Pupils have a whale of a time – Video

A GROUP of youngsters from a Wallsend school have had a whale of a time spotting cetaceans in the North Sea.

The St Peters Church of England Primary School pupils took to the sea on the DFDS King Seaways ship on Monday for a three-day whale and dolphin spotting experience.

The 16 youngsters, who all had to apply for a place on the trip, worked with ORCA who monitor and record whales and dolphins in the North Sea, as part of the Your Seas Project.

ORCA is a UK whale and dolphin conservation charity dedicated to the long term protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans.

Earlier this year ORCA, DFDS Seaways, The Heritage Lottery Fund and Community Foundation came together to create the Your Seas project which aims to raise awareness of cetaceans in the North Sea.

One the first day one of the pupils spotted a harbour porpoise very close off the bow of the ship, and then a further three were spotted that night.

But on the final morning of the trip, four harbour porpoises close off the bow were spotted, as well as a further three off the side of the bow as well as not one, but two Minke whales – one of which I spotted.

ORCA community engagement officer Alison Lomax said: “The North Sea is an amazing place, a unique habitat that is packed full of life, it is such a shame that it is so often overlooked.

“As a North Sea enthusiast I am so pleased that the St Peters students have been able to have a chance to see their first whale, it was a fitting end to the Your Seas project.

it was a fantastic trip as there was a total of 12 harbour porpoise sightings and we got to see two Minke whales which was amazing as it’s the first time we have seen them this season.

“Usually they don’t come as near to the ship and are quite difficult to see, so we were very lucky to be able to see them as close and as well as we did.”

ORCA will shortly be setting up a land based watching project in North and South Tyneside, where they will hold free whale and dolphin identification training days for the public to train up volunteers to carry out surveys from land.

Alison added: “There is lots of anecdotal evidence that whales, dolphins and porpoises use our coastline and we receive frequent reports of sightings from members of the public.

“However, by carrying out surveys of specific sites we will be able to find out how frequently the animals are seen, which will then help us understand how important north east coastal waters are for whales and dolphins.”

Anyone interested in helping with the project can contact Alison Lomax for training course dates and more information by e-mailing alison.lomax@orcaweb.org.uk