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11 Species of whale and dolphin seen on a 3 day theme cruise in the Bay of Biscay


The 3 day July whale and dolphin theme cruises in the Bay of Biscay produced sighting of 11 different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises – an impressive record for anywhere in the World.

The Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP) is at the forefront of scientific research into cetaceans (the collective term for whales and dolphins) in the Eastern European Atlantic and as part of its education role, the charitable organisation also operates a selected number of eco-tourism trips each year.

Members of the highly experienced BDRP research team lead a small number of whale and dolphin theme cruises in the Bay of Biscay from the P&O Cruise Ferry, The Pride of Bilbao. This year, the first of these trips was from the 7 – 10th July.

Dr Tom Brereton, BDRP Director and Principle Scientific Officer said:

“Our research has repeatedly demonstrated the richness and diversity of marine life within the Bay of Biscay. The theme cruises we operate with P&O Ferries give us the chance to share some of the experiences we have on a regular basis as a research organisation and provide an education role about whales and dolphins and the importance of Biscay for the passengers.”

Clive Martin, BDRP Director and Senior Wildlife Officer said of 2004:

“The theme cruises in 2004 were very successful with the highlight being the delight on peoples faces as we encountered the largest animal on the planet – the Blue Whale, a creature that can grow to over 30 meters in length!”

The July 2005 theme cruise did not disappoint with some of the highlights for the passengers being pods of very acrobatic common and striped dolphins coming into the ship to bow ride and 2 very close encounters with 20+ meter fin whales, the second largest animal on the planet! For the research team, the highlight had to be the very close encounters with 4 Sowerby’s beaked whales, a species rarely seen and little studied due to its deep diving behaviour. Biscay offers one of the few places in the World to get close encounters with elusive beaked whales.

A total of 11 different cetacean species were observed over the 3 day cruise and included fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), humpback whale (Megaptera novaengliae), minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), long finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas), Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), Sowerby’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens) short beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates), harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Ocean sunfish (Mola mola), a turtle and basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) were also encountered during the theme cruise.

It would be rare anywhere in the World to encounter so many different species within such a short period of time and passengers commented that they could not believe that so many whales and dolphins could be seen so close to our shores - many had great memories and photo’s to take away.

A further BDRP whale and dolphin theme cruise in Biscay is scheduled for the 17th – 21st September 2005.

BDRP has also been working for a number of years with experts in the field of whale and dolphin research from other parts of the World and has recently expanded its eco-tourism offers to include:

• Maldives – working with Dr Charles Anderson
• Seychelles – working with Dr Charles Anderson
• South Africa – working with Mark Carwardine
• Baja California – working with Mark Carwardine

Adrian Shephard | alfa
Further information:

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