Researchers at Bangor University have teamed up with wildlife charity Sea Watch Foundation and tidal energy company Nova Innovation to develop Sea Watcher, a free mobile app that could prove useful to marine science and conservation.

A photo of a humpback whale (Courtesy of PGH Evans/Sea Watch Foundation)
Humpback whale (Courtesy of PGH Evans/Sea Watch Foundation)

The Sea Watcher application allows everyone to register a
sighting of whales, dolphins and other megafauna spotted from land or a boat in
UK waters.

The information collected by the Sea Watcher app will help
improve knowledge about where and when marine mammals visit areas and
potentially what they are doing. This information is important for both
management and conservation, according to Bangor University.

Human activities in coastal waters may impose a number of
pressures on marine mammals ranging from underwater noise, risk of vessel
strike, pollution, depletion of fish stocks, and entanglement in fishing gear.

For better management of all of these, it is important to
have a good understanding of which areas are important to particular species,
Bangor University said.

Kate Smith, environmental manager for Nova Innovation, said: “Making sure that our tidal turbines do not harm the marine environment is incredibly important for Nova. Environmental impact considerations, including potential effects on marine mammals and other marine life, are a key part of the consenting and design process for our renewable energy projects.

“We’re delighted to be involved this research, to explore how local knowledge, which is often overlooked in consenting and design processes, can help assess and minimise the impacts of our projects on marine mammals”.

Jenny Bond, heading up the research project for SEACAMS 2 at Bangor University, said: “Once people can travel freely again, we hope that people will enjoy spotting for whales and dolphins around the UK, offering them fresh air, and an activity where they can learn and relax at the same time. We have developed the Sea Watcher app so that anyone can contribute to marine mammal research in the UK”.

Peter Evans, founder and director of the Sea Watch Foundation, added: “Anyone can spot anything when watching the sea, and this app aims to help people easily identify what they have seen and then to log it so that everyone else can benefit from learning what has been seen where“.

The most commonly spotted marine mammals in the UK are grey and harbour seals and harbour porpoise, although the acrobatic bottlenose dolphin and common dolphin are also seen regularly at many locations around the coast.

Of the whales, minke whales, killer whales and humpback whales are all seen regularly in UK waters, particularly in the west and north, according to Bangor University.

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