Southwest Bottlenose Dolphin Project

Aim: To collate existing evidence and co-ordinate bottlenose dolphin research in Cornwall and Southwest England.

We are incredibly lucky here in the Southwest of England to have bottlenose dolphins in our waters and to regularly see them from land and boat. Sadly however, there is currently no specific protection offered to this resident population and the establishment of protection measures will only be supported if robust evidence can be provided.

Work conducted over recent years by Marinelife, together with boat operators Marine Discovery and AK Wildlife Cruises highlighted the importance of the southern coastal waters between Dorset and Land’s End for bottlenose dolphins. Sue Sayer of Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust also conducted photo identification of bottlenose dolphins across the region between 2011 and 2016. However, this is only part of the picture and Cornwall Wildlife Trust and partners including scientists, research groups and eco-tourism operators aim to build on this work with more wide-ranging efforts to collate all sightings and photographic data from the whole of the South West, including Devon and North Cornwall.

 As such, a collaborative partnership has been established within the region called the SW Bottlenose Dolphin Consortium. This partnership is co-ordinated by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and includes a wide range of groups, organisations, businesses and individuals who have all signed up to contribute their data to better understand our bottlenose dolphins. The Consortium also has a Steering Group which includes The Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS), Marinelife, Exeter University, Plymouth University, Chelonia Ltd and Marine Discovery.

The aims of this Consortium is to collate both historic data, and to co-ordinate collection of new survey and photographic data. We held a very successful conference in October 2016 with expert workshops which distilled thoughts and helped to formulate our programme of work. We have been lucky to have an MRes student, Rebecca Dudley, who has successfully all historic photo-identification images to answer the following questions:

  • Is there a distinct inshore coastal group of BND in SW?

  • What is the population abundance of BND in SW?

  • What is the population range of these regional animals?

Please see the link below for a download of the summary of these findings. This is hugely exciting and the SW Bottlenose Dolphin Consortium hopes to be able to use this evidence to progress work to better protect these animals in our waters.


We are calling on anyone who has bottlenose dolphin records and particularly photographs which could be used for photo identification, to join us in this collaborative project. Please submit any sightings or high res photo ID photos to:

If you have any questions about our bottlenose dolphin work or the consortium please contact;
Ruth Williams, Living Seas Manager, via email or call (01872) 302261.
See also:
Twitter: @rhdudley30

List of collaborators:
We would like to thank all current collaborators, the research conducted to date couldn’t have happened without your involvement:

Marine Discovery
Sue Sayer and CSGRT volunteers
Chris and Annabelle Lowe, Atlantic Divers
Ben Porter
Billy Heaney
Colin Speedie
Dan Murphy
Ross Wheeler
ERCCIS contributors
Dan Jarvis
Padstow Sealife Safaris


FilenameFile size
fact_sheet_bottlenose_dolphin_nov_22.pdf1023.57 KB
marine_acoustics_project_report_final.pdf391.74 KB