Bottlenose Dolphin

There are five species of true dolphin sighted in British waters, the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) being the most frequently seen.

Cardigan Bay is one of only two areas in UK waters hosting a semi-resident population of bottlenose dolphins (the other is found in the Morray Firth in Scotland).

Worldwide bottlenose dolphins are a cosmopolitan species, widely distributed in a range of mainly near-shore coastal habitats and absent only from polar waters . The status of bottlenose dolphins in British and Irish waters is unknown; worldwide, the species is threatened by fisheries and net by-catch as well as habitat degradation and other anthropogenic influences.

Information to date suggests that Cardigan Bay dolphins represent a mobile and wide-ranging population. Individuals recorded regularly along the southern coast of the Bay have also been seen both north and south of the SAC. Over 300 bottlenose dolphins are known to be using Cardigan Bay, around 200 in any year, with numbers increasing throughout the summer and reaching a peak in late September and October.

The coast between New Quay and Cemaes Head has been the area of greatest observer effort over the years, with dolphins often sighted within the SAC off headlands and in more sheltered areas near New Quay, Ynys Lochtyn, Aberporth, Mwnt, and the Teifi Estuary.

What can you do to help?

If you are out at sea please follow the Ceredigion Marine Code.

Cardigan Bay is an important place for bottlenose dolphins as they use the area to reproduce, nurture and feed their young. Excessive disturbance can have a negative impact on their energy budget, affecting their overall health or lead to their displacement from the area.

Please don’t litter and help us keep our beaches and coastal waters clean. Litter in the marine environment is extremely long lived and can have a detrimental effect on marine mammals who may become entangled or choke on plastics or other waste, as they may mistake it for prey species such as jellyfish.

For those who live in the area and are keen to observe dolphins there is the possibility of taking part in ‘Dolphin Watch’, our land based volunteering programme monitoring the interaction between the dolphins and boating activities. For further information please contact the Cardigan Bay Marine Protected Area Officer, Melanie Heath at or phone 01545 561074.

Bottlenose dolphin fact file

Description: Bottlenose dolphins grow to an average length of 3.1 to 3.7 metres (10 -12 ft), reaching up to 4m in UK waters where they are on the edge of their northern range.

Behaviour: Bottlenose dolphins appear to use Cardigan Bay for all essential activities including feeding, socialising and nurture of their young, with a preference for areas of strong tidal currents near headlands and estuaries.

Diet: Fish, crustaceans & molluscs

Reproduction:Males reach sexual maturity at age 10-12 whilst female can start reproducing between at age 5-12. Females give birth to a single calf every 4 to 6 years after a gestation period of 12 months. Calves will suckle for 18 to 24 months but the mother calf bond can last up to 6 years.

Local numbers: Over 300 bottlenose dolphins are known to be using Cardigan Bay, around 200 in any year, with numbers increasing throughout the summer and reaching a peak in late September and October.