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Minke whales off Hastings & Striped dolphin off Plymouth including video

01/06/2012 19:35:16

Jumping for joy: Striped dolphin is captured leaping out of the water at Cawsands Bay by Morvargh Sailing

Sightings astound whale and dolphin watchers off Southern England

June 2012. Two extraordinary sightings have been recorded off the southern coast of England during May - astonishing researchers at the marine research and conservation charity Sea Watch.

Striped dolphin
First , an unusual dolphin was seen leaping off Penlee Point, Plymouth, by the sail training organisation Morvargh Sailing Project and has since been positively identified by the marine research charity Sea Watch as a striped dolphin - one of very few live sightings in recent years.

5 Minke whales off Hastings
And then, on May 29, Tim Macpherson, of Catsfield, near Bexhill on Sea, was out sea angling with friends two miles off Hastings when they were amazed to find 5 large whales near their boat. They sent pictures and video to Sea Watch which has confirmed that they were Minke whales - a species not recently recorded in the area.

Minke whale off Hastings as captured by Tim McPherson and his astonished crew.

Minke whale off Hastings as captured by Tim McPherson and his astonished crew.

The confirmations brings to 11 the number of different species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises seen off the UK coast during May alone. Sea Watch is the holder of the largest data base of whales, dolphins and porpoises in Europe.

Sea Watch Sighting officer Danielle Gibas says "We have seen an incredible diversity of species during May around the UK coast. Recorded sightings such as these are helping us to understand different species trends over the years - their distribution, and the health of populations. We are always delighted to hear sightings, and to help identify what has been seen. People can contact us as or call 01545 561227,"

The striped dolphin sighting
The striped dolphin was in a group of three or four, but only one can be positively identified. The last three live sighting records Sea Watch has are in Porthgwarra, Cornwall in June 2007 with two sightings off the Hebrides in 2009.

Between 2005 and 2010, there were 55 stranded striped dolphins - 23 in Scotland, 18 in England, 10 in Wales, and 4 in Northern Ireland.

Sea Watch Sightings Officer Danielle Gibas said: "This striped dolphin is most exciting! It appears to be a very healthy individual. Striped dolphins are more often seen in the Mediterranean with a population off the Atlantic seaboard of France and the Iberian Peninsula.

"They are very rare off the Atlantic coasts of the UK , although it may be that they are sometimes confused with common dolphins. Sadly we more often hear of dead ones being washed ashore in the UK."

Matt Barraud, Director & Skipper of Morvagh Sailing, based in Plymouth, says he was at anchor in Cawsands Bay just off Penlee Point having breakfast when they sighted the dolphins.

"We had on board a group of a dozen 13-14year olds and they were just bowled over by the sight. The dolphins stayed with us for an hour or more, tail slapping and jumping. We can't be sure whether there were 3 or 4 individuals, but it was a magnificent sight, and we will now be including sightings records on all our training trips."

Minke whale sighting
The group was of 5 individuals swam close to Tim's boat. At first Tim and his friends thought they might be Sei whale but identified the animals as Minke whales thanks to the white bands on their pectoral fins.

Tim said:" I have seen dolphins and porpoises before, but nothing this large, It was really amazing. "

Sea Watch Director Peter Evans confirms: "Minkes occur fairly regularly in the Channel Islands but are pretty rare off the south-east coast of England."

Sea Watch is holding the National Whale and Dolphin Watch from July 27-29. Anyone can take part by watching out to sea and sending in sightings or by joining a manned watch or accredited boat operators. Full details of how to take part and of recent sightings around the UK can be found at

Fact files 

Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)


  • Length: 1.0m/3.3ft (newborn); 1.95-2.4m/6.4-7.9ft (adult).
  • Head and Beak: Tapering forehead with a distinct groove separating black beak 
  • Fin and Markings: Centrally-placed slender dorsal fin is sickle-shaped or erect. Distinctive white or light grey V-shaped from above and behind eye with one finger narrowing to point below fin, and lower one extending towards tail; two black lines
  • ID: Striped Dolphins are usually animated; they often breach and bow-ride. Grey blaze and two black stripes.
  • Food: fish, squid, octopus, krill, and other crustaceans


Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)



  • Length: 2.6m/8.6ft (newborn); 6.9-8.5m/22.8-28ft (adult).
  • Head and Beak: Slender with a pointed triangular head and single central ridge.
  • Fin and Markings: A relatively tall dorsal fin, sickle-shaped and situated nearly two-thirds along back. Head & body dark grey to black but with grey areas on flanks and diagonal white band on flippers.
  • ID: Inconspicuous (often unseen) vertical blow 2-3m high almost simultaneous with fin, before relatively arched roll. Minke whales can be confused with Sei whale and Northern Bottlenose.
  • Food: Plankton, krill and small fish



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