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Marine Mammals

The waters surrounding the Llyn Peninsula are home to a large population of sea mammals that thrive on the rich undersea life. In the summer, the warm currents bring dense shoals of Sand eels that form the staple diet for larger fish, such as the Mackerel, and the seabirds and the marine mammals of the area. In turn, the Mackerel falls prey to the larger marine mammals such as the Bottle-Nosed Dolphins.

Wildlife photos from Alan Gray: 

Grey seals (left), bottle-nose dolphins (middle, right)

The area is an important refuge for Grey Seals. They are larger and far more robust than their relatives, the Common Seal, an inhabitant of the eastern coasts of the United Kingdom. Large breeding colonies are located at both the St. Tudwal’s archipelago and Bardsey Island, with smaller, isolated groups living along the northern coast, such as the small number found near Porth Dinllaen.

The Harbour Porpoise is regularly seen some way offshore, but usually only singly or in very small numbers. On our “Shearwater Coastal Cruises" (www.shearwatercruises.com), we normally see them out at sea off Porth Ceiriad and on the way to Bardsey Island, a few miles out from Hell’s Mouth. The Harbour Porpoise unfortunately seems to be under some form of environmental pressure and is thought to be in decline worldwide.

By far the most popular feature of our coastal cruises is the regular encounters with dolphins. We mainly see the Bottle-nosed Dolphins, although we have seen Common and Risso’s Dolphins to the west of Bardsey Island and in Bardsey Sound. The largest pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins encountered comprised a minimum of 14 individuals off Llanbedrog headland. They normally, however, join “Shearwater” some way off Cilan Head or Rhiw headland but we have also encountered them near Criccieth.

Whilst the Bottle-nosed Dolphins of Cardigan Bay do seem to be thriving, there is some concern that increased leisure boating activity in the area may put them under environmental pressure. The Marine Conservation Society has issued guidelines for boat users, which you can read on the final page of this section.

Other marine mammals do occasionally venture into the local waters. Sightings of whales, mainly Pilot and Minke Whales have been recorded in the Southwest of the area. Myself and other divers have certainly heard the very eerie and soulful call of whales when we have been underwater, diving on a deep pinnacle to the west of Bardsey Island. These calls however are capable of travelling considerable distances underwater, so it is difficult to estimate how far away the animal was at the time.

A Grey Seal


"Shearwater" offers wildlife tours of south and west Llyn, taking in
some of the most spectacular coastline and wildlife in the country. For more information, please visit www.shearwatercruises.com

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