Hebridean expedition to study endangered killer whales

Killer Whales The population of whales found in the Hebrides is known as 'The West Coast Community'

An expedition aims to find out crucial information on Scotland's only population of killer whales.

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) says the scheme is crucial in helping the endangered animals' survival.

Research will be carried out onboard a specialised research yacht by a team of scientists and volunteers.

The data collected by the project will then be used to plan and strengthen future conservation action.

The expedition will run from May to October and gather information on whales, dolphins and porpoises - collectively known as cetaceans - as well as basking sharks which are found in western Scotland's seas.

Acoustic monitoring

Scientists will cover an area which will range between the Mull of Kintyre in the south, Cape Wrath in the north and St Kilda in the west.

They will use an number of methods to study the animals including visual surveys, acoustic monitoring and photography.

The project is the only conservation plan of its type being operated in the UK and will be carried out from HWDT's specialised research yacht Silurian.

The yacht has previously been used in the filming of BBC nature series, The Blue Planet.

Eva Varga, HWDT operations manager, said: "Our 2014 surveys offer an excellent volunteering opportunity to help ensure the long-term survival of Scotland's remarkable cetaceans and basking sharks, while learning new skills and exploring some of the most wild and remote corners of Britain."

Over the past 20 years the survey has found 24 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises across the Hebrides.

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