Atlas of Marine Mammals of Wales

Project Last Updated: 01/04/2010 10:04:00   Source : CCW Marine Monitoring Report No. 68

Welsh waters support nationally and internationally important populations of marine mammals (whales, dolphins and seals) which use the area at various stages of their life histories such as feeding and breeding. Since the early 1990s the Countryside Council for Wales has been a major supporter of studies that have recorded the distribution and abundance of marine mammals in Wales. These studies, often undertaken using dedicated networks of volunteers, have helped to inform conservation objectives for Special Areas of Conservation, monitoring targets and the assessment of proposed developments and impacts. The objectives and therefore outputs of these studies have varied considerably, often making best use of available vessels, vantage points and people, under a range of conditions.

We need information on marine mammal distribution and abundance in Welsh waters to support environmental stewardship, sustainable management and mitigation of the effects of potentially harmful activities. CCW is committed to working with WAG, DECC, developers, the fishing industry and others to ensure that adverse impacts upon features of nature conservation interest are avoided, and that our use and development of the marine environment is sustainable. The collation of the information in this atlas is designed to help meet obligations under the EU Habitats and Species Directive and to help CCW advise on marine activities including renewable energy exploitation, fisheries, waterborne recreation and oil and gas exploitation.

The analysis in this report shows that certain species have hot-spots in their distributions and, for some there are seasonal changes in how they are distributed. For those species that are designated 'features' of Special Areas of Conservation, this information will inform the management of those areas in accordance with the Habitats and Species Directive. For other species that are protected under national and international law, this information will inform marine spatial planning initiatives, environmental assessments and sustainable development in the marine environment. This report also provides some evidence for changes or stability in the distribution and abundance of internationally important species that also contributes to efforts to sensitively manage them and to fulfil national reporting obligations.

This report brings together the best available effort-related survey data on marine mammals in Welsh waters and adjacent parts of the Irish Sea, to provide the highest resolution analysis carried out to date of the spatial and temporal variation in their distribution. As with almost any data gathered in the marine environment, there are variations in effort, coverage and confidence levels. Great care has been taken in the analysis to minimise errors and biases. The maps have been carefully interpreted, accounting for variations in effort and other factors.