Good year for whale and dolphin sightings in Cornwall, but leave the wildlife alone, warns the charity



It’s been a good year for whales and dolphins in Cornwall this year, but people need to leave the wildlife alone for animal numbers to recover, a leading environmental group said.

The Wildlife Trusts, the parent organization of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said whales (whales, dolphins, expediencies) were the focus in 2021 when humpback whales were spotted off the Isles of Scilly and orcas just below the Minack Theater.

Numerous humpback whales have been spotted in the UK this year. Sightings were extremely rare until recently, but more than 75 sightings have been recorded since 2019, showing how populations are recovering after the ban on commercial whaling. The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust saw humpback whales feeding around the islands with a person named Pi who stayed for over two months.

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Meanwhile, two orcas named John Coe and Aquarius from the West Coast Community, who normally live in the Hebrides, were spotted from the playhouse on the cliffs of the Minack Theater during the summer. It was the southernmost sighting of members of this unique killer whale group in over 50 years and also the first confirmed entry of orcas in the charity’s database in over a decade.

Long-distance travelers also saw the arctic walrus Wally off the north coast of Cornwall and also in Hugh Town harbor on St. Mary’s.

Matt Slater, marine conservation officer for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “Just a few years ago it would have been extremely rare to see a humpback whale in the UK. But it looks like they are hunting large schools of sardines that are now present on our shores. It’s great to see these creatures up close. “

An amateur wildlife photographer “pinched herself” after capturing breathtaking pictures of a giant humpback whale on a boat trip in Cornwall. Brenda Tregunna from St. Columb Road caught the whale on camera during a boat trip around the Tater Du Lighthouse near Penzance.

However, the charity has warned that, unfortunately, the number of strandings has increased due to human pressure.

In Cornwall alone, more than 170 whales (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and a staggering 247 seals were stranded in 2021, including many injured from fishing activities. A humpback whale was found stranded off Looe Island after being caught in fishing line, while seven gray seals were washed up on Mousehole Beach, tied with spider crabs, within two days. Nearby, the Devon Wildlife Trust reported 51 whales stranded on beaches.

In February, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust reported the stranding of a striped dolphin, rarely found in the UK and more commonly in the Mediterranean.

In September a bottlenose dolphin named Nick, admired by swimmers in Cornwall, washed up in Ireland with injuries attributable to propeller failure, while the Dorset Wildlife Trust found a stranded young pygmy sperm whale in December – only a handful were ever in Great Britain spotted.

Isles of Scilly officials have one for Wally The Walrus
Officials in the Isles of Scilly have built a “safe room” for Wally The Walrus – a pontoon where he can relax undisturbed and cause less trouble

In October, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust reported that a puffer fish had been found on Downderry Beach – the first time in 20 years that one had washed up. Puffer fish are oceanic species and are rarely found that far north. This extraordinary fish inflates its body to repel predators.

Matt Slater, Marine Conservation Officer for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “This was an amazing sighting. Oceanic pufferfish live in the open seas and rarely come that far north. How and why it ended up in Cornwall is a mystery, although it is possible that it was blown off course by summer storms. “

Daniele Clifford, marine conservation officer for The Wildlife Trusts, said human activities, human disturbance and the effects of climate change are responsible for many strandings and injuries to marine animals.

Changes in temperature can disrupt eating habits and breeding cycles, the charity said.

Gray seals are often spotted on the beaches of Cornwall
Gray seals are often sighted on Cornwall’s beaches, but human interference can lead to injury and death

Daniele added: “Noise at sea from wind farms and other developments can disorient wildlife and throw whales and dolphins off course – we need to think carefully about all marine developments in the future.

“In addition, far too many marine life are unnecessarily killed by unsustainable fishing practices, and lost and discarded gear is also causing havoc – especially to seals, dolphins and other marine mammals.”

Recreational activities are increasingly being blamed for animal disturbance, with vacationers enjoying activities such as SUP or kayaking to get close to whales or seals and scare them, which can then lead to injury.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust reported that marine animal disturbance has tripled since 2014, with the increase in jet skis and motorboats being a major cause of concern.

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Lissa Batey, Director of Marine Conservation at Wildlife Trusts, said: “It has been a fantastic year for marine megafauna sightings, especially in the Southwest, but it is clear that our oceans are under tremendous pressure from fishing, development, pollution, climate change and Recreation. All of these problems have a huge impact on life at sea.

“The COP26 made clear the need to limit the global temperature increase to a maximum of 1.5 °. Protecting our marine environment is a critical part of achieving this goal, as healthy habitats store carbon on the ocean floor.

“We need policies that stop unsustainable fishing practices and prevent full development at sea – and we need to protect at least 30% of our oceans by 2030. Future generations count on it. “

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