ShoreFin Project – Eye spy a fin!

Jacky and her calf by Manon Chautard

Jacky and her calf by Manon Chautard

About the ShoreFin Project

Volunteers collecting data for the ShoreFin Project whilst being filmed for the UK Big Blue programme in 2015. Photography by Sarah Perry

Volunteers collecting data for the ShoreFin Project whilst being filmed for the UK Big Blue programme in 2015. Photography by Sarah Perry

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 bay on the Ceredigion coast is a hotspot for bottlenose dolphins, but why?

The ShoreFin project was set up to find out why New Quay bay is such a hotspot as well as to understand more about the bottlenose dolphin population in Cardigan Bay. The ShoreFin Project allows us to extend our dolphin photo-id work and enables us to take photographs from shore-based survey sites using a digital SLR camera and a 500mm lens, it is ideal for our photo-id work in New Quay 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.

What we have found out

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. 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.

Nick and calf by Manon Chautard

Nick and calf by Manon Chautard

The project has also found that individual bottlenose dolphins show different degrees of site fidelity (the tendency of a dolphin to stay in or regularly return to a particular area); 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.

Interested in reading the report…

The ShoreFin project 2015 report is now available to download from the CBMWC website.

We do not receive any direct funding to carry out this project, but rely entirely on the support of our team of Living Seas volunteers, grants and donations to purchase vital equipment to enable this project to run. If you would like to donate to our work then please contact us.

We would like 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.

Living Seas volunteer 2015 Anna Stevens photographing mother and calf dolphin in New Quay bay. Photography by Sarah Perry

Living Seas volunteer 2015 Anna Stevens photographing mother and calf dolphin in New Quay bay. Photography by Sarah Perry

Be involved…

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

Further information on the project can be found on our website or feel free to contact me directly.

Sarah Perry
Living Seas Science Officer
Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales