, activity sheets, a measuring tape and binoculars she’ll have plenty of materials on hand to keep the young and the young at heart amused.

ORCA OceanWatch aims to raise awareness of the fantastic marine wildlife found around our coast and support the work of ORCA in collecting data which contributes to the National Whale and Dolphin Watch in collaboration with the Sea Watch Foundation.

Anna Bunney, ORCA’s Education Coordinator who trained the P&O Ferries crew, has been working for ORCA for the last four years and shares some simple tips on how to spot wildlife from the ferry during your short two hour crossing:

  • Get your family and friends involved – the more eyes you have on the water the better chance you have of spotting something.
  • Be patient! The more time you spend watching the more you are likely to see!
  • Birds diving is the best indicator! Dolphins herd fish up to the surface to make fish more concentrated and so where birds congregate.
  • Look out for splashes/white water where the mammals may be coming up to breathe.
  • Keep looking when you spot any unusual, dark shapes.
  • Watch out for the footprint left after they’ve surfaced – it creates a ripple.
  • Shout if you see something….so others can see it too!

Porpoises, with their flat faces, are generally shy and don’t come close to a big ship. While in contrast, dolphins with their pointed beak will often be seen coming to play in the wake of the ship.

Sarah Rosier, Director of Passenger Sales at P&O Ferries said: “We’re calling on all budding wildlife enthusiasts to join us this year in helping us to spot as many whales, dolphins and porpoises as they possibly can while they enjoy their short two hour crossing between Larne and Cairnryan during ORCA OceanWatch Week.

“The data we collate from our passengers and crew provides a vital snapshot of the marine wildlife and populations in the Irish Sea and supports the work of ORCA in helping to protect the Irish Sea’s unique mix of wildlife.

“It’s an added bonus if you are travelling with kids at this time, as we also have an on-board entertainer on daytime sailings throughout summer and our current Kids go Free offer is available for anyone booking before 24 August, where children aged 15 years and under can travel for free when taking your car with us from Larne to Cairnryan – the shortest, fastest, most frequent crossing to Scotland.”

Anna Bunney added: “Larne to Cairnryan crosses one of the most important marine habitats in the UK and so we’re hopeful of some great sightings during our crossings this summer. We’ve got our fingers crossed that Heather will be able to show P&O Ferries’ passengers some of the wonderful wildlife when she travels during OceanWatch week.”

In the 2017 ORCA OceanWatch survey, crew on P&O Ferries’ Irish Sea routes counted more than 25 animals spanning harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin and an unidentified whale.  Whales and dolphins are easier to spot as they come to surface of the water to breathe.

The most common species recorded in the northern Irish Sea are:

  • Harbour Porpoise
  • Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Common Dolphin
  • Minke Whale
  • Risso’s Dolphin
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