Whale watching season starts as we welcome ORCA officers back on board

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Having just returned from their first crossing through the wildlife-rich Bay of Biscay, the ORCA wildlife officers (from the whale and dolphin charity) were excited to have spotted the pod of dolphins playing on the bow wave of Cap Finistère as well spotting the first 'whale blow' of the season.

This year, we're happy to welcome five new wildlife officers on board in a team of six - three will take up residence on Cap Finistère unitl 28 September and three will be on our flagship, Pont-Aven from, 5 April to 5 July. For the first crossing of the season, all the team were on board Cap Finistère together.

Harriet Cole, 27, was one of the volunteer ORCA wildlife officers making her first trip. Following three days of training, she and her fellow wildlife officers are now looking forward to the season ahead.

"I have learnt so much from ORCA and the Brittany Ferries crew have been so welcoming and friendly," she said. "We already had some wonderful sightings of common dolphins playing in the bow waves, and we even saw a large whale blow - although sadly it was too far away to identify. 

"I really enjoyed data logging: I felt really proud when I was able to complete the entries myself and can't wait for my first official trip on board Pont-Aven. I really hope to see a sperm whale from the ship, as I hold a special place for this species in my heart."

The Bay of Biscay is renowned for the diversity of whale and dolphin species that can be observed here and it's one of the world's hot spots for whale and dolphin watching. Out of the 87 species of whale and dolphin found around the world, 31 can be found in the Bay of Biscay including fin whales, sperm whales, striped dolphins and killer whales.

On board, the ORCA wildlife officers collect vital data about the marine animals that are sighted from Cap Finistère and Pont-Aven. And, if you don't find them out on deck organising deck watches, then they'll be indoors giving interactive talks to customers and hosting children's activities and quizzes to share their knowledge and passion for the marine environment and its wildlife.

With the help of ORCA, we are hosting seven whale and dolphin watching cruises this year with departure dates from June to September. These triangular mini-cruises leave from Portsmouth crossing the Bay of Biscay to Santander in Northern Spain before returning to Plymouth on Pont-Aven.

Last year, passengers on these cruises reported seeing 2,263 common dolphins, numerous beaked whales and even a killer whale! And the Bay of Biscay is also great for bird watchers: it's home to an abundant and diverse seabird population too.

You can find out more about our work with ORCA in our environment section.

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