New ferry survey route accross North Sea

9th Jul 2007 Marine conservation charity Organisation Cetacea (ORCA) is pleased to announce the development of a new partnership with ferry company DFDS Seaways that will enable large areas of the North Sea to be surveyed regularly for whales and dolphins.

The 18 months of survey data already collected on the DFDS Newcastle – Norway route by ORCA volunteers has surprised many sceptics who considered the North Sea to be relatively devoid of cetaceans. Instead, 11 species of marine mammals have been recorded, including Killer Whales, White-beaked Dolphins and Short-beaked Common Dolphins.

Now, thanks to DFDS Seaways, ORCA is developing survey teams to work on two new routes that will increase our understanding of cetacean distribution and relative abundance in the central and southern North Sea. These routes are from Newcastle to Amsterdam, Holland, and from Harwich to Esbjerg, Denmark.

ORCA Project Development Manager Dylan Walker said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the whales and dolphins that live just beyond our coasts – in the North Sea. Only by monitoring long-term changes in their numbers, can we assess the effects of climate change, pollution, fisheries and other man made impacts."

This latest development extends ORCA's network of survey routes, which already stretches from Spain in the south to Norway in the north, on a variety of vessels. Other ferry routes operated by ORCA include:

Brittany Ferries Plymouth – Santander, and Roscoff – Cork, both in operation since 2005, and working alongside Oceanopolis / PSMS.

P&O Ferries Portsmouth – Bilbao, in operation since 1997 for intensive summer surveys through ecotourism operator The Company of Whales.

ORCA is part of the Atlantic Research Coalition, an exciting international partnership established in an effort to provide vital pan-European monitoring data on some of Europe's most important and threatened waters for cetaceans and seabirds. The partnership brings together scientists from eight conservation research groups operating out of Ireland, the UK, Holland and Spain - AMBAR (Sociedad para el Estudio y la Conservacion de la Fauna Marina), Marinelife/Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP), the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

(IWDG), the Plymouth to Santander Marine Survey(PSMS), Organisation Cetacea (ORCA), University of Aberdeen, Sea Trust and the Rugvin Foundation.