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Whale and dolphin conservation charity ORCA has launched a new conservation project in partnership with DFDS Seaways, which will see a community outreach officer working with schools and communities across the region.

The Your Seas project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund who awarded a grant of £40,000 and the Local Environmental Action Fund at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. It aims to work with local communities and young people to make a positive impact on the marine environment by inspiring a new generation to change their behaviour and care for the ‘forgotten whales and dolphins’ of the North Sea.

As part of this project, ORCA community engagement officer, Alison Lomax, who is based in  DFDS Seaways’ headquarters in North Shields, will visit schools to deliver Dolphin Science workshops focusing on the biology and behaviour of dolphins found in the North Sea to encourage youngsters to take an active part in conservation of their local environment. The interactive presentations include the chance to examine marine mammal skulls, teeth and baleen to highlight feeding and communication strategies and links with the National Curriculum KS1 and KS2.

The project will also present the opportunity for school children to visit the wildlife centre on board cruise ferry King Seaways to become Dolphin Scientists for the day.

Alison Lomax, ORCA community engagement officer says: “Very few people are aware that whales and dolphins live right here on our door step in the North Sea. In fact, North East waters are rich and diverse, and home to a staggering number of whale and dolphin species. The most commonly sighted are the harbour porpoise, white beaked dolphin and minke whale.  However, sightings of more rare species such as humpback whales and killer whales have also been recorded along the North East coast.
“Populations of whales and dolphins in the North Sea are becoming severely impacted by human activities such as accidental capture in fishing nets, marine litter and the impact of climate change and we need the help of local communities to protect them.  The Your Seas project will give young people the chance to learn more about their shared natural heritage and take on an active role in the protection of our seas – this project really is conservation in action!”

The wider community can get involved in the Your Seas project by training to become Marine Mammal surveyors, recording wildlife on DFDS Seaways’ Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry route from May to September 2012. To do this, volunteers will need to complete the Marine Mammal Survey (MMS) training course run by ORCA. In return for becoming a survey volunteer, DFDS Seaways provides free travel on the route for the purpose of the Marine Mammal Survey. Visit www.orcaweb.org.uk or www.facebook.com/yourseas to find out more.

Stephen House, head of product at DFDS Seaways says: “As a business we feel that it is important to protect the environment in which you operate. As such, we have been working with ORCA for several years to raise awareness of the fascinating and diverse marine life that can be found in the North Sea through our Wildlife Watching and surveying activites onboard.

“We are pleased to be able to take that commitment one step further with the launch of the Your Seas project, providing a venue and the means to involve local schools and the wider community in protecting the marine life which is right on our doorstep.”

In addition to the Your Seas project, DFDS Seaways is funding the appointment of two Wildlife Officers on board cruise ferry King Seaways so customers can learn about the marine wildlife of the North Sea and participate in fun activities and deck watches. Common wildlife to spot en route includes dolphins, harbour porpoise, gannets and many other sea birds plus even occasionally minke whales.  Customers can either book the dedicated Wildlife Watching mini cruise to Amsterdam or just join in the activities for free. The wildlife watching activities run on board King Seaways between late March and mid September. 

Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East says: “We have some wonderful native wildlife in the North East and it is the possibility of catching a glimpse of whales and dolphins that adds to the attraction of our stunning shores. This project will give people, especially young people, the opportunity to learn more about our vast and varied sea-life and give them the chance to help protect it for future generations to enjoy.”

Schools interested in taking part in Dolphin Science workshops or members of the community looking to get involved should contact community engagement officer, Alison Lomax on 0191 2936202 or alison.lomax@orcaweb.org.uk .

To book or for further information on the Wildlife Watching Mini Cruise or other DFDS Seaways crossings, visit www.dfds.co.uk/wildlife or call 0871 882 0885.


Issued on behalf of DFDS Seaways by Robson Brown

Notes to editors

DFDS is one of Europe’s largest ferry companies, operating both passenger and freight routes between England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Lithuania.
DFDS Seaways has been honoured by The World Travel Awards with the prestigious title of ‘World’s Leading Ferry Operator’ awarded in January 2012, as well as ‘Europe’s Leading Long Sea Ferry Operator’ for five consecutive years.

In the UK, the company operates passenger services on routes from Newcastle to Amsterdam, Harwich to Esbjerg and Dover to Dunkirk.

For further information, visit www.dfds.co.uk

ORCA is one of Europe’s leading whale & dolphin conservation charities. ORCA was formed in 2000 and is dedicated to forging links between people and the sea.

ORCA is committed to the study of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) conducting surveys throughout the year on ferry routes covering the Bay of Biscay, the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the English Channel.

For more information, visit www.orcaweb.org.uk

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.  HLF has supported over 30,000 projects, allocating £4.7billion across the UK including £223million to the North East.  Website: www.hlf.org.uk

The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland is a charity that enables effective giving which strengthens communities and enriches local life. The Foundation acts as a hub for individuals, families, businesses and other agencies that want to give to communities, matching their interests with organisations and individuals seeking funding. A wide range of causes benefit from the Foundation’s awards, including children and older people; people affected by disadvantage and ill-health; and those seeking education and work. Grants also support the arts, the environment, community activities and amateur sport.

The Foundation holds and builds an endowment to provide resources for grant-making now and in the future. It also makes grants from contributions given every year. Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, it is the largest community foundation in the UK and part of a growing international community philanthropy movement. For more information visit the Community Foundation website.

For media enquiries contact:

Gemma Cohen on 0191 244 6652 gemma.cohen@robson-brown.co.uk
Kirsty McNaught on 0191 244 6637/ 07855720343 kirsty.mcnaught@robson-brown.co.uk