It is incredibly exciting to see dolphins and porpoises around our coasts. Bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises are commonly seen around Wales. They spend most of their time here feeding and breeding, due to our nourishing and nurturing seas. There are other species of whales and dolphins, such as the Minke whale or Risso’s dolphin, which can be seen at certain times of year or come to spend their time feeding in our rich waters. Wherever you see them, spending time watching is rewarding and to get the most out of the experience it is important that they are not disturbed.
Main calving period in Cardigan Bay from May to October
Dolphins love to stay in groups, especially when there are young or have calves among them; make sure you don’t split them up by driving through them.
If you’re in a powered boat, slow down to 5 knots when you see dolphins and porpoise. Keep about 100m, the length of a football pitch, away from them and avoid surrounding them or trapping them against the land. If they approach you, keep your boat on a steady course and move slowly.
Did you know that dolphins and porpoises can get scared if you come too close. If you see them changing speed and direction quickly, slapping their tails/fins on the water or staying underwater for a long time, you are probably too close and disturbing them. Move away slowly
Give young dolphins and porpoise a bit of extra room and avoid coming between a mother and calf.
The bottlenose dolphins of Cardigan Bay in Wales and Moray Firth in Scotland are our resident dolphins). They are the largest of their species in the world (males can grow up to 4 metres long!).
Bottlenose dolphins can be aggressive towards harbour porpoises and can attack and kill them, perhaps in competition for food.
Short-beaked common dolphins can occur in superpods of 1000s of animals off the coast of Pembrokeshire in the Celtic Sea.
The English word for ‘porpoise’ is derived from the Latin words, porco and piscus, meaning pig fish. Sometimes they are called ‘puffing pigs’ due to the explosive puffing sound they make as they breathe.
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