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England’s only resident bottlenose dolphins identified

The Wildlife Trusts recently announced that a new study of bottlenose dolphins in the southwest of England has revealed a unique community.

Little was known about the bottlenose dolphins glimpsed off the coast, but now new research has shown that the first resident population has been identified in English waters.

Ruth Williams, Marine Conservation Manager at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “This research is proof that we have a resident population and is incredibly exciting. Further work is needed but this is a huge step forward and I am proud of what our partnership between Cornwall Wildlife Trust, scientists and boat operators has achieved. The future of these iconic animals is in our hands and we need to make sure the few we currently have in the southwest are given the protection not just to survive, but to thrive.”

Individual dolphins can be recognised by their dorsal fin, shape and markings. Rebecca Dudley, MRes at University of Plymouth, has been analysing sightings and photographs of dolphins in the region and gathering data from a large number of collaborators over a ten year period. From thousands of records, 98 individuals were identified with a distinct social group of 28 resident dolphins present throughout the year in shallow coastal waters around the southwest.

Bottlenose dolphins in the southwest face several threats, including pollution from plastics and chemicals, injury by fishing nets, and disturbance from recreational activities. The fact that a resident population has now been identified will now mark the first steps in seeking to protect these animals, which currently receive no specific protection in their home range.

As dolphins are so wide-ranging, strong evidence is needed to show that an area is important before protection can even be considered. The UK’s two other resident bottlenose dolphin populations (in the Moray Firth, Scotland, and in Cardigan Bay, Wales) have both received protection.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust are calling on anyone who has bottlenose dolphin records and particularly photographs which could be used for photo identification to get in touch. For more information go to;

http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/living-seas/bottlenose-dolphin-project

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