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Risso's dolphin

Our long campaign to get further protection for whales and dolphins in designated areas off the coast of Scotland has received a huge boost today, with the official announcement by the Scottish government that it will be creating the three marine protected areas (MPAs) that WDC has been seeking for several years.

The news represents a huge victory for all our supporters too.

Altogether the government will be creating four protected areas (Northeast Lewis, Sea of Hebrides and East Shiant Bank on the west coast, Southern Trench in the Moray Firth) that will include the three WDC originally submitted in 2011 to help populations of minke whales (Sea of Hebrides, Southern Trench) and Risso’s dolphins (NE Lewis) in the region. WDC field data (some from our Shorewatch citizen science project) was instrumental in the designation of NE Lewis Risso’s site in particular.The Scottish Green Party also helped provided pressure that resulted in an increased budget to deliver the MPAs.

Scotland is a very special place for whales and dolphins and very worthy of this protection. These areas are critical habitat that minke whales, Risso’s dolphins and other marine species rely upon.

Minke whales come into Scottish waters during the spring and stay until the autumn to feed on mackerel and herring. Groups of female Risso’s dolphins bring their very young calves to NE Lewis to feed on octopus and to socialise.

WDC formally proposed the marine protected areas (with input from Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit) in 2011, and then set up field work on Lewis to further understand the Risso’s dolphins that live and who spend time in the waters around the island.

In 2012 WDC handed over more than 36,000 signatures from our supporters to the Scottish Environment Minister calling for the sites to be designated, and continued to lobby for action. Today’s announcement is the culmination of all of this scientific field research and analysis, political lobbying, public action, citizen science, and outreach to coastal communities and industries and, as WDC policy manager Sarah Dolman states, represents a significant victory for whales and dolphins.

“WDC are delighted that the Scottish government has designated these whale and dolphin marine protected areas. We would like to congratulate the Scottish Natural Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon, MSP, for taking this important step. This year, like no other, we have become aware of how important and treasured wildlife is and these MPAs, with high levels of protection and wider investment to enable and document marine species recovery, will help us to understand and fully protect these gentle giants. In return, these will be wonderful places for us to visit and enjoy whales and dolphins from a distance.”

A big thank you to all our supporters who have helped us achieve this significant victory.

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