HWDT Celebrates 25th Birthday!

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Today marks a really special day for us here at HWDT - we are celebrating our 25th birthday!

The Trust was established on the 15th March 1994 and originally operated out of Dervaig on the Isle of Mull.  Since 1998, the colourful harbour of Tobermory has been home to our bustling office, Discovery Centre and, from 2002 onwards, mooring for our research vessel Silurian.

In those initial years, very little was known about Hebridean whales, dolphins and porpoises, so Richard Fairbairns, with the help of marine mammal scientists Vassili Papastrou, Jonathan Gordon and Peter Evans, founded the Mull Cetacean Project in 1982 to find out more. As the project grew it began to cover a diverse range of issues and encompass a wider area, and HWDT was born to develop the research and education work that had been started.  

A small charity, from a small town, we are still true to our roots and believe in a community-based approach to research and conservation. Every single data point in our databases has been contributed by a member of the public and, through our education and outreach programmes, we engage with more than 20,000 people each year to highlight the importance of the marine environment.

Large-scale citizen science projects are the foundation of our monitoring efforts. Over the last 25 years, a remarkable 4,000 people have either joined us on board Silurian or submitted a sighting to us. Between them they have helped survey over 200,000 kilometres of Hebridean seas - that’s the equivalent of sailing five times around the world! In that time, an incredible 160,000 individual animals have been counted during 42,000 sightings!

This staggeringly impressive public effort has helped us to learn a great deal about Hebridean cetaceans and basking sharks, and is contributing to marine conservation policy in Scotland.

Long-term monitoring of this nature remains our main priority to ensure we can continue to provide the evidence needed to develop effective conservation measures to protect Scotland’s remarkable marine wildlife for future generations.

The last 25 years has been made possible by the commitment and passion of many members of staff, volunteers and Trustees, and the generous contributions from our supporters and funders. The collaborative nature of our work means that we are also grateful to colleagues at other organisations and institutions for their input.   

Over the coming months we will be celebrating some of the people and sharing stories that have helped shape HWDT into the thriving organisation we are today, working towards healthy Hebridean seas for whales, dolphins, porpoises and people.