With whales and dolphins found in increasing numbers off the coast, tour operators are seeing an upturn in visitor numbers
If you stand at the tip of Flamborough Head and look to sea, there’s a swathe of water along the Yorkshire coastline called the Flamborough Front. Cold water from the north meets warm water from the south, sparking convulsions of primary productivity. Plankton attract herring and herring attract feeding wildlife – not least, minke whales.
A generation ago there was little anecdotal evidence of cetaceans off the Yorkshire coast, but in recent years minke whales and bottlenose dolphins have been spotted regularly. Whitby Whale Watching was the first boat to start running tourist trips, in 2006, after recognising that minke whales had arrived in the area. Now there are three tour operators and a growing number of private charters – mostly run by diversifying fishermen based in Whitby and Staithes – offering whale-watching and marine wildlife trips. And business is booming. According to the North York Moors national park, wildlife watching has been one of the largest growth areas of visitor interest in 2019 and 2020. Humpback whales also make rare appearances, and there are seals and sea birds, too.