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Dolphinwatch hails local support that led to new funding at celebratory launch event

Torry communities, school children, partners and local politicians are thanked for making “wish come true” at the launch of RSPB Dolphinwatch

Today (11 May 2018) is the official launch of RSPB Dolphinwatch’s 2018 dolphin viewing at Torry Battery in Aberdeen. For the next two years, the dolphin viewing will form just a small part of Dolphinwatch because, thanks to support from the local community and partners, the project has received funding for a new schools outreach programme, year-round city-wide events and a festival in 2019.

Many supporters, including representatives from the Torry Community Centre and Maritime Museum, and MSPs Lewis MacDonald, Kevin Stewart and Maureen Watt, joined schoolchildren from Kirkhill Primary in Torry at the special launch event. The children have painted a large wooden dolphin and named her ‘Oceana’ especially for the occasion.

Dolphinwatch

The team, supporters & children from Kirkhill Primary with dolphin 'Oceana' at launch of new Dolphinwatch

RSPB Scotland has been engaging people about the importance of the local area for marine wildlife, the threats it faces and how they can help, through summer viewing of bottlenose dolphins in Aberdeen.

The new funding, from the ScottishPower Foundation and the Heritage Lottery Fund, will, for the first time, allow the charity to take this message to a wider audience through a year-round marine wildlife project. The new RSPB Dolphinwatch project will comprise a range of activities –Schools, Community Events, a festival and a series of films – while maintaining the dolphin viewing at Torry Battery that has helped demonstrate how much interest there is in Aberdeen’s marine wildlife from both visitors to the city and particularly local communities.

To lead the new project RSPB Scotland has appointed a two-year Dolphinwatch Community Events Officer, Sadie Gorvett. She’s been in post since the middle of April and is already taking school bookings for the autumn term and starting to work with community groups on ideas for events.

Sadie said: “We are so very grateful to the ScottishPower Foundation and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Their support is allowing us to make a real step change in the size and reach of Dolphinwatch. It’s great news for nature that schoolchildren in Torry and across Aberdeen will learn about threats to marine wildlife and habitats and what they can do to help. It really is a wish come true. We also want to thank everyone – partners, supporters and the local community – who have helped us lay the foundations for the new Dolphinwatch project. We are delighted so many of them could be here today for the official start of Dolphinwatch at Torry Battery and are excited about the opportunities to work together over the coming years to celebrate amazing marine wildlife.”

RSPB Scotland staff and volunteers with be at Torry Battery from 11am-6pm on Thursdays to Sundays until 19 August. Equipped with binoculars and telescopes, provided by Viking Optical, and plenty of expertise, they will help visitors learn more about marine wildlife and experience the natural spectacle of bottlenose dolphins.

Aberdeen is one of the best places in Europe to see bottlenose dolphins, with dolphins spotted on more than 80% of days when RSPB Scotland was at the Battery last year. The area is important for marine wildlife and as a nature watching spot, which explains why Aberdeen has built a reputation as the dolphin city.

RSPB Dolphinwatch is supported by partners Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen Harbour Board Community Action Fund and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).

Cllr Jenny Laing, Co-Leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “Aberdeen City Council is proud to be a partner in RSPB Dolphinwatch and it is fantastic to see the initiative go from strength to strength. As a city we are fortunate to have the most incredible natural surroundings and Dolphinwatch is showcasing that in the best possible way. The school outreach programme will expand the educational benefits of the project and is an ideal way of engaging with pupils, adding to the strands of what is already a hugely successful addition to Aberdeen. By drawing visitors from near and far, Dolphinwatch plays an important part in highlighting Aberdeen as a destination with a growing and diverse range of attractions.”

Dolphinwatch is only possible with help from local volunteers too. Over the next two years, there will be even more opportunities for people to get involved with schools, community events and the festival. Meanwhile, some volunteers who have already helped visitors have an amazing wildlife experience at Torry Battery will take part in this year’s dolphin viewing again and more than 30 new people are keen to be involved.

As part of Dolphinwatch, RSPB Scotland staff and volunteers are trained so that they can contribute to Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s Shorewatch programme which monitors the presence of whales, dolphins and porpoises in order to protect them.

Katie Dyke, Scottish Conservation Officer for WDC, said: “The data that the Dolphinwatch team collect for the WDC Shorewatch project feeds into WDC’s wider data collection across Scotland. The data helps provide a better picture of the movements of whales, dolphins and porpoises and allows us to understand how best to protect them. Along with bottlenose dolphins, which are present year-round, Shorewatch volunteers have recorded other species in the area, such as humpback whales, orca, porpoise, minke and white beak dolphins, meaning that the marine environment around Aberdeen is a very important habitat.”

Dolphinwatch is a ScottishPower Foundation and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funded project led by RSPB Scotland in partnership with Aberdeen City Council, Whale & Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and the Aberdeen Harbour Board.

Keep up to date with all aspects of the new project at facebook.com/RSPBNorthEastScotland or twitter.com/RSPB_NEScotland (#RSPBDolphinwatch; #DolphinsABDN).

For further information, please contact: Kirsty Nutt, RSPB Scotland Communications Manager, on 01224 627869 or 07711 385595.