<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today click here

The marine giants found in Dorset waters

PUBLISHED: 09:39 23 August 2016 | UPDATED: 09:39 23 August 2016

A humpback whale breaching - these magnificent marine creatures have been seen in our coastal waters in summer

A humpback whale breaching - these magnificent marine creatures have been seen in our coastal waters in summer

Archant

Whales, dolphins, seals, sharks and even turtles can all be found in our coastal waters during the spring and summer months, as Hester Lacey discovers

Many of us are familiar with the smaller creatures we share our beaches with: childhood friends we discovered in rockpool rambles such as crabs, sea anemones, mussels, blennies, barnacles, winkles and whelks. But at the opposite end of the scale, there are some much larger creatures to be seen in the coastal waters off Dorset – if you are lucky. The “marine giants” are right at the top of the food chain, says Julie Hatcher, Marine Awareness Officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), and they include whales, dolphins, seals and sharks, and the rare leatherback turtle.

Bottlenose dolphins are probably our most regular visitor, says Julie. “There’s an inshore group with a home range between here and Cornwall. You can see bottlenose dolphins all year round, and sometimes common dolphins as well, though they tend to be further offshore – though one year a couple swam into Weymouth Harbour.”

Grey seals, and sometimes harbour seals, can be spotted in Portland, Kimmeridge, Swanage and Poole Harbour. “We also see basking sharks, especially in Lyme Bay, and occasionally further east,” says Julie. “And the ocean sunfish, the heaviest bony fish in the world, is regularly sighted in summer. The ones we see off Dorset’s coast are relatively small – maybe the size of a dustbin lid – but in the ocean they can grow to immense proportions. A Swanage fisherman told me he’d seen one that was eight feet across!”

Once marine giants are fully grown, they have few predators, but, while most are now protected, their populations have suffered due to widespread hunting in the past. “Their size means they reproduce slowly,” explains Julie. “They’re long-lived and they only produce a few young compared to smaller marine creatures, so when they are affected by hunting and fishing it takes a long time for their populations to recover. And if their prey species have been over-fished, they’re in trouble.”

One of the key things that we can do to help these gentle giants thrive is to protect their environment. “While we can’t protect the whole of their range, we can protect key areas: feeding areas, places where they mate, give birth, or use as nursery areas. You might also look at directing boat traffic away from areas where they bring up their young, for example – or make boat owners aware,” says Julie. If you are lucky enough to encounter a marine giant whilst in a boat, maintain a steady pace and course so the animal can predict your movements.

Litter can also be lethal as Julie explains. “Animals can get tangled in old fishing gear, so helping with beach cleans and getting this deadly stuff out of the marine environment is very important.” We should also consider cutting down on our plastic consumption – DWT is currently campaigning for wider use of reusable drinks bottles. “The Marine Conservation Society does an annual survey of beach litter and in 2015 there was a 43% increase in plastic bottles,” Julie reveals.

Sightings of these marine giants locally are also extremely useful for DWT and the other organisations it collaborates with over recording species. “We want to know where the animals were when you spotted them, how many and what where they doing: just swimming along, or breaching – rising up out of the water? Were there birds overhead, which might indicate feeding?” says Julie. “A photo is brilliant if possible: send it to our Facebook page or email it to us. The more information we have, the more we can do to protect these magnificent creatures and their special places off Dorset’s coastline.”


Share your sightings

Email your sightings of marine giants in Dorset’s waters to kimmeridge@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk or Tweet @DorsetWildlife or facebook/dorsetwildlife.


More…

Native reptile species that call Dorset home - Dorset is home to all six native reptile species and at this time of year you can spot them basking on our heathland, as Hester Lacey discovers

Reversing the decline of wildflowers in Dorset - Wildflowers connect us to the heritage of our local landscape, which is why we must reverse the decline of our traditional wildflower meadows, writes Sally Welbourn of Dorset Wildlife Trust

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 15:56

When the weather gets colder, there’s not much more refreshing than a brisk walk across the countryside, and there’s plenty of that here in Dorset…

Read more
Yesterday, 15:50

Edward Griffiths enjoys a bracing walk which offers sensational views across the Jurassic Coast

Read more
Friday, January 19, 2018

We don’t think photos of Dorset can ever get old. Here are 10 of the best shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Think you know the places and people of Dorset? Take our quiz to find out…

Read more
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Explore the history of Christchurch through its fascinating range of buildings on this easy town stroll

Read more
Monday, January 15, 2018

From whale song to complex family dynamics of a pod, Erich Hoyt is immersed in a world of cetaceans, and he believes that humpback whales may soon be regularly sighted off Dorset’s shores

Read more
Monday, January 8, 2018

Visit Dorset has some interesting events to help fill the pages of your 2018 diary with an exciting selection of days out

Read more
Monday, January 8, 2018

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Dorset this month

Read more
Monday, January 8, 2018

From cool coastal resorts to bustling market hubs, Andy Greeves chooses ten towns whose history, ambience and busy events diary make them ‘must visit’ destinations

Read more
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Visit Dorset share some of their favourite things to do around the county at this magical time of year

Read more
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

With Durdle Door, Brownsea Island, Jurassic Coast and a whole host of other stunning sights, Dorset is an amazing place for a stroll

Read more
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Sally Welbourn shares her favourite wildlife stories of 2017

Read more
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Edward Griffiths has a Boxing Day walk that offers views, wildlife and ancient history

Read more
Friday, December 8, 2017

Corfe Castle really is stunning, isn’t it? You know it and we know it. But let’s remind ourselves anyway…

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link
 
Pure Weddings advert link
 
South West Life advert link
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest


subscription ad
subscription ad

Latest Competitions & Offers

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad
Dorset Magazine Application Link

Local Business Directory

Dorset's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search