Saturday, 10 May 2014

Discovering Penzance

The catamaran cut through the waters off the west Cornish coast, carrying a group of excited passengers, their expert guides and our little Morgan. With the sails up the impact on the marine environment through which it glides is reduced. The diverse and varied coastline of West Cornwall, with its wide, golden beaches and dramatic cliffs, is matches by its diverse and varied marine life. From minke whales to common, bottlenose and Risso’s dolphin, not to mention those harbour porpoise, to seals, sharks, sunfish, and a multitude of seabirds. Morgan is onboard Marine Discovery Penzance’s Shearwater II as they explore the marine wildlife off the coast of this corner of south west England.

Marine Discovery Penzance is a member of Whale Watch International, a partnership of whale watch operators committed to a sustainable future for whale and dolphin watching. They operate with a code of conduct when watching marine wildlife, collect plastic, work with leading marine charities and collect research during their trips including collecting effort based sightings data and conducting photo-ID on the dolphins, seals and sharks encountered.

Morgan and WCA Malcolm in the
Marine Discovery Penzance office

As our little Morgan learned, collecting data helps us improve our knowledge and understanding of our marine environment and its creatures which in turn helps to conserve and protect them. As a wildlife watching company Marine Discovery Penzance is in a perfect position to collect data as they are out on the water pretty much every day (weather allowing!). In recognition of their all their work and they way they conduct their operations, Marine Discovery Penzance won the prestigious Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watch Operator of the Year in 2013! So Morgan couldn’t have been in better hands to experience what this marine environment had to offer.

Onboard the Shearwater II

On Morgan’s trip the group was treated with views of harbour porpoise, grey seals, loads of seabirds and giant basking sharks! While not a whale or dolphin, basking sharks are an incredible part of the UK’s marine environment. The second largest fish in the world they can reach up to 11 m in length (that’s the length of a double decker bus!). They are seen very often off Cornwall, and the west coast of the UK right up to Scotland, during the summer months. These big fish feed on tiny tiny zooplankton (little animals in the water) which during the summer are often found concentrated in surface waters around headlands. Following its food to the surface waters means these sharks are easily seen. Unlike whales and dolphins which must surface to breathe air, basking sharks take oxygen from the water through their gills. Opening their massive mouths the sharks filter their food from the water also over their gills, they filter about 2000 cubic meters of water an hour – the same volume of water it takes to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool!

Basking shark

Our little Morgan watches with excitement, along with everyone else, as a shark swims by, its large dorsal fin slicing through the water followed by the tip of its tail fin. Her trip today has taught her there is so much varied and wonderful wildlife in our oceans, all of which need our help and protection. 

Find out more about Marine Discovery Penzance here, and find other responsible whale watching companies at the Whale Watch International website. 

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