ORCA Wildlife Officers take to the seas for summer season 2016

24th Mar 2016

-Harriet Cole and fellow ORCA wildlife officers arriving home in Portsmouth following their first trip of the 2016 season. L to R: Ruth Coxon, Lucy McLeod, Yolanda Aze, Harriet Cole, Ewelina Heil, Jon Taylor.

ORCA Wildlife Officers will sail throughout the summer season on board Brittany Ferries’ cruise ships - Cap Finistère and Pont-Aven

Wildlife Officer have just returned from their first crossing through the wildlife-rich Bay of Biscay. And the excited team were delighted to have spotted the first ‘whale blow’ of the season, as well as a pod of dolphins playing on the bow wave of Brittany Ferries cruise-ferry the Cap Finistère.

The first crossing from Portsmouth to Santander included six wildlife officers, five of whom are new to the team. Three will take residence on board Cap Finistère until the 28 September, while the others will take to the decks of Brittany Ferries’ flagship Pont-Aven, for services running from 5 April until 5 July.

The Bay of Biscay is one of the world’s hot spots for whale and dolphin species diversity.  In total, 31 of the 87 species of whale and dolphin can be seen in the area, including fin whales, sperm whales, striped dolphins and killer whales. ORCA Wildlife Officers use regular sailings to collect vital data on animals sighted from Brittany Ferries vessels. In addition they enthuse passengers with interactive talks, children’s activities, quizzes and deck watches.   

Harriet Cole, 27 was one of the volunteer ORCA Wildlife Officers making her first trip. Following three days of training, she and her fellow Wildlife Officers are now looking forward to the season ahead.

“I have learnt so much from ORCA and the Brittany Ferries crew have been so welcoming and friendly,” she said. “We already had some wonderful sightings of common dolphins playing in the bow waves, and we even saw a large whale blow - although sadly it was too far away to identify. 

“I really enjoyed data logging: I felt really proud when I was able to complete the entries myself and can’t wait for my first official trip on board Pont-Aven. I really hope to see a sperm whale from the ship, as I hold a special place for this species in my heart.”

Follow the Wildlife Officer weekly blog to hear the latest sightings news:

Cap Finistere blog

This year, with the help of ORCA, Brittany Ferries is hosting seven I-Spy trips with departure dates from June to September. Last year I-Spy passengers reported seeing 2,263 common dolphins, numerous beaked whales and even a killer whale.

The triangular mini-cruises leave from Portsmouth crossing the Bay of Biscay to Santander in Northern Spain before returning to Plymouth on Brittany Ferries flagship the Pont-Aven. As well as cetaceans, Biscay is great for bird watchers: it’s home to an abundant and diverse seabird population.