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article imageIncreasing numbers of warm water dolphins recorded in North Sea

By Paris Franz     Aug 15, 2010 in Science
Warming seas may be responsible for a shift in the distribution of dolphin species, as warm water species are reported in increasing numbers in the normally cold waters off England's north-east coast.
The BBC reports a survey by the North East Cetacean Project (NECP) has found the dolphin population of the North Sea is changing, with many more bottlenose, common and Risso's dolphins being sighted. These are all dolphin species associated with warm waters. Sightings of the white-beaked dolphin and harbour porpoise, who prefer colder water, are decreasing.
Dr Tom Brereton, who analysed the findings, told the BBC: "This research adds to the growing body of evidence that some species of whales and dolphins are showing shifts in distribution, possibly as a result of increasing sea temperatures. For example, common dolphins have been spreading north in recent years, presumably due to warming sea temperatures. This is a potential cause of concern because studies in other regions have shown that the arrival of common dolphins coincides with a corresponding disappearance of white-beaked dolphins. White-beaked dolphins have a much narrower habitat requirement and are associated with colder sea conditions."
The NECP aims to generate up-to-date information on the status of cetaceans, the collective name for dolphins and whales, off the Northumberland coast of England and beyond. The cold, deep waters off the Northumberland coast attracts many species, such as the white-beaked dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise, minke whale, and occasionally pilot and humpback whales. The cold water white-beaked dolphin is of particular concern, as it is especially vulnerable to warming waters.
Current data is lacking for many of these species, and the project has asked the region's fishermen, recreational diving and angling boats, yachtsmen and pleasure craft operators to get in touch with any offshore sightings.
The NECP was established in 2010 and is a collaboration between the charity Marinelife, Natural England, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, and the Tyneside Bird Club, with support from the Northumberland Sea Fisheries Committee.
More about Warming seas, Bottlenose dolphins, Common dolphins, North sea
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