Back in 2008 DFDS Seaways UK looked at our environmental commitments and decided that we would like to do more. We wanted to go over and above our statutory obligations and look to see where we, as one of the UK’s largest ferry companies, could make a significant difference to marine conservation.
We decided that we could be most influential by engaging our community - the ferry-travelling public - with marine conservation issues, by providing educational material about the wildlife of the North Sea. We knew from reports by passengers and crew that interesting sea birds, dolphins, and even whales were being seen on our routes, but we needed to discover more.
It was at this point that we formed a partnership with marine conservation charity ORCA. ORCA is dedicated to forging links between people and the sea, and focuses on studying whales, dolphins and porpoises and promoting their conservation through enthusing, inspiring and educating others.
Working alongside ORCA, we began to survey all of our routes for whales, dolphins and other wildlife. We were astonished at the results, which revealed that there were many more opportunities to show people these fantastic animals from our ships than we had imagined.
Since that time we have commissioned over 100 marine wildlife surveys, employed wildlife education officers on two of our routes, developed an onboard ‘Wildlife Centre’ on one of our ships, and involved our passengers in a range of innovative, engaging and fun educational activities. As a result of this programme an estimated 10,000 people a year are encouraged to make small changes in their lifestyle that will benefit marine ecosystems.
Whilst we are very proud of this achievement, we have no intention of resting on our laurels. Our activities with ORCA are expanding to a winter outreach programme that will see our wildlife officers working in the local community of the North East on a project entitled ‘Our Seas’. We have also spread our wings in partnership with ecotourism specialists ‘School of Whales’, running educational mini cruises to Denmark to study coastal bird migration.
We are also proud to be co-sponsoring the UK’s first Whale Festival, one of the largest marine conservation events in Europe and a fabulous platform for promoting the importance of the UK’s seas to the widest possible audience. Finally, our staff have become increasingly involved in our environmental work, conducting local riverbank clean ups and even raising funds by participating in the Great North Run!
With the continued support of our passengers, we plan to continue to develop our environmental programme in order to affirm both medium and long-term benefits to the North Sea and wider marine environment.