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Joint Cetacean Data Programme

'Maximising the value of cetacean data through promotion and facilitation of standardisation and collation'

Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are highly mobile species inhabiting 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.

The report from Phase 1 (2019–2020) of the work can be found below in Section 2 (Phase 1 Project objectives).


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 is a stakeholder-inclusive project, with a steering group convened to ensure all views are represented throughout the development of the project. The objective is to maximise the value of individual cetacean datasets through promotion of a standardised approach to data collection and storage, and facilitation of collated use.


Phase 1 project objectives

Phase 1 of the JCDP is now complete. The primary objectives for Phase 1 (Summer 2019 – Spring 2020) of the project included:

  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 have been reviewed and a draft Data Standard has been developed, with input from stakeholders at the project workshop (Autumn 2019).
  2. Explore long-term data permissions and access protocols across data providers: A draft Data Policy has been developed to consider the needs for submission, storage and access to the data within the JCDP. There is a need 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 was carried out, and recommendations for next steps to realise the aim of this resource have been submitted to funders.

The Phase 1 report outlines the approach for delivery of the objectives and summarises the outcomes. The Annexes include draft Data Standards Protocol and Data Policy documents, which represent the initial stages in the development of project standards and policies with regards to collection, storage, submission and use of data forming part of the JCDP.


Project manager



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



Marine mammals

Published: .

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