Author: CBMWC Sarah

An Investigation into the effects of boat proximity on the behaviour of bottlenose dolphins (Tursips truncatus) in Cardigan Bay by Sinead Martin

An investigation into the effects of boat proximity on the behaviour of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Cardigan Bay by Sinead Martin (CBMWC 2015)

Sinead volunteered with the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC) during the field season in 2015. During her time as a Living Seas volunteer she collected data for her undergraduate dissertation project under the guidance of Sarah Perry our Living Seas Science officer.

Sinead used shore based observation data collected by CBMWC volunteers to investigate the effects of boat proximity on the behaviour of bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay for her undergraduate dissertation project at the University of Derby.

Abstract

A constant challenge in marine conservation science is understanding how human activities impact marine species. For bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, a frequent anthropogenic threat can occur through interactions with marine vessels. Boats commonly disrupt dolphin feeding, mating, and resting behaviours; that ultimately can lead to permanent changes in dolphin demography and habitat-usage. However, some dolphin populations become habituated and show no behavioural responses to boats. In Cardigan Bay, Wales, dolphins routinely interact with a variety of marine vessels. However, there is debate among local organisations about whether boat activities in the bay are negatively impacting the dolphins. The goal of this study was to determine whether boats influence the behaviour of dolphins in Cardigan Bay. Land based surveys were conducted during May and June in 2015 to quantify the frequency of dolphin behaviours in relation to boats. These data were combined with similar surveys conducted in 2005 and 2010 to determine if dolphins demonstrate positive or negative reactions to boats; whether, the variety of dolphin behaviours decreased when boats were present; and, whether boat traffic and dolphin abundance has changed since 2005. Overall, dolphins in Cardigan Bay did not appear to be affected by boat activity. An increase in dolphin sightings between 2005 and 2015 appeared to be independent of boat activity that did not show any predictable change during the same period. Further, the majority of dolphin responses to boats were neutral; and very few dolphins altered their behaviour before and during boat encounters. However, not all interactions were benign: motorboats and vessels operated in a negative manner elicited negative behaviour from dolphins. Hence, while dolphins in Cardigan Bay appear to be a strong population that are accustomed to boat activities, a small number of boats are a potential threat. Future research and management strategies may look to these specific dolphin-boat interactions to enhance the protection of the dolphins.

Sineads project is available to download here

20 Years of Marine Conservation

Superpod success!

On Saturday 24th September CBMWC celebrated its 20 year anniversary. The day was an outstanding success with over 335 people joining us to celebrate and to be part of our World Record Attempt.

TV Wildlife Presenter Iolo Williams officially launched the world record attempt to create the ‘largest gathering of people forming the shape of a dolphin’ on the Main Beach, New Quay. To make the human superpod look like a dolphin attendees were asked to wear a blue or grey top and dolphin masks were provided on the day.

 

Iolo Williams pictured here with WTSWW Living Seas Science Officer Sarah Perry, New QUay town Major Breet Stones and CBMWC founder and owner of Dolphin Survey Boat Trips Steve Hartley

Iolo Williams pictured here with WTSWW Living Seas Science Officer Sarah Perry, New Quay town Mayor Brett Stones and CBMWC founder and owner of Dolphin Survey Boat Trips Steve Hartley

 

Over 335 people attended form the shape of a dolphin on New Quay main beach.

The dolphin shape before!

The dolphin shape before!

The World Record Attempt!

The World Record Attempt!

Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre was established in 1996 as a non-profit organisation dedicated to conserving the marine life of Cardigan Bay through research and education. In April 2015, CBMWC became part of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and are delivering the Trust’s Living Seas Programme.
Gina Gavigan, Marketing and Development Manager for The Wildlife Trust said,

“We are absolutely delighted with all the support we received on the day. Hundreds of dolphin wannabes of all ages filled the dolphin shape to create our human superpod. It was great to see so many families with young children taking part and showing an interest in marine conservation. If members of the public are inspired to learn more about our vital conservation work then please Support Us.”

Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre was established in 1996 as a non-profit organisation dedicated to conserving the marine life of Cardigan Bay through research and education. In April 2015, CBMWC became part of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and are delivering the Trust’s Living Seas Programme.

The 20 year event team!

The 20 year event team!

Steve Hartley founder of the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre said,

“the event was a celebration of 20 years of the CBMWC and marine conservation, it was also our opportunity to highlight the hard work, support and dedication our volunteers have provided over the years”.

Sarah Perry, Living Seas Science Officer said,

“As a former volunteer myself I know how difficult it can be to gain valuable experience in the environment sector in order to gain employment, not only does CBMWC provide this opportunity, but our aim is also to inspire the local community as well as future generations to help look after the marine environment”.

Dr Stephanie King, Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia and member of the Shark Bay Dolphin Research Alliance volunteered at CBMWC for six months in 2006.

Dr King says “My time volunteering at the CBMWC provided me with an invaluable, unique experience that without doubt benefited me in my chosen career. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to support marine conservation work in Wales through my time at CBMWC and to have the opportunity to be inspired by the Cardigan Bay dolphins.
I know that many other people have also benefited greatly from the fantastic opportunities available; I thoroughly enjoyed my time in New Quay working with a fantastic committed, professional team of people. I continue to collaborate with the staff and volunteers based at the CBMWC, focusing on the vocalisations of the bottlenose dolphins of Cardigan Bay.”

Other marvellous marine activities on the day included an interactive marine wildlife rescue demonstration from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, story telling with Puffin Pal and his Island Friends and marine arts and crafts from a variety of stalls. A massive congratulations to Llanarth Primary School who won the local school marine art competition sponsored by Celtic Sustainables.

We would like to thank Dolphin Survey Boat Trips, Celtic Sustainables and Discover Ceredigion for sponsoring the event, thank you to all the schools for submitting entries to the art work competition and all the wonderful stall holders for helping make the event a great success. Thanks also to The Lime Crab, Crème Pen Cei, New Quay Honey Farm and Dolphin Survey Boat Trips who kindly donated some fantastic prizes for our raffle on the day.

A special thank you also to Iolo Williams and all our dedicated volunteers for their support and hard work over the last 20 years.

For more fantastic photographs and a time lapse video of the WRA please see the main WTSWW website here.

BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic Course

Book your place on British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) Marine Mammal Medic course being held on Sunday 25th September at CBMWC.

You will receive training in how to rescue whales, dolphins and seals provided by BDMLR.

This is a full day course. The fee of £90 includes a year’s subscription to BDMLR, a year’s 3rd party rescue medic insurance, cloth medic badge, car stickers, medic ID card, a certificate and a copy of their internationally accredited Marine Mammal Medic Handbook.

To book your place and for more information please contact BDMLR directly (not CBMWC).

Book via their website www.bdmlr.org.uk or call 01825 765 546 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm). Download the course poster here.

Please note that you will need your own drysuit or wetsuit with boots for this course. Practicals will be held in the water in the afternoon. CBMWC and BDMLR unfortunately do not have this equipment to hire.

Impacts of boat activity on Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) behaviour and their implications for the future by Emma Lowe

Impacts of boat activity on Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) behaviour and their implications for the future by Emma Lowe (CBMWC 2015)

Emma volunteered with the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC) during the field season in 2015. During her time volunteering as a Living Seas volunteer she collected data for her undergraduate dissertation project under the guidance of Sarah Perry our Living Seas Science officer. Her study focused on the behaviour of bottlenose dolphins; investigating possible relationships between dolphin behaviour and vessel activity in New Quay Bay. Emma’s study investigated whether there was a link between dolphin presence and absence when boats are in the area, if dolphins respond differently to different boats and if they behave differently when boats are and aren’t present in the bay. Her study aimed to assess whether the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) status of Cardigan Bay and the local codes of conduct are effectively protecting these dolphins, or if heavy boat traffic may be causing negative impacts on their wellbeing.

Abstract

Tursiops truncatus are a characteristic, social species that prefer coastal habitats, consequently come into contact with human activity. Cardigan Bay is subject to high levels of boat traffic during the summer months as tourism peaks, and there is increasing demand for dolphin watching trips. New Quay Bay is a small bay located on the Southern end of Cardigan Bay, and is a site often frequented by dolphins as feeding and nursing grounds. It is therefore questioned whether this intense vessel activity in New Quay bay is impacting the dolphins in terms of their behaviour. It was discovered that dolphins showed more staying behaviours, involving long dives and irregular surfacing when boats were present compared to when boats were absent (X2 = 17.1, d.f. = 6, p = 0.00876). These findings suggest that boat occurrence significantly affects dolphin behaviour. Other studies have reported similar results, with boat traffic causing short-term behavioural changes. The longer term implications of these behaviours would merit further study; however may involve site avoidance, reductions in biological fitness and lower breeding rates. Furthermore these impacts may be detrimental to the population of T. truncatus in Cardigan Bay, which are protected by the implementation of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This study suggests that further work is carried out to estimate the extent of damage being done to bottlenose dolphin populations via behavioural changes instigated by boat presence, and that stricter regulations are implemented in the code of conduct of the SAC to ensure effective protection of the species.

Emma’s project is available to download here.

Helen M. Hiley, Sarah Perry, Steve Hartley & Stephanie L. King (2016): What’s occurring? Ultrasonic signature whistle use in Welsh bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), Bioacoustics

Helen M. Hiley, Sarah Perry, Steve Hartley & Stephanie L. King (2016): What’s occurring? Ultrasonic signature whistle use in Welsh bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), Bioacoustics DOI: 10.1080/09524622.2016.1174885

 

Bottlenose dolphin, Cardigan Bay

 

ABSTRACT

Animal communication signals are diverse. The types of sounds that animals produce, and the way that information is encoded in those sounds, not only varies between species but can also vary geographically within a species. Therefore, an understanding of the vocal repertoire at the population level is important for providing insight into regional differences in vocal communication signals. One species whose vocal repertoire has received considerable attention is the bottlenose dolphin. This species is well known for its use of individually distinctive identity signals, known as signature whistles. Bottlenose dolphins use their signature whistles to broadcast their identity and to maintain contact with social companions. Signature whistles are not innate, but are learnt signals that develop within the first few months of an animal’s life. It is therefore unsurprising that studies, which have characterized signature whistles in wild populations of bottlenose dolphins, have provided evidence of geographic variation in signature whistle structure. Here, we describe the occurrence of signature whistles in a previously unexplored wild population of bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay, Wales. We present the first occurrence of a signature whistle with an ultrasonic fundamental frequency component (>30 kHz), a frequency band that was not thought to be utilized by this species for whistle communication. We also describe the occurrence of an ultrasonic non-signature whistle. Our findings highlight the importance of conducting regional studies in order to fully quantify a species’ vocal repertoire, and call into question the efficacy of those studies that use restricted sampling rates.

 

You can access the paper here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09524622.2016.1174885

What’s Occurring?

What’s Occurring? Welsh dolphins produce high frequency whistles

Bottlenose dolphin, Cardigan Bay

Scientists from The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre have shown that Welsh bottlenose dolphins produce high frequency signature whistles, the highest frequency recorded for the species so far.

Bottlenose dolphins live in an aquatic environment with few physical landmarks and often poor visibility, as a result sound is very important to them. Bottlenose dolphins are well known for their use of individually distinctive identity signals, known as signature whistles, which they use to broadcast their identity and to maintain contact with one another.

A team of researchers studying the bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay, Wales, have found evidence of geographic variation in signature whistle structure, with some Welsh bottlenose dolphins whistling at higher frequencies than those found in other populations.

“We found that at least one dolphin whose signature whistle was produced at higher than expected frequencies (>30kHz), a frequency band that is outside of human hearing” says Helen Hiley, the lead author of the paper who conducted the study as part of her honours degree at St Andrews University in collaboration with researchers at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre and the University of Western Australia.

“The use of this higher frequency for bottlenose dolphin whistle communication has not been documented elsewhere for this species, it was previously believed bottlenose dolphins did not exploit the 30 to 40kHz frequency band” says Hiley.

This study brings the total number of wild bottlenose dolphin populations, where signature whistles have been identified, up to six.

“The findings of this study have significant implications for the management and conservation of regional populations of dolphins, such as Cardigan Bay population. The reasons for the use of these higher frequencies for whistle communication are unknown and further research is required to determine the extent of the use of these ultrasonic whistles” says Sarah Perry, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Living Seas Science Officer, and co-author on the recent study.

The results are published in the journal Bioacoustics.

Interactions between bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises By Rebecca Bakker

Social interactions of bottlenose dolphins which behaved aggressively towards harbour porpoises in the Cardigan Bay SAC in 2014 By Rebecca Bakker

Rebecca used historical photo-identification data collected by researchers at CBMWC to investigate the interaction between bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises observed in the 2014 field season.

The Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is inhabited by a semi-resident population of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). In the summer of 2014 four attacks of bottlenose dolphins on harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) were recorded and witnessed by staff and volunteers from the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC).

During the study period from 2010 to 2014 land and vessel based surveys were carried out, during which photographs were taken for photo identification, as well as additional data collected including group size. During the four surveys in 2014 when the attacks were recorded, a total of 26 individuals were observed, of which ten were identified as dolphins already existing in the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre catalogue.

Bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise during an aggressive encounter

Bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise during an aggressive encounter

Social network analysis was applied to three of the individuals with well-marked dorsal fins which were involved in these attacks, #007, #015 and #036; to investigate the social interactions these individuals have with each other, and other members of the population.

Data analysis showed that the three individuals (the culprits) did not occur in outstanding group sizes, with a mean group size of 5.61 (SD=5.31) for all three individuals. The association between the three individuals is regarded as being casual (HWI’s: #007 – #015= 0.24, #007 – #036= 0.20, #015 – #036= 0.29). However, comparing these associations to associations between the three individuals and other members of the populations, the associations among the three individuals are relatively strong. It cannot be proven that the behaviour of attacking harbour porpoises is transmitted horizontally throughout the population however; the relatively strong association among the three individuals does support this theory.

The full report is available to download here.

CBMWC unusual sightings report

Researchers from the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC) have been carrying out scientific surveys of the marine wildlife in Cardigan Bay for over two decades.

Previous analysis has focused on the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Atlantic Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) and the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena); however a decade of boat-based surveys conducted by volunteers at CBMWC in collaboration with Dolphin Survey Boat Trips provides an opportunity to explore the marine wildlife beyond the Cardigan Bay ‘Big Three’. As parts of the bay are designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), it may be valuable to identify other marine wildlife that may be benefitting from the protection of the Bay.

Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) in Cardigan Bay © Sarah Perry/CBMWC

Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) in Cardigan Bay © Sarah Perry/CBMWC

This report looked at the sightings, recorded during boat surveys, deemed as unusual in the area between 2005-2015; it includes unusual marine birds, jellyfish species or frequencies of jellyfish, sunfish and other marine mammals or large vertebrates.

The CBMWC Unusual sightings report 2015 is available to download here.

ShoreFin Project 2015

Our ShoreFin project report 2015 is now available to download from our ShoreFin project page.

 

Bottlenose dolphin, Cardigan Bay

Bottlenose dolphin, Cardigan Bay. Copyright Sarah Perry/CBMWC

About the ShoreFin Project

Initiated in 2014 the ShoreFin project is our dedicated land-based bottlenose dolphin photo-identification study located in New Quay Bay. For decades we have known that New Quay is a hotspot for bottlenose dolphins, but why?

The ShoreFin project is interested in finding out why New Quay bay is such a hotspot as well as understanding more about the bottlenose dolphin population in Cardigan Bay. The primary aim of the project is to improve the understanding of bottlenose dolphin site usage within New Quay Bay, to identify which individuals visit this site, how frequently and for what purpose.

ShoreFin Project team photographing dolphins during filming for the BBC's UK Big Blue in 2015.

ShoreFin Project team photographing dolphins during filming for the BBC’s UK Big Blue in 2015.

Since 2014, the ShoreFin project has identified a total of 92 different dolphins that have used New Quay Bay. In 2015, 61 individuals were identified from photographs taken by the ShoreFin project, 19 of which were new to the CBMWC Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphin photo-identification catalogue. Therefore, the data collected by the ShoreFin project suggests that it is often the same individual dolphins frequenting New Quay bay, thus highlighting the importance of adherence to local codes of conduct such as Ceredigion marine code of conduct. The ShoreFin project also provides evidence of the frequent use of New Quay Bay by mother and calf pairs; seven were photographed in 2014 and ten in 2015. The area is believed to be favoured by these mothers for its sheltered shallow waters where their calves are safe to socialise and learn to forage.

The project has also found that individual bottlenose dolphins show different degrees of site fidelity; those who were photographed regularly, likely to be semi-residents and those seen only once during the season, therefore likely to be in transit.

Bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay are exposed to potentially disturbing activities that could pose conservation challenges. The continuation of the ShoreFin project will help provide rigorous scientific assessments of the population to help develop effective and adaptive management strategies and conservation measures.

Be involved…

We are currently recruiting volunteers to become part of the ShoreFin team for 2016. If you are interested in joining our Living Seas volunteer team or know anyone that would be interested in volunteering for the season (April to November) and joining the ShoreFin team then please contact us at volunteer@cbmwc.org or phone 01545 560224.

Further information on the project can be found on the ShoreFin Project page on our website.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Living Seas volunteers at the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre for their valuable contribution to our work and in respect of this project Anna Stevens and Manon Chautard for their enthusiasm, hard work and dedication to the ShoreFin project in the 2015 season.

All Day Surveys 2016

A fantastic opportunity to join researchers from the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre on an All Day (minimum 8 hour) marine mammal survey in Cardigan Bay with Dolphin Survey Boat Trips. Throughout the survey researchers from CBMWC will collect important information on marine species in Cardigan Bay and the surrounding waters.

This is a great opportunity to see some of Wales’ amazing coastal views as well as our wonderful marine and seabird life. By joining a survey trip you will be contributing to marine conservation in Cardigan Bay as well as having the unique opportunity to join our team of experts.

All day trips provide avid wildlife watchers with the opportunity to see Cardigan Bay’s Big Three: bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises and Atlantic grey seals (seal pups on surveys during the pupping season September/October).

As well as the Cardigan Bay BIG 3 sightings in previous years have included, but are not limited to, common dolphins, sunfish, numerous jellyfish species, possible Minke whale sightings and sightings of thresher sharks. For those keen twitchers there were many wonderful sightings of sea birds including gannets, Manx shearwaters, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars, puffins (and pufflings), skuas, scoters, petrels and occasional views of other shearwater species, great views of nesting auk colonies, in particular on New Quay headland, a fantastic sight from April until end of June when the adults and their chicks head out to sea.

DSBT Anna Lloyd by Milly Metcalfe

Dolphin Survey Boat Trips boat, Anna Lloyd out on survey in Cardigan Bay

How to book

Survey trips are run by and conducted aboard Dolphin Survey Boat Trips’ new motor vessel, Anna Lloyd. Anna Lloyd is a state of the art catamaran, famous for their increased stability and thus perfect for long days at sea. Anna Lloyd is licensed to carry 12 passengers and is equipped with all necessary safety equipment, a part-sheltered deck and toilet.

2016 dates:

March

Thursday 24th March
April
Saturday 2nd April
Friday 15th April
Friday 29th April
May
Friday 6th May
Saturday 14th May
Saturday 28th May (moved to Monday 30th May)
Monday 30th May
June
Friday 3rd June
Wednesday 15th June
Friday 24th June
July
Saturday 2nd July
Saturday 9th July
Wednesday 13thth July
Wednesday 20th July
Sunday 24th July
Friday 29th July
August
Wednesday 3rd August
Sunday 7th August
Saturday 13th August
Sunday 21st August
Monday 29th August
September
Saturday 3rd September
Wednesday 14th September
Sunday 25th September
October
Wednesday 5th October
Sunday 16th October
Saturday 29th October

Please note in addition to scheduled dates, we may also run All Day surveys at short notice to take advantage of any ideal weather conditions. If you would like to be included on a mailing list to be notified of these short notice surveys then please contact CBMWC on info@cbmwc.org.

We also recommend that you keep an eye on our website, Facebook page and Twitter feeds for updates.

For more details and to book your place on one of these unique boat trips please call CBMWC on 01545 560032 between 10am and 4pm. The cost is £60 per person for the day, payable in advance. Full refunds will be given if trips are cancelled by Dolphin Survey Boat Trips. Places must be booked in advance due to limited spaces. All trips will depart from New Quay harbour and will last approximately 8 hours (occasionally longer depending on survey route for the day).

These long trips run subject to the weather conditions forecast, a decision whether the trip will go ahead will be made as soon as possible but to avoid disappointment we try to make the decision as close to the departure date as possible (usually 20-48 hours before departure), they are subject to last minute cancellation. We will always do our best to contact all passengers booked and therefore rely on passengers providing us with the appropriate contact detail. We also ask that all passengers contact the CBMWC by telephone prior to travel to confirm their trips departure details and any for any additional information required. Please note mobile phone signal in this area is unreliable.

Please bring your own food (plenty to share, the skipper and researchers particularly like biscuits and cake!), warm clothing, binoculars, sensible shoes and don’t forget your camera.

Please remember that these are wild animals, sightings cannot be guaranteed and that you are joining a scientific survey. The boat used may be subject to change at short notice.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin in Cardigan Bay

Perfect Christmas Gifts

Looking  for something different to buy your loved ones this Christmas? Then let us help you…

You can adopt a Cardigan Bay dolphin for a year for just £30 or buy a Dolphin Survey Boat trip gift voucher, with prices from just £22.50.

Not only are these great presents, but you will also be supporting our vital Living Seas research, education and awareness raising work.

Be sure to order by 14th December to make sure your gifts are dispatched in time for Christmas.