So what did we see during this summers surveys? 9 sharks, 12 whales, 300+ dolphins, 200+ porpoise.

That’s quite a tally of wildlife observed whilst performing our two weeks of basking shark transect surveys in the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Thanks to the ongoing support from our sponsors, Colin and Lou have been able to complete the third of a three year programme of surveys, seeking to help identify the presence of hotspots areas for sighting basking sharks, across a wider geographical area than studied during our previous surveys in 2002-2006 (see SNH report).

As usual, we performed our transect surveys by sail-boat, chartered from the good people of Skye Yachts. As a result of a solid boat, a great crew of people who’d sailed and surveyed with us before, and the generally excellent survey conditions, we managed to cover almost 550 nautical miles over the two weeks. This included an impressive six passages across the sea area between the Inner and Outer Hebrides, called The Minch. Being in the Outer islands allowed us valuable survey coverage of the coastline from Barra Head in the south, up to Loch Maddy on North Uist in the north, including areas that had proven valuable shark-hunting grounds to the harpooners of old.

So our full tally was: 9 sharks, 12 whales, 5 Risso’s, 25 White-beaked, 275+ Common dolphins, 231 Harbour porpoises, and countless sea-birds and jellyfish. The second of our two weeks of survey overlapped with the Sea Watch Foundation ‘National Whale and Dolphin Watch’ week (link), so our cetacean data will be shared with them shortly. Plus our Risso’s dolphin data shared with researchers at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (link).

So now to focussing on the collation and analysis of data and knowledge gained from the three years of surveying these wider areas.

Our friends and colleagues from Exeter University (Tremough) were also at sea around the same time, continuing their ongoing shark satellite-tagging programme on behalf of SNH. They had success in tagging basking sharks primarily around Skerryvore, way to the south of our current focus area. However, we will be keenly following the progress of those tagged sharks (see tracking website) and some have subsequently ventured further north to our transect areas and beyond.

Thanks to Hai Stiftung for their encouragement and financial support of our programme. And to our hard-working survey crew-members: Sarah Fowler, Nick Tregenza, Ronnie Mackie and Guy Speedie.

Author:  Lou  <*))))<