Sealife Signpost provides guidance on schemes that you can join and on where to send your sightings of marine species. Sightings can also be reported on our text message service. All UK sightings are valuable and, once validated, will contribute to the UK National Biodiversity Network.
Click on the links below for information about individual recording schemes:
Basking Shark sightings with no images.
Basking shark watch is a volunteer reporting project to gather information on sightings of basking sharks in UK waters. The project is run by the Marine Conservation Society and was launched in 1987 since then information on more than 17,000 basking sharks has been compiled. Members of the public and other organisations can report details of sightings including location, numbers, size, markings and behaviour on printed report cards, via Internet or phone. The data gathered has helped to increase our knowledge of the distribution and behaviour of these magnificent creatures. Sightings of basking sharks are most common between April and October along the west coast of Britain and around Ireland. The data gathered by MCS was instrumental in gaining protection of the basking shark in the UK in1998 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. A factsheet / poster and report cards are available from the Marine Conservation Society. Guidelines for watching basking sharks are available from the Marine Conservation Society. Learn more about watching basking sharks safely by becoming accredited throught the Wildlife Safety (WISE) scheme.
The EBSPiP is a joint venture set up in 2000 with the aim of producing a database of images used to identify and track the movements of individual basking sharks around Europe. The project relies on the natural marks, scars and other distinctive features found on basking shark dorsal fins to distinguish between individuals. Images submitted by basking shark-watchers around Europe are entered into the database and cross-referenced against the existing images for possible matches..The EBSPiP relies on the submission of images from a variety of sources including the general public. Guidelines for watching basking sharks are available from the Marine Conservation Society.
The British Seahorse Survey is run by The Seahorse Trust and was set up in 1994. It has been set up to look for and plot the populations of the two indigenous Seahorses around the British Isles and Ireland . This information is then used to form the basis of legal protection and conservation strategies for these highly vulnerable and environmentally sensitive animals.
The Conchological Society of Gt. Britain & Ireland exists to promote the study of Mollusca in its widest aspects and has been at the forefront of biological recording for 120 years. Marine records span some 50 years, and a computerised database holds much of the more recent archive. Information comes from members of the Society via individual enterprise and a programme of field meetings. Professional malacologists, University departments (through undergraduate and postgraduate work and independent contracts) and general biologists, ecologists, divers and naturalists with a particular interest in molluscs, can all play a valuable part in providing records from their field work. These sources combined with input from the Agencies and commercial organisations could provide a comprehensive archive of distributional information upon which, for example, future conservation strategies may be based.
The Durlston Marine Project is a community based research and education programme based around the Purbeck VMCA. With research into their semi-resident pod of Bottlenose dolphins they accept dolphin sightings from members of the public within the region.
Durlston Marine Project, Durlston Country Park, Lighthouse Road, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 2JL
Tel: 01929 424443 Fax:
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust are a charitable organisation concerned with locally based conservation. They run a Community Sightings Programme to encourage members of the public to become more aware of the wildlife in the Hebridean water by reporting sightings of cetaceans or other interesting marine species (i.e. basking sharks) they've seen. This information is used to research the distribution of species and identify any key habitats within the Hebrides. They are also participating in a nationwide research project on Bottlenose dolphins in collaboration with Aberdeen University, asking members of the public to report any sightings.
Established in 2003 the Irish Sea Leatherback Project is a joint venture between the University of Wales, Swansea and University College Cork. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund's (ERDF) INTERREG IIIA initiative. The Jellyfish Sightings Schemes is for anyone, whether they be walking on a beach, diving or out in a boat to record any species they see in the Irish Sea.
Little is known about jellyfish in UK waters, but they are a staple diet of the critically endangered leatherback turtle. By comparing the distribution of jellyfish with environmental factors such as sea temperature, plankton production and current flow, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) hope to understand the seasonal distribution of jellyfish and leatherbacks in UK waters. Sightings should be sent to MCS. An identification guide/recording form is available from MCS.
The Lamprey Watch project seeks to help conserve and protect the UK’s lamprey species and we need your help!
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has joined forces with the South Coast Seal Project and Dorset Marine Mammal Research Programme to gather information on marine. Despite protection by British and European law marine mammals still face serious threats from commercial fishing, climate change, habitat loss and pollution, therefore this programme aims to gain a better understanding of how marine mammals use our waters and the threats they face. The sightings collected as part of this scheme are entered onto the databases of the South Coast Seal Project and Dorset Marine Mammal Research Programme.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Beechcroft House, Vicarage Lane, Curdridge, Hampshire, SO32 2DP
The Porcupine Marine Natural History Society is a UK based society with particular interests in marine biogeography and species ecology. The Society co-ordinates a marine species recording scheme for its members and any other interested parties. The scheme was established because the current distribution of many marine species in UK waters is not well known, particularly those species which are uncommon in the UK; and because many valuable records are collected informally and are not normally collated nationally. The primary aim of the scheme is therefore to collect and collate interesting species distribution records that might otherwise be lost or forgotten. The scheme has already collected records of species in areas from which they had not previously been recorded. Records sent to the scheme are held in a computer database and are made available to anyone with interests in those species. Regular articles on recent records are published in the Societys newsletter.
Sea Watch Foundation aims to achieve better conservation of whales and dolphins in the seas around Britain and Ireland, by involving the public in scientific monitoring of populations and the threats they face, and by the regular production of material to educate, inform and lobby for better environmental protection. Sea Watch holds the Joint Cetacean Database sighting records from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Sea Mammal Research Unit and Sea Watch Foundation - on computer, making it probably the largest in the world. The database currently receives 2-3000 sighting records per year. Each record has to be checked for accuracy then transcribed onto the computer database, along with environmental data. Sea Watch has a number of major projects in coastal areas particularly rich in marine animals or holding important populations of certain species.
Seaquest South-West is a marine recording and public participation project run jointly by the Cornwall and Devon Wildlife Trusts. Through Seaquest the Wildlife Trusts effectively harness the knowledge of expert conservationists to the enthusiastic efforts of casual or committed sea watchers people like you. The Seaquest network is made up of ordinary people doing ordinary things walking on the beach, fishing, sailing, surfing etc. The records are examined by our own experts and shared with other organisations to help conserve our marine life for the future.
The UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) has been running since 1990 and is funded by Defra and the Devolved Administrations. We coordinate the investigation of all whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans), marine turtles and basking sharks that strand around the UK coastline. As well as documenting each individual stranding, we also retrieve a proportion for investigation at post-mortem to allow us to establish a cause of death.
The British Marine Life Study Society is responsible for producing the journal GLAUCUS, which is the first publication exploring the marine life of the seas surrounding the British Isles available to the general public. The object of Shore Watch is to record wildlife on the seashore around the British Isles. The results will be published in the marine wildlife journal Glaucus and in a computer database accessible by contributors and the public. The aims of the project are to:
The Silver Dolphin Centre run a sightings programme, welcoming photos of cetaceans from around the Cornish Coast. The data they collect is made available for any institution, college or student who requests it for their research. For more information visit the website at www.silverdolphinmarineconservationanddiving.co.uk/5180.html
The Thames Marine Mammal Survey aims to address the information gap in sightings within the Thames Estuary. Data collected will help to develop patterns and trends in species distribution, behaviour and habitat use. Findings will also be fed into national databases. The ZSL asks anyone who spots dolphins, porpoises and seals within the tidal Thames area (between Teddington upriver to Shoeburyness and Sheerness in the outer estuary) to report their sightings.
The Shark Trust is urging people of all ages to take past in the first ever skate and ray eggcase hunt. Empty eggcases (mermaids purses) wash up on beaches all around the country, and anyone can get involved in helping scientists to learn more about these vulnerable species. A simple walk can turn into a conservation expedition. In recent decades several species of skate and ray around the British coast have dramatically declined in numbers. The empty eggcases that wash up on to our beaches all year round are an easily accessible source of information on the whereabouts of skate and ray nursery grounds. The identification of these critical areas will enable the Shark Trust to propose conservation measures, in order to reverse the decline of these charismatic animals.
Five species of turtle occur in UK waters including the largest and most common to our waters, the leatherback. The Marine Conservation Society, supported by Cheltenham and Gloucester plc and in collaboration with other organisations is working to promote the protection of turtles in the UK and abroad. The UK Turtle Watch scheme aims to encourage fishermen, divers and other sea users to report their sightings of turtles and increase our understanding of the distribution and threats to turtles in UK waters. Turtles are sometimes found entangled in fishing gear and marine litter which can result in death, but prompt and expert action can result in the safe release of entangled turtles. A UK Turtle Code and Advisory Note has been produced which provides details on species identification and action to be taken in response to a sighting or entanglement. This together with UK Turtle Watch cards to report live and dead sightings are available from the Marine Conservation Society. More information is available from www.mcsuk.org.