LYME Bay is more important for the study of dolphins and large marine animals than previously thought.

Over the last couple of weeks there has been more sea life sightings, reports the Bridport-based charity MARINElife.

A basking shark was seen in the middle of Lyme Bay, swimming by the boat among a plankton bloom.

On the same day, several white-beaked dolphins and common dolphins were also seen putting on spectacular displays. Bottlenose Dolphins have continued to be seen regularly off West Bay, including a dozen in one day.

A few days later another MARINElife survey into the deeper waters of Lyme Bay onboard West Bay’s Huntress II spotted a new group of white-beaked dolphins – identifiable by unique notches in their dorsal fins.

This rare species is the subject of a research project, as Lyme Bay represents the most southerly location in Europe where this animal is regularly seen. MARINElife has been undertaking sea surveys off the Dorset coast and in Lyme Bay since 2005, mainly by using volunteers and catching a lift from friendly skippers, due to the high cost of chartering vessels for dedicated surveys.

Dr Tom Brereton, the charity’s research director, said: “The surveys are showing that Lyme Bay is more important for dolphins and other large marine animals than previously thought.

“But our knowledge base is still poor and more survey effort is needed.”

Andrew McIeish, development manager, has recently moved to the Bridport area to help raise funds for the charity and its vital research and to provide a local focus.

He said: “Our charity depends on our network of volunteers and supporters to function.

“We have exciting plans to put West Dorset and Lyme Bay on the map as a key area for dolphin and other marine wildlife. We need your help to do this.

“If you are interested in supporting the charity or volunteering to help raise awareness about Lyme Bay dolphins and generate vital funds please get in touch with me.”

Mr McIeish can be contacted directly by e-mail at andrew.mcleish@ or by telephone on 01297 489536.