Whose Who? Using Photo-Identification to Monitor South West Dolphin Populations

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On 28th November, Rachel Davies provided an illustrated talk to members of Devon Wildlife Trust and the Lyme Regis Society. Much like you and I can be told apart by our fingertips, so can individual dolphin and whale species be identified by the unique occurrence, shape and size of features on their dorsal fins and bodies. By identifying and recording sightings of new and known individuals, we can study certain dolphin populations, their group dynamics and how they may use certain areas for important life stages such as feeding and calving.

This well-attended talk discussed species of dolphin frequently recorded off the south west coast, the techniques we use to identify individuals within these populations, and how the Charity MARINElife uses this information to learn about these local groups and provide evidence for conservation management.

The two key work areas presented, covered the work and findings of analysis of photo-ID data, undertaken by MARINElife for both white-beaked dolphins and Bottlenose dolphins in SW English waters. You can read about this work in two open access reports published by Natural England:

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EPR01679 Population Structure, Mobility and Conservation of Bottlenose Dolphins in the South West of England from Photo-identification studies 2007-2013

EPR03082 Photo-identification Analysis of White-beaked Dolphins off South West and North East England 2007-2014

This is an ongoing project and our Photo-ID database and catalogues are continually being updated. We very much welcome new images and sightings from supporters and members of the public.