Initiated in 2014, ShoreFin is the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre’s dedicated land-based bottlenose dolphin photo-identification (Photo-ID) project whose aim is to build up an understanding of bottlenose dolphin site usage within the New Quay bay area, to find out which individuals visit New Quay bay and to find out more about the ecology and life history of these animals.
Since 2005 CBMWC researchers have been photographing bottlenose dolphin dorsal fins as part of their ongoing photo-ID catalogue project but until 2012 images had only been taken at sea during boat trips. However CBMWC volunteers record bottlenose dolphins within New Quay bay almost daily through the summer months during their Dolphin Watch surveys and although dolphins do often come close to the New Quay harbour and fish factory area, photo-ID work following strict protocols and carried out under licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is not permitted within the harbour area. This is because it would set a bad example to recreational boat users who should follow the code of conduct and not approach or follow dolphins.
However, thanks to grants from NRW and Environment Wales we were able to purchase a digital SLR camera and 500mm lens. This lens is capable of taking photographs of dolphins of high enough quality from up to 800m away and is therefore ideal for completely non-invasive land-based photo-ID work in New Quay bay.
In 2014 CBMWC had two seasonal volunteers dedicated to the ShoreFin project, who were overseen by our Science Officer, Sarah Perry. Our ShoreFin volunteers kept in radio contact with volunteers carrying out Dolphin Watch surveys on New Quay harbour wall so as soon as the dolphins appeared, so did they. The culmination of all their hard work is our first ShoreFin report which is available to download from our ShoreFin website.
The primary aim of the 2014 field season was to develop methodology for establishing this as an ongoing research project. By documenting the individual animals that visit the New Quay bay area we aim to acquire a greater understanding of the bottlenose dolphin population residing in Cardigan Bay and plan to continue the project into the future. We anticipate that the data we have already collected as part of the is project will contribute towards answering further questions regarding bottlenose dolphin site behaviours, provide additional information on the range of the local population as well as the potential effects of human activities on their behaviour.
Our field season will start again in late March and you can keep up to date with which animals we’ve been seeing by following us on Twitter @ShoreFin