Our Community Impact award recognises Charity Bank borrowers that have made a significant positive impact on their local community or the community they serve through the work they do.
In the early 1980s, the UK’s first commercial whale watching operation was set up on the Isle of Mull to fund research about the animals. This was the beginning of what has since become a large-scale research, education and community outreach organisation championing the importance of the west coast of Scotland as an area for marine life.
In 1994, HWDT in its current form was founded from this initial endeavour and has continued to grow and extend its reach ever since. It now employs 11 full time equivalent staff and encourages the involvement of members of the public from across the area and the globe.
HWDT supports the remote communities of the Scottish west coast and islands to learn about and mindfully engage with local marine life. A Discovery Centre on the Isle of Mull offers a space to discover and learn, and roadshows across the islands have taken the important work of the HWDT to the most remote locations.
One of its biggest achievements has been the purchase of its own research vessel, Silurian. The Silurian has operated over a 15-year period so far, enabling the collection of a consistent data set on animal trends and behaviour essential for understanding and conserving the marine life.
Data collected by HWDT, through its own boat expeditions and its community monitoring schemes, provides an important baseline to understand the species in these western waters and to inform conservation needs. In 2016, the consistently high numbers of harbour porpoises recorded in the area led to the Scottish Government approving the first protected area in Scotland for the species.
A smartphone app, Whale Track, launched last summer and has proved a vital tool to assist members of the public to further contribute to the HWDT efforts. Over 300 people are already using the app from right across the Hebrides, showing the ever-increasing engagement of local communities.
The organisation wants to build on this public interest and continue increasing involvement of citizen scientists in the monitoring and care-taking of Hebridean marine life. It will also continue to amass data and begin collating and publishing the research in a series of marine mammal atlases.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, 2019 will see the official launch of the Hebridean Whale Trail, a network of land-based whale watching and heritage sites across the region.
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust received a loan from Charity Bank to carry out emergency repair works to its premises at 28 Main Street, now our Discovery Centre.