Whales and dolphins spotted off the North East coast from cruise liners as wildlife charity checks on marine life

Dolphins, pictured off the North East coast. Sunderland's RNLI team captured this shot. while experts on board DFDS ferries also spotted other marine life.
Dolphins, pictured off the North East coast. Sunderland's RNLI team captured this shot. while experts on board DFDS ferries also spotted other marine life.

Hundreds of marine animals have been seen off our coastline after spotters took to the seas to get a closer look at what is beneath the waves.

ORCA, a UK based whale and dolphin conservation charity, has completed a season of marine wildlife sightings on board DFDS’ cruise ferries in the North Sea, recording an impressive 869 marine animals.

A Princess Seaways boat run by DFDS.

A Princess Seaways boat run by DFDS.

The sightings included 39 minke whales, 10 bottlenose dolphins, 539 harbour porpoises and 145 white-beaked dolphins.

ORCA Wildlife Officers Rachael Forster and Ruth Coxon sailed onboard King Seaways and Princess Seaways from April 7 to September 16, spotting and collecting data on marine wildlife on the ferry route between North Shields in Tyne and Wear and Amsterdam in Holland.

Through the charity’s partnership with DFDS, the officers also informed over 10,000 passengers travelling on DFDS‘ King Seaways cruise ferry about the whales, dolphins and porpoises that can be found in the North Sea through a number of hosted deck watches and educational talks in the dedicated on board wildlife centre.

Rachael, who oversees the outreach project with DFDS. said: “The most incredible aspect of the season on-board was being in a position to share that moment when a person sees their first whale or dolphin.

"The sheer excitement, adrenaline and then hearing them quote back the facts they have learnt from your talk the previous evening is so rewarding.”

Max Foster, passenger director for DFDS said: “We have been working with ORCA for eight years now and each year the scope of the marine wildlife education and deck watch activity increases.

"This year we opened a new wildlife centre on board King Seaways, which has more space for the popular wine and whale evening talks hosted by the wildlife officers, as well as the range of other fantastic, educational activities that take place here.

“Our partnership with ORCA enables us to contribute to the gathering of valuable data on the marine wildlife in our seas whilst also offering our passengers and crew a real insight into the amazing species that are right here on our doorstep.”

Highlights during the 2015 season include:

The first minke whale of the season was spotted near Sunderland

Bottlenose dolphins were spotted at the mouth of the Tyne in mid-June for three weeks

72 harbour porpoises were recorded in one day during morning and evening deck watches

24 grey seals were seen within seven minutes

A fin whale was spotted in July from Princess Seaways.

The ORCA project with DFDS aims to inform passengers and inspire them to understand and help protect the marine wildlife living in the coastal waters.

The data collected on board feeds into the European Cetacean Monitoring Coalition (ECMC), which is co-led by ORCA and aims to establish a single, reliable source of cetacean sightings in European waters.

The coalition is made of seven NGOs across four European countries. Its mission is to improve the long term conservation of European cetaceans through the collection and dissemination of high quality research and supporting evidence.

Although the wildlife mini cruises and hosted deck watches are not available until March 2016, the ORCA on board wildlife centre is open to passengers travelling on KING Seaways throughout the year.

To find out more information about DFDS’ partnership with ORCA, or to book your wildlife mini cruise on our Newcastle to Amsterdam cruise ferry service, visit www.dfds.co.uk/orca or telephone 0871 521 5522.