A leading whale and dolphin charity is pulling out of one its Scottish bases.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation said that its satellite centre at North Kessock near Inverness had suffered an almost halving of visitors due to the increased use of the internet.
The decision would allow it to visit more schools and promote responsible dolphin-friendly behaviour among boat owners.
The area is home to Scotland’s only resident group of bottlenose dolphins – which draw tens of thousands of visitors to the Moray Firth area each year.
But WDC said that after detailed discussions lasting over a year, it had made the decision not to renew the lease at the Dolphin and Seal Centre (DSC) at North Kessock.
“WDC have run this small, satellite centre since 2007 and during those years it has been a great place to tell visitors to the Inverness area about WDC and the bottlenose dolphins in the Kessock channel and at Chanonry Point. We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all our supporters, volunteers and visitors who have been to the Centre over the years,” it said in a statement.
“However, visitor behaviour is changing. This has dramatically lowered footfall at the DSC; it is situated opposite a tourist information centre and, as more tourists use the internet to plan their holidays, fewer people visit information centres like these. This, coupled with the increased interest in Chanonry Point, has resulted in visitor numbers being down by 45%, despite an increase in marketing by WDC.
“As a registered charity, we have to use our funds wisely, and feel it would be more beneficial to have a flexible staff member who can spend more time interacting with the public at places like Chanonry Point.
“There have been no redundancies caused by the closure and the decision will also give WDC more scope to visit schools and attend community events in the Inverness area, and set up talks at the nearby marina to promote responsible behaviour around dolphins. We hope to gain some external funding for this work and for it to begin in late spring 2016. This plan will enable us to work more flexibly, and without the fixed costs that running the Kessock Centre includes.”
The Scottish Dolphin Centre in Spey Bay is unaffected by the changes and is open at weekends in February and March, and seven days a week from March 25.