Land-based surveys

Surveying from land is a superb way of viewing cetaceans and basking sharks. It allows you to observe social and feeding interactions from a distance whilst not effecting their behaviour in any way.

For this science to be accurate, we must survey from one of seven specific sites around the coast. 

Long term land-based survey studies allow us to monitor the following:

  • how our key species are using different parts of the Manx coastline, e.g to forage, travel or look after young 
  • what times of year key species use certain locations
  • social and behavioural interactions
  • vessel behaviour around marine animals 
Land-based surveys typically last three hours and are carried out at designated sites along the coastline. Throughout a survey, two types of data are collected; effort data and sightings data. Effort data is taken every 15 minutes and records time of day, wind direction, sea state and visibility. Sightings reports record the species seen, the group size, presence of calves, behaviour and direction of movement. Our height above sea level for each site allows us to calculate distance for each sighting using a ruler and a clever computer formula.

Effort and sightings data work hand in hand, gathering an insight into the inshore presence of cetaceans in Manx waters. 

Boat-based surveys

Boat surveys enable us to collect sightings information and photograph animals for photo-identification purposes.

Boat-based surveys began in 2007 and for many years took place aboard vessels Grampus and Girl Pat. In 2016 MWDW was able to purchase ‘Galps”, however due to ongoing engine trouble we have in recent years been using vessels owned by members of MWDW. A special thanks goes out to all involved. 

Vessels of opportunity

During the summer months, we have the privilege of joining small tourist vessels. These surveys allow us to gain valuable additional data and provide a guiding service for the passengers. 

A list of boat tour operators can be found here

Become a land-based surveyor

Land-based surveying requires a keen eye, patience and commitment. You will be required to join MWDW on as many surveys as needed for you to feel confident in data collection and species ID. As surveys are weather dependant, they are difficult to organise in advance, so flexibility is key. Feel free to get in touch if you are interested.