ORCA OceanWatch

- Common dolphin taken from Cunard's Queen Elizabeth in the Strait of Gibraltar during OceanWatch 2015.

What is it?

ORCA OceanWatch is an exciting new initiative aimed at involving seafarers in the collection of data on whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) that they encounter whilst out to sea, and to further increasing the awareness of the amazing wildlife that can be seen in UK and European Waters.

National Whale and Dolphin Watch is an event organised by the Sea Watch Foundation during which members of the public are invited to join organised shore based cetacean watches around the UK coastline.  The event aims to raise the profile of British cetaceans while collecting a large amount of data over a concentrated period of time. 


- Community Wildlife Officer Anna Bunney trains Captain Allan Scott and First Officer Robert Manson from NorthLink Ferries in Scotland

OceanWatch 2015

In 2015, ORCA OceanWatch aimed to expand the sea regions covered by National Whale and Dolphin Watch, and complimenting the scheme by asking bridge crews to collect data on the populations and distributions of these animals whilst sailing offshore.  ORCA OceanWatch further expands the sea regions covered by National Whale and Dolphin Watch. 

ORCA OceanWatch took place between the 25th July to the 2nd August 2015.  Thanks to the effort of 105 crew members and 27 volunteer ORCA surveyors sailing throughout seven sea regions (North Sea, English Channel, Celtic Seas, Arctic Waters, Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast, Mediterranean and Wider Atlantic Ocean), over 432 hours of effort data were collected during the course of the nine-day ORCA OceanWatch event.

Who was involved?

The following companies took part in ORCA OceanWatch 2015: Caledonian MacBrayne, Carnival UK (Cunard & P&O Ferries), NorthLink Ferries, DFDS Seaways, Brittany Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, WightLink, Saga, Royal Navy, Isles of Scilly Travel, P&O Ferries, MMD, Britice Chrono, Portsmouth International Port and The Chamber of Shipping.

- ORCA patron Chris Packham with Anna and representatives from Portsmouth International Port and Brittany Ferries

What did we see?

271 sightings of cetaceans totalling 1939 individual animals were reported during ORCA OceanWatch.  These reports included 16 different species of cetacean; harbour porpoise, common dolphin, striped dolphin, white-beaked dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, pilot whale, Minke whale, Sei whale, fin whale, humpack whale, blue whale, sperm whale, Cuvier’s beaked whale and northern bottlenose whale.

- Bottlenose dolphin seen during OceanWatch 2015

Read the full report here: OceanWatch 2015

OceanWatch 2016 will take place on 23rd July – 31st July 2016.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @ORCA_web  #ORCAOceanWatch

If you would like your vessels to be involved in ORCA OceanWatch 2016, please contact Anna Bunney on anna.bunney@orcaweb.org.uk.  Full training for bridge crews are delivered by the ORCA team, and each ship is given a comprehensive training pack.

OceanWatch Partners