Volunteers wanted to view whales

A harbour porpoise.
A harbour porpoise.

VOLUNTEERS are being sought to take part in a marine conservation watch this weekend off the borough coastline.

Charity ORCA is recruiting ‘whale watchers’ to help track white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises and minke whales.

The charity has teamed up with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society’s (WDCS) Shorewatch programme, North Tyneside Council and the National Trust Souter Lighthouse to launch a land-based whale and dolphin data collection project.

And people wanting to get involved should attend St Mary’s Island on Sunday when it plays host to a shorewatch training session for aspiring volunteers.

The course will teach volunteers how to identify common marine mammal species found in north east waters, use specialised watching equipment and how to record sightings before they begin regular ten-minute watches from St Mary’s Island and Souter Lighthouse.

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

Equipment will be available for volunteers to pick up.

Alison Lomax, ORCA community engagement officer, said: “The North Sea is home to a remarkable array of whales and dolphins and our volunteers have seen groups of up to 20 white-beaked dolphins this summer.

“We already have 25 watchers who are supporting our conservation efforts and have formed a friendly group monitoring the coastline at St Mary’s Island and 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.”

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, leading to a great understanding of ecology of these fascinating creatures.”

Training for the initiative is free but must be booked in advance.

To reserve a place on the course, e-mail Alison Lomax on alison.lomax@orcaweb.org.uk