Pioneering research is to be carried out in the Hebrides to measure the length of Scotland’s marine wildlife following the use of new laser technology.
Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust have been collecting data on whales, dolphins and porpoises from their specialised research yacht Silurian for 15 years.
Now the group of marine scientists and volunteers are using new laser photogrammetry equipment to assess the health of whales located in the north.
Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s Marine Biodiversity Officer, Becky Dudley said: “Monitoring by volunteers onboard Silurian has shown how Scotland’s west coast is an important feeding ground for migratory minke whales. This new equipment will help build a greater understanding of individual whales’ movements, behaviour and overall health, and help us evaluate their interactions with manmade items in the marine environment.”
The bespoke equipment made for the conservation charity works by placing two dots of light – of a known distance, typically around 10 centimetres – onto the body of an animal at the same time a photograph is taken.
Fiona Manson, a marine specialist at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and its volunteers are making an important contribution to marine conservation in Scotland. We’re excited by the innovative techniques the trust is using to find out more about the health of wildlife in Scotland’s seas.
“The data collected by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust over the years has helped us understand more about our marine wildlife and how to look after it, and this is an invaluable way to better connect people to nature in their local area.”
Photo-identification research over this time has catalogued 230 minke whales, some of which have returned to the same feeding grounds every year for over a decade.