ORCA End of Season Review 2022
ORCA Ocean Conservationists Peter and Jess have had a brilliant survey season on the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry network this year.
This year, not one, but two ORCA Ocean Conservationists joined Caledonian MacBrayne to record sightings of marine mammals on the ferry routes and help CalMac passengers to experience the incredible marine wildlife of the Hebrides.
Peter focused on surveying two routes this year - Oban to Castlebay (Barra), via Tiree and Coll, and Oban to Craignure (Mull). Jess was based further north and surveyed on three routes - Uig (Skye) to Tarbert (Harris) and Lochmaddy (North Uist), Mallaig to Lochboisdale (South Uist), and Ullapool to Stornoway (Lewis).
A common dolphin, taken from the MV Loch Seaforth on the Ullapool-Stornoway crossing, Photo by Amy-Jo Randalls.
2022 Sightings Summary
|Species||Number of Sightings||Number of Animals in Total|
|Orca||2||4 (same individuals seen twice)|
Total: 660 individual cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) from 6 species were recorded from 11 April - 18 October 2022.
Bird species of interest seen
Gannet, Guillemot, Puffin, Manx Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Razorbill, White-tailed Eagle, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Greater Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Storm Petrel, Great Northern Diver.
A Northern gannet, Photo by Amy-Jo Randalls
Highlights of the year
This year both Peter and Jess recorded orcas, also known as killer whales, on their surveys, once on the Oban to Castlebay sailing and once on the Mallaig to Lochboisdale sailing. The orcas were identified as John Coe and Aquarius, two known individuals on the West coast of Scotland. These two adult males are from a pod known as the West Coast Community and are genetically unique. They are an eco-type of killer whale also known as Eastern North Atlantic Type 2 killer whales that specialise in hunting mammals. Sadly, they are the only two left of their eco-type and so seeing them in the Hebrides in a real privilege and an important sighting.
Peter and Jess engaged with approximately 1737 passengers on the Caledonian MacBrayne network this year. ORCA has been working in partnership with Caledonian MacBrayne since 2017, collecting vital data on marine mammal species and their critically important habitats. ORCA is incredibly grateful to Caledonian MacBrayne for giving us a platform in the form of their vessels from which we can engage with passengers and collect this data so that we can continue to monitor and protect marine species and their habitats for years to come.
An adult male orca known as John Coe that has a distinctive notch in the back of his dorsal fin. Photo taken near the Island of Coll by Peter Selway on the MV Clansman sailing from Oban to Castlebay.
An adult male orca known as Aquarius next to puffins for scale. Photo by Peter Selway.
Passengers on the MV Lord of the Isles who were delighted to spot the killer whales John Coe and Aquarius with Jess.
A distant minke whale, photo taken by Jess Owen on the MV Lord of the Isles travelling from Mallaig to Lochboisdale.
Learn more about ORCA .
For more information on Caledonian MacBrayne's committment to Marine Awareness, please visit Caledonian MacBrayne Marine Awareness Programme.