Skip to content
All news
  • All news
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Corporates
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
  • Stranding
  • Whale watching
Tilikum, the father of Nakai. © Paul Wigmore

Orca Nakai dies at SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego has announced the death of the orca Nakai. The 20-year-old male orca...
Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin © Mike Bossley/WDC

Last captive Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin to be freed in South Korea

Bibongi, the last Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin held in captivity in South Korea, is to be...
Common bottlenose dolphin

100 bottlenose dolphins hunted in Faroe Islands

This morning, (July 29th), 100 bottlenose dolphins were killed in Skálafjörður on the Faroe Islands. The...

Whales left to die in agony as grenade harpoons fail to explode

Evidence has emerged of grenade-tipped harpoons failing to explode when fired into fin whales by...

Report reveals area considered for protection is a UK baby dolphin ‘hotspot’

A new scientific paper calling for more protection for a population of Risso’s dolphins living in a ‘hotspot’ around Lewis in Scotland has been published ahead of the Scottish government public consultation on this and three other proposed protected sea area sites.

The paper, produced by WDC and published in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK, reveals for the first time that individual Risso’s dolphins are returning to the same spots in one of the proposed sites (off east Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides) each year and have been for at least 12 years, making this the longest site fidelity evidenced in UK waters for the species.

Risso’s dolphins are vulnerable to noise pollution, and this particular site (being considered in terms of protection for marine wildlife) lies within one of two UK military exercise areas.

Octopus are likely to be a primary source of food for Risso’s dolphins, so activities in the area that might affect their prey, such as scallop dredging, which ploughs the seabed where the octopus are protecting their eggs and feeding, might be expected to affect the dolphins too. As no data has been collected on this to-date, it is hoped that protecting the area will enable the government to prioritise data collection on this.

‘Our research highlights a unique discovery and a very significant reason for this particular proposed site to be officially made a protected area. It is the only known location in Scotland that Risso’s dolphins rely on to feed and bring their calves and return to again and again, month after month and year after year’, says Nicola Hodgins, WDC policy manager and one of the paper’s authors. 

The high sightings rate of calves in this persistent ‘hotspot’ for Risso's dolphins was identified using data collected by WDC since 2010 in the area, with dolphin sightings occurring year-round, and peak numbers recorded between May and October.

One hundred and seventeen individual dolphins, recognisable from photographs, were catalogued from 2010-2017 in the waters around east Lewis. Calves, including new-borns, were recorded in more than a third of encounters, one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.

Some individuals return to the area repeatedly, with some photographically captured in up to six of the eight survey years.

‘This is a globally important opportunity to recognize and protect relatively undisturbed Risso’s dolphin habitat,’ said Erich Hoyt, WDC research fellow. ‘But to make it work we will need effective management.’

Risso’s dolphins are classified as ‘Unknown Conservation Status’ at UK and EU level. Their physical appearance is unique and the numerous scars, from their major prey, squid, and made by other Risso's dolphins, give them peculiar, scratch markings.

WDC provided initial evidence and proposed the Lewis MPA with other conservation groups in 2011. The evidence gathered supports the ongoing use of this proposed MPA by Risso's dolphins as a feeding and nursery ground.

The Scottish nature conservation MPA consultation is anticipated later in the spring, during which time members of the public will be asked for their opinions on the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in:
North East Lewis proposed MPA (includes Risso's dolphins)
Sea of the Hebrides proposed MPA (includes minke whales)
Southern Trench proposed MPA (includes minke whales)
Shiant East Bank proposed MPA (for seabed habitats)

Help WDC’s work to create protected areas and healthy seas – DONATE NOW

Risso's dolphin

[shariff]

Related News

Tilikum, the father of Nakai. © Paul Wigmore

Orca Nakai dies at SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego has announced the death of the orca Nakai. The 20-year-old male orca was born at the facility in 2001. According to the...
Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin © Mike Bossley/WDC

Last captive Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin to be freed in South Korea

Bibongi, the last Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin held in captivity in South Korea, is to be returned to the wild after 17 years. The country's Ministry...
Common bottlenose dolphin

100 bottlenose dolphins hunted in Faroe Islands

This morning, (July 29th), 100 bottlenose dolphins were killed in Skálafjörður on the Faroe Islands. The hunt comes just weeks after the Faroe Islands government, despite...

Whales left to die in agony as grenade harpoons fail to explode

Evidence has emerged of grenade-tipped harpoons failing to explode when fired into fin whales by Icelandic whalers in recent hunts.   Graphic images of hunts in...

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.

Leave a Comment