SEA WATCH FOUNDATION

The Sea Watch Foundation is an association that works towards the protection and conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the coastal waters of the United Kingdom. It does this through environmental education, scientific research and outreach.

Sea Watch was a pioneer in making science accessible to everyone: since the 1970s it has involved the public in the collection of data about whales, porpoises and dolphins in British waters. At that time most information about marine animals came from strandings (the finding of animals that, for various reasons, wash up lifeless on our beaches) and little was done to study live animals in their natural environment.

Sea Watch was born to change this. Initially it was simply a group of people with the time and passion who, with binoculars and cameras in hand, began to record sightings from land and boats at sea. Today there are thousands of people within Sea Watch who have become the backbone of our organisation.

Our biggest event is the National Whale and Dolphin Watch, when hundreds of volunteers devote time and energy to spotting the variety of marine species that inhabit English waters, with sightings from sea and land. The data they collect is used by the Foundation’s team of researchers to understand the health status of the local species and, when necessary, take action to protect them. How? Through various campaigns, such as the adoption of dolphins, the cleaning of the beaches and sharing information on social media … and through artistic projects like this.

 

manouche, the bottlenose dolphin

Sea Watch Foundation‘s studies, research and field activities inspired the story of Manouche, the bottlenose dolphin protagonist of The 2021 Christmas EcoAdventures, the Advent Calendar that collects 24 stories and creative activities for young EcoExplorers.

The Christmas EcoAdventures are stories to share. Every day, from the 1st to 24th December, you will find a story and an activity to complete together.

This EcoAdventure was created so that this special time becomes a journey to the four corners of the world discovering curious, rare or endangered animals. You are never too young to take care of our environment and communities!

 The animals’ stories, told with fur, feathers, scales or fins and a pinch of imagination, are an invitation to discover their characteristics, lifestyle, and the daily challenges they face to survive threats posed by man and pollution.

Christmas is only one day a year, but taking care of the Earth should be a daily act. 

The activities allow you to experience a sustainable and creative activity each day. You will then become a
First Class EcoElf.

Manouche’s story is the tale of a young bottlenose dolphin who loves to swim with her family in the calm waters of the early morning when the sea is silent. She is very curious and lively and this pushes many boats (especially motor boats) to chase her to immortalize her in photos and souvenir videos. She lately she doesn’t have a moment of peace anymore!
So she has an idea, but she needs the help of an Echo Elf to make it happen!

find more about the bottlenose dolphin

Oceans are dynamic environments, they are full of life: they are inhabited by incredible animals, from plankton (tiny shrimps) to the blue whale, the largest mammal on the planet! The marine mammals that have best adapted to life at sea are called CETACEANS. We  know them as whales, dolphins and porpoises. Like us, they breathe through their lungs, give birth to babies and nurse them, caring for them for long periods in the case of porpoises and dolphins.

Studying these animals is of course a bit complicated! We humans are not equipped or suited to spend much time underwater, and following the movements of cetaceans means following them even when they dive, sometimes for more than an hour and reaching depths of over 1000 metres – as the sperm whale does for example.

Researchers spend a lot of time on boats and on the coast, with binoculars and a lot of patience, waiting for these animals to appear. When we spot them we try to gather as much information as possible, using all our senses (sight, hearing and smell) to understand who they are, what they are doing and why they are in the area. 

Why the sense of smell? Some cetaceans have a unique scent that distinguishes them, like the fin whale, whose breath smells like fish! Why hearing? Cetaceans produce sounds to communicate with each other underwater! For some species, sound is an instrument: they use it to ECHOLOCATE, that is to orient themselves and locate prey. Some male whales use sound to even produce songs, to attract the females. Researchers have learnt to listen to cetaceans using hydrophones, instruments that, when placed in the water, become our underwater ears. So we can hear the humpback whales sing, the sperm whales click… and the dolphins whistle!

And speaking of dolphins …

The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is an ODONTOCETE: it means that unlike other cetaceans such as whales, it has teeth! It can be light or dark grey along the sides and white on the belly; it has a rounded head and a short snout (or ‘rostrum’), a sturdy body and a high, curved dorsal fin in the centre of the back. You can spot this species in coastal waters and offshore, in tropical, subtropical and temperate, warm and cold regions.

The bottlenose dolphin lives in groups, or ‘pods’, with elaborate social structures: they are composed of females, calves and young males. The adult males move away, forming alliances with other males of the same age. In the pods we have seen behaviors like playing, hunting, resting and feelings, such as friendship and mourning. Bottlenose mothers spend a lot of time with their young, teaching them all this.These dolphins are famous for producing ‘signature sounds’, sounds that resemble whistles, and allow the dolphin to tell the others, loud and clear who they are: they work like our names. Calves develop these signature whistles when they are a few months old and mothers use them to recognise their calves and call them. The relationship between a mother bottlenose dolphin and her calf is also tactile, as in human parents and babies: with moments of physical contact and closeness, which help and reassure the calves as they grow. Playing is also an important part of the life of young bottlenose dolphins. We see them swimming at speed as if chasing after each other, or throwing shells and algae to the surface with their rostrum.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises eat fish, invertebrates and krill (shrimp), but for bottlenose dolphins the favourite food is fish: salmon, cod and flatfish. To hunt their prey, these dolphins often work in groups. They swim in circles, jumping out of the water and slapping their tails to scare the fish in to the circle: then they dive into the centre and have a good feast!

But how do we study cetaceans at sea? With good binoculars from the sea or from the coast we can collect information on their behaviour and compare it with their territory: with many sightings, collected over time, we can identify areas of primary importance for the species, for example, the places where these animals go to hunt or rest. To study Bottlenose Dolphins we also use Photo Identification: the dorsal fins of these dolphins are in fact like our fingerprints, there are no two of them alike which allows us to distinguish individuals from each other. All the fin photos are then collected in catalogues, which are shared between colleagues and help us understand the habitat of the animals and their movements.

 Thanks to our research we know that bottlenose dolphins face many threats in European waters: among these are the chemical and sound pollution of the seas, potential collisions with boats, in particular with motor boats traveling at high speed, and the entanglement in fishing nets and gear.

learn to care

and choose to colour the world 

with more smiles and kindness

The idea of the Christmas EcoAdventures was born to create a time for sharing during the days leading up to Christmas; a time to read and create but most of all to enjoy being together.

The characters, stories and activities that give life to the EcoADVENTures are an invitation to reconnect, to learn to care, and choose to colour the world with more smiles and more kindness.

We hope that this book will encourage empathy, respect and help children to make informed choices, embrace experiences and cultivate their dreams and ambitions. We hope that they will learn to respect differences, the environment that surrounds them and the community in which they live. We would love our book to help you experience Christmas in a unique, thought provoking and sincere way.

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