Bottlenose dolphins spotted on Yorkshire Coast during December 'for the first time'

Bottlenose dolphins have been spotted off the Yorkshire Coast in December for what is believed to be the first time.

Bottlenose dolphins in Scarborough. Photograph taken before December.
Bottlenose dolphins in Scarborough. Photograph taken before December.

Wildlife boat captain Sean Baxter saw the four animals near the village of Staithes, in Scarborough borough, on December 17.

A group of spotters then saw a group of 15 dolphins travelling in three groups, heading south towards Whitby later that day.

Robin Petch, an ambassador for Sea Watch Foundation, said: "There’s never been a sighting of bottlenose dolphins in December off the Yorkshire coast before.

"We normally see them during the spring in the summer months, into the autumn."

He believes the bottlenose dolphins, which are from the Moray Firth in Scotland, have been seen in Yorkshire in December for the first time because there are "better sources of food" and more trained spotters prepared to brave the winter conditions on the coast.

Mr Petch said they rarely ventured south of Aberdeen until the early 2000s but they are now spotted in Yorkshire several times each week in the spring and summer months.

He said their food supply has been depleted by industrial fishing in Scotland, but fish populations are flourishing in post-industrial Yorkshire because the water has become less polluted.

"They're foraging up and down the coast looking for a good food supply. Salmon and sea trout would be top of the menu," said Mr Petch.

"The River Esk is the last known salmon river in this part of the world, although you also get some salmon in The Humber."

He added: "Every sighting is really exciting for me because I saw many of the same dolphins back in the 1990s when I was supporting research up in Scotland, and at that time I never dreamed we'd even see one of them ever down here.

"We have perhaps up to half of the Moray Firth dolphins spending as much time in Yorkshire and the North East of England as they do in Scotland. Some of them are not being seen up there at all anymore."

Sea Watch Foundation and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have worked together to train more than 150 new whale, dolphin and porpoise observers in recent years and they have recorded more than 1,300 sightings.

They are compiling evidence which can be used to support the introduction of new measures to protect marine wildlife.