The dolphins, whales and porpoises of Yorkshire

(c) Caroline Weir

Become a citizen scientist and help us to protect these beautiful marine animals

Have you ever been lucky enough to spot a whale, a dolphin or even a porpoise? Perhaps you’ve glimpsed the flap of a fin, the slap of a whale’s tail as it dives or even had dolphins ride alongside the boat you’ve been travelling on?

Seeing a cetacean (that’s the group name for whales, dolphins and porpoises) is a very special experience. You can’t fail to be impressed by these awe-inspiring ocean giants.

Now, have you ever experienced them in Yorkshire waters? I ask because while cetaceans frequently visit our own shores, many people are not aware that you can enjoy seeing them so close to home!

2018 was a fantastic year for seeing these beautiful animals. The prolonged good weather meant that the seas were very calm, making ideal sea watching conditions. In early August, a humpback whale was spotted from Flamborough Headland and then hung around for several days. Stunned onlookers had fabulous views of this feeding gentle giant!

Yorkshire Coast Nature, a locally based wildlife watching company, experienced 205 sightings of whales and dolphins, with up to 26 minke whales, during just one six hour trip at sea!

But our cetaceans face significant threats. Just a few of the challenges they are up against are:

  • getting tangled in fishing gear (by-catch)
  • climate change
  • being hit by ships
  • consuming marine pollution
  • noise pollution
  • their environment being damaged

If we’re to help them navigate safely through this never ending bombardment of human activities we need to know more about them. We want to know which species we can find in Yorkshire waters, where are they going, how do they use particular areas and more. Understanding the answers to these questions and more will help us advocate for management measures that will safeguard them for the future.

This is where you come in! Citizen scientists are increasingly providing vital data by helping to record sightings of them. You don’t need to be an expert - anyone can be a Sea Watch Observer. All you need is enthusiasm, a pair of binoculars and a little patience. If you enjoy spending time by the coast regularly, why not take time to record what you see – and what you don’t?!

To become a Sea Watch Observer you will need to complete a short training programme, which we run several times throughout the year. For more information and to register interest, please contact

This is a partnership project between Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and SeaWatch Foundation

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Sea Watch foundation logos