CBMWC volunteers assist Ceredigion County Council with their annual Dolphin Watch survey that takes place from six land-based sites along the coast – Aberystwyth, New Quay harbour, Bird’s Rock, Ynys Lochtyn, Aberporth and Mwnt.
Initiated by Ceredigion County Council in 1994 amidst fears that relatively high levels of boat activity were causing disturbance to bottlenose dolphins and other marine wildlife in the area, the Dolphin Watch project has developed over the years and now aims to do the following:
- To improve our understanding of bottlenose dolphins site use within the SAC
- To monitor trends in dolphin occurrence and levels of boat traffic
- To assess the effectiveness and need of management measures that aim to reduce the risk of disturbance or injury to dolphins by boats
- To increase public awareness and appreciation of the marine wildlife in Cardigan Bay
CBMWC volunteers are responsible for monitoring the New Quay harbour survey area, and they do so from Easter to November. Surveys are conducted daily from 9am to 5pm, whatever the weather, with volunteers working in two hour shifts.
Observers split their shift into eight 15 minute periods. For each period they mark the location of any dolphins they see, how many adults and calves are in the group and their probable activity. This includes several feeding behaviours and travelling activities, and will hopefully point out which parts of the bay the dolphins are just passing through and where feeding hotspots are. The location and behaviour of any harbour porpoise and Atlantic grey seals are also noted.
All of the boats using the survey area in the two hour shift are tallied. Detailed information about how boat users behave around dolphins, in line with Ceredigion’s voluntary marine code of conduct, is collected so that the way bottlenose dolphins use the harbour area and interact with other water users can be analysed.
Any boats that approach within 300m of dolphins are observed carefully. Volunteers note the type of vessel, how close it is and if and how it approaches the dolphins. They also determine if the boat is adhering to the Ceredigion Marine Code of Conduct. The dolphins’ reaction to boats is noted to see if they take avoidance action, appear unaffected or seek out interaction.
If you are visiting New Quay why not stop off at the harbour wall and talk to our volunteers? They will be happy to tell you about the latest sightings and help you spot any animals that are in the bay.