The shape of fins to come in the Forth?
THEY are among the most graceful creatures on the planet.
The dolphins which visit Scotland’s north-east coast every year attract wildlife enthusiasts from across the country to watch them frolic close to the Moray Firth shore.
Now a dramatic increase in sightings of the same bottle-nosed dolphins in the Firth of Forth is promising to create another mini-tourist attraction on Edinburgh’s doorstep.
The dolphins have been seen leaping from the water a few hundred yards off the coastline near the mouth of the estuary.
Word of the sightings has brought a growing number of dolphin-spotters to the East Lothian coast, in particular, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the animals.
Tom Brock, director of the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick, said: "We have seen them from the centre both this year and last year and they are quite close in to the shoreline.
"We have now become an official dolphin watching station and have been training staff on what to look for.
"It really is great to see them, and with our remote-controlled cameras on the Isle of May, Fidra, and the Bass Rock we are able to spot them in good wide range of sea in the approaches to the Forth."
He added: "We beam the pictures back to the centre where people can see them for themselves.
"I would appeal to anyone who does see a dolphin to get in touch with us because it is important to log all the sightings to get as clear a picture as possible of the sightings."
Other experts monitoring the movements of the Moray Firth dolphins said they believed the mammals were heading south in the hunt for food.
Peter Evans, director of the Oxford-based Sea Watch Foundation, which monitors marine life throughout the UK, said: "The dolphins have been sighted in groups of 20 to 30 in the Forth. I think it would be fair to say it has increased by somewhere around 20 per cent."
He added that the growing number of sightings in the Lothians appeared to confirm fears that the animals were unhappy with conditions in their traditional home in the Moray Firth.
"If the area these dolphins were based in is good and they were able to sustain their population, then why would they move?" said Mr Evans.
The bottle-nosed dolphins have been traditionally associated with the Moray Firth near Inverness, where Scotland’s only resident pod of 130 bottle-nosed dolphins is feared to be under threat from over-fishing.
Marine experts believe the dolphins spotted in the Forth have not yet set up home here, preferring to return north after feeding forays into the area. Dolphins have also been spotted along the coast between Granton and Eyemouth.
Eric Hoyt, an award-winning natural history author and senior research associate with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "They could be looking for new sources of food outside of the Moray Firth, so it would be interesting to see if they adopt the Firth of Forth as a permanent feeding ground."
The problems faced by the bottle-nosed colony in the Moray Firth have been well documented.
Scientists at Aberdeen University, who have closely monitored and recorded the pod by an advanced system of photo-identification, are predicting that if the decline in the population continues at the current rate, within 50 years all the dolphins in this area will be extinct.
Police recently warned that the dolphins could be at risk because of the use of illegal fishing nets. Northern Constabulary said the nets of salmon poachers are the main threat to the pod.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east