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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 August, 2003, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
More dolphin sightings around UK
Dolphin leaping
The public are helping provide a snapshot of Britain's sealife

People taking part in a survey to track the number of dolphins, porpoises and whales in British waters have reported an increased number of sightings.

The aquatic mammals were being counted during the National Whale and Dolphin Watching Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

The number logged by Sunday evening was up on the same time last year, with 56 reported sightings across the UK.

These include two schools of 30 common dolphins off Skomer Head in Wales, and a fin whale at Lizard Point, Cornwall, a particularly unusual sighting in that location.

Minke whales, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises have all been spotted in Scotland off the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

Declining populations
Porpoises showed widespread decline in Britain in the 1970s and 80s
White-beaked dolphins became scarcer in Northern Britain in the 1980s and 90s
Around 600,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales have been killed over the past 20 years
Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt large whales despite the ban on commercial whaling

Various other sightings have been logged in Orkney, the North West and the South West.

Although 380 sightings were recorded last year, the organisers Sea Watch Foundation say most of these were reported over the following weeks, and they are hopeful of beating that amount this year.

There are more than 28 different species of whales and dolphins in the water around Britain - 23 of which can be found around Scotland.

Jilly Giffen, who is co-ordinating the event, said: "We are way ahead in terms of sightings compared to last year and we've had a much wider spread of species spotted, too.

"If people are out on a boat, going walking or having a picnic on the coast, they will add to the database with what they see.

"Don't think it doesn't count if it's only one little porpoise. Whatever they see will be helpful."

Tamzin Outhwaite gets close to a dolphin
Volunteers don't have to get this close to make a sighting count

Individuals as well as sailing clubs, ferry companies and diving clubs have been taking part in the event.

The Sea Watch Foundation said the spotters were helping provide a vital snapshot of sealife, which would be used to protect the marine environment.

People were asked to report their sightings by e-mail or phone. Experts at Sea Watch can cross reference the sightings to make sure the creatures are not watched more than once.

The foundation says the sightings provide essential background information on different species, their status and distribution.

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