Last May, three Orca whales and hundreds of basking sharks were seen off the Lizard. Sharks, whales, dolphins, turtles and seals off our shores are not uncommon. They are fairly difficult to see because they are usually a long way out and all you will see is a fin sticking out of the water, so you need powerful binoculars and a lot of patience. And the experts have one or two 'tricks of the trade' up their sleeves to make it easier to find them.
Very little is known about the life histories of these large sea creatures and it is to try and fill those gaps in knowledge that SeaQuest was launched, first in Cornwall in 1997, and then last year in South Devon.
Seaquest is a joint project with Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Devon Wildlife Trust and the aim is to cover the whole south-west peninsula. This summer Jenny Glanville, from Devon Wildlife Trust, will be based in Ilfracombe, and she will be in charge of recording the whole North Devon coast, from the Cornwall border to Somerset.
Visitors to the coast are being asked to keep an eye out for large sea creatures. Not to make any special visits to the coast, but just to keep a good look-out when out walking, on the beach, fishing, or boating.
And to report to Devon Wildlife Trust or Cornwall Wildlife Trust on all sightings, whether of live animals in the sea, stranded on the beach, or dead ones. If reports are made of dead animals quickly enough, with details of the location, a post mortem can be carried out to find out, not only why the animal died, but information about diet, state of health, age, all sorts of information.
It doesn't matter if your animal has already been reported, it's better to get two reports than for everyone to assume that someone else has done it.
We are trying to get more information about these animals, their lifestyle, the amount of territory they need, food, effects of pollution, other threats they face, so that we can know how best to protect them.
Jenny Glanville will be at the talk to explain what has been discovered so far with the project and how everyone can help here in North Devon. There will be other speakers, Pippa Morrison will explain exactly what she will be up to on the beach in Ilfracombe this summer, and Stephen Westcott will talk about work he has done with grey seals.