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Joint Cetacean Data Programme

'Cetacean data collation for conservation'

Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are highly mobile species inhabitating an environment that is challenging for us to observe and understand. The Joint Cetacean Data Programme (JCDP) aspires to deliver an accessible, growing resource of collated cetacean monitoring data in support of overcoming these obstacles by maximising use of existing information.


Data collation exercises (e.g. the JNCC-led Joint Cetacean Protocol; Marine Ecosystems Research Programme) have proven highly effective in increasing the value of the data by using them in combination. For example, the identification of areas of persistent density of harbour porpoise for designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). However, there is now a need to work with data providers in finding a solution to collating and storing these data long-term for continued use, to improve the UK capacity for analysing and understanding cetaceans using our waters.

UK-wide surveys of cetaceans to date have only occurred at approximately decadal intervals (e.g. SCANS – Small Cetaceans in European Atlantic waters and the North Sea), which limits our ability to understand population trends, even for the most common species in UK waters. Therefore, robust assessments of the conservation status of these species are generally not achievable. There is a substantial and growing resource in other sources of survey data that are gathered at different temporal and spatial scales around the UK by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), industry, academic and regional government-funded projects. Independently, these data have limited application given the highly mobile nature of these animals. However, when these data are collated they become an invaluable resource for a range of analyses to inform conservation and policy needs.

The JCDP will initially focus on working with UK data providers to maximise the application of these data, with potential to consider broadening the focus in collaboration with international partners. It is a stakeholder-inclusive project, with a workshop designed to gain input and agree a way forward. A project steering group has also been convened to ensure all views are represented throughout the development of the project.


Year 1 project aims

The aims for year 1 (Summer 2019 – Spring 2020) of the project include:

  1. Co-ordinate data protocols and submission requirements across cetacean data providers and data receivers, to enable collation in the JCDP: Cetacean data are collected using a variety of methods by different organisations and for a variety of purposes. Existing protocols will be reviewed and an umbrella standard will be developed, with input from stakeholders at the project workshop (Autumn 2019).
  2. Explore long-term data permissions and access protocols across data providers: There will be development of a 'data access plan' to suit the range of data providers and work towards as simple and open an agreement as possible to enable best use of the collated data.
  3. Scope and report on the options for continued collation and hosting/archiving of the cetacean database: An appraisal of the options and scope of work required to develop and maintain the data resource will be carried out, with recommendations for next steps to realise the aim of this potentially world-class resource.


Project funders


The JCDP is funded by DEFRA, through the Healthy and Biologically Diverse Seas Evidence Group (HBDSEG). 


Project partners




Project Steering Group


  • ORCA
  • MARINELife
  • The Wildlife Trusts
  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation
  • Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust


  • RenewableUK
  • Oil and Gas UK
  • RPS Group
  • Royal Haskoning
  • Hartley Anderson
  • Scottish Power


  • Natural England
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • UK Hydrographic Office
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Marine Scotland Science
  • Welsh Government
  • Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
  • National Parks & Wildlife Service
  • The Crown Estate


  • Marine Biological Association
  • University College Cork
  • Plymouth University
  • Exeter University


  • HiDef
  • Sea Mammal Research Unit Consulting
  • Sea Mammal Research Unit
  • Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
  • APEM
  • NIRAS Consulting ltd
  • Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling



Marine mammals

Published: .

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