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Sunday Mail

Sunday 26 February 2012

Record numbers of whales and dolphins were spotted off the west coast last year, bringing tourists from across Europe.

Sightings increased by nearly 45 per cent in 2011 – with some rare visitors among them.

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust said the second-largest mammal on the planet,the fin whale, and 22 killer whales turned up.

One of the main boat operators said they recorded more than 10,000 individual dolphin sightings.

Nick Davies, of Gairloch-based Hebridean Whale Cruises, said: "It was an incredible year. We had visitors coming from Spain, Italy, Germany and France, as well as parts of Eastern Europe, just to see the whales and dolphins.

"It just shows that you do not have to go to Alaska or California. Without a shadow of a doubt, Scotland has become one of the whale-watching capitals of the world.

"We had super pods of 250-plus dolphins on a number of occasions and even mega pods of morethan 500.

"I think it is to do with global warming and their feed moving further north.

"You will see dolphins all around the year here – but the best time is between April and November, with mid-June the peak time."

In their annual sightings report, HWDT said the most commonly seen cetacean was the harbour porpoise.

After that, the most frequently reported species were the bottlenose dolphin, minke whale and basking shark.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: "The number of sightings has increased.

"But it is not just the total but the variety of species on show – there are 24 in Hebridean waters."

Notable sightings during 2011 also included a leatherback turtle, a sperm whale and two tuna.

(Extract from larger article in the Sunday Mail)

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