Marine Life's Rick Morris gave Coastwise members a great introduction to the conservation organisation's work, not that it was needed for the one or two members who were already supporters and observers.
For most members, though, it came as a revelation that there is a network of commercial shipping that carries ML observers over the seas surrounding the UK for voyages of up to 10 days, doing structured surveys of the wildlife on a total of 18 routes currently (Pictured R).
It all started in 1995 as the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme with the help of P&O Ferries on the Portsmouth to Bilbao route. The scope was to look for seals but then it was then realised how much wildlife could be seen, so the organisation became the charity MARINELife in 2005, covering cetaceans, seabirds and other marine life such as turtles, sunfish and seals.
Shipping operators such as DFDS, Condor, Seatruck, Stena, P&O and JR Shipping all provide transport for the observers, who follow an observation plan based on 15-minute records of location, weather, speed, heading etc. Bird and animal sightings are also recorded in a standardised format, and now form a reliable database of over 20 years' records, allowing trends to be identified.
ML's current activities include the observation programme, conservation advice and advocacy, citizen science and eco-tourism, and special research projects from small boats, e.g. using hydrophones.
Rick Morris' excellent photos of the Striped and Common Dolphins and Cuvier's Beaked Whale are pictured R
Rick may well have recruited some new supporters and observers from the ranks of Coastwise!
[Map of Observation routes courtesy of MARINElife]