Dolphin watch on the Thames
Monday 26 July 2004
ZSL begins search for dolphins in the Thames
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is appealing for volunteers to join the search for dolphins, porpoises and seals in the Thames Estuary. The information gathered will be used to support conservation plans for these and other animals that use this famous waterway.
While it is known that marine mammals use the Thames, there is a big gap in knowledge about the population levels and usage patterns in the area. Our survey will help to plug this gap and will enable us to make valuable contributions to protecting these species in our native waters.
"We are looking to involve the general public as well as many other river users in this survey," commented Alison Shaw, ZSL Marine & Freshwater Conservation Programme Manager "Assessing the consequences of development activities requires long term monitoring of these animals. To be useful this must be in place before new activities develop. The data ZSL collects on marine mammal movements may prove invaluable in assessing the impact of new operations in the Thames Estuary".
All species of marine mammal are protected from killing, capture and deliberate disturbance in UK waters but without data showing which areas are valuable to these animals it is difficult to enforce these directives. We will use the data collected to produce recommendations for the establishment of specific protected areas for cetaceans. The data also will help address conservation issues by identifying important habitats, exploring why they are important and improve our ability to predict marine mammal distributions at sea, year round.
To take part in the survey volunteers are asked to visit the ZSL website at www.zsl.org to complete a short questionnaire about their sighting; there is also an identification guide on the site to help people to recognise what they have seen.
Questionnaires will also be available through a variety of organisations that use the river. To obtain copies of this form, please email firstname.lastname@example.org Recent sightings in the River Thames and the Thames Estuary have included bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises, common seals and grey seals. Grey seals are among the rarest in the world, the UK population of approximately 124,000 represents about 40% of the world's population. It is estimated that there are just 300 bottlenose dolphins in UK waters and 350,000 harbour porpoises. The main threats to marine mammals in the UK are thought to be ecosystem change, fisheries by-catch, chemical contamination and boat traffic.
For further information, please contact:
Nathalie Golden, ZSL Senior PR Officer
Tel: 020 7449 6280
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