New laser photography is to be used for “pioneering” research into the health of
whales and dolphins around the Western Isles.
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust will start using the techniques in this summer’s
survey in the Minch.
Laser photogrammetry equipment will collect vital new information to assess the overall
health of whales.
Becky Dudley, the trust’s marine biodiversity officer, said: “This new equipment
will help build a greater understanding of individual whales’ movements, behaviour
and overall health, and help us evaluate their interactions with manmade items in
the marine environment.”
The bespoke equipment works by placing two dots of light – of a known distance, typically
around 10 centimetres – onto the body of an animal at the same time a photograph
The technique will be used to measure the length of the animals – helping to determine
numbers of young whales, assess body conditions for parasites such as sea lice, and
classify marks and scars from interactions with marine plastic and fishing gear.
The Hebrides and west coast is an important feeding ground for migratory minke whales.
The trust has catalogued 230 of the species over 15 years of volunteers collecting
data from its research yacht Silurian. Many of the whales return to the same feeding
Fiona Manson, a specialist at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “Hebridean Whale and
Dolphin Trust and its volunteers are making an important contribution to marine conservation
“We’re excited by the innovative techniques trust using to find out more about the
health of wildlife in Scotland’s seas.”
“The data collected over the years has helped us understand more about our marine
wildlife and how to look after it, and this is an invaluable way to better connect
people to nature in their local area.”
Pioneering laser technology aids whale study in Hebrides