East Coast Marine Mammal Acoustic Study (ECOMMAS)

Distribution of Small Cetaceans around the East Coast of Scotland


The waters around the east coast of Scotland are home to many species of marine mammal, in particular, harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). The harbour porpoise is the most abundant cetacean species in the North Sea, with a large population size and wide distribution (Hammond et al, 2016). The much smaller resident population of bottlenose dolphins is protected by a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC) (JNCC website, 2017) in the inner Moray Firth.

Dolphins and porpoises belong to the Odontocetes (toothed whales) who use echolocation clicks to catch prey. However, echolocation can be disrupted by underwater noise pollution, which is generated by boat traffic and pile driving the seabed for offshore oil and gas and renewable energy projects. Information on habitat use by bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises is important for understanding how these species use the coastal waters of Scotland and the potential for offshore marine industries to affect their behaviour. Both species are protected under European law, so Marine Scotland Science monitors their populations through the ECOMMAS project

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Bottlenose Dolphins - Copyright © University of Aberdeen