Efforts by CalMac to build better environmental partnerships across the west coast have been recognised by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry.

The trade body awarded the ‘Crown Estate Scotland Award for Excellence in a Marine Business’ to the ferry operator for its work in building up working relationships with wildlife groups.

CalMac approached Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Marine Scotland last year to see how the company could help capture a range of environmental and scientific observational data.

“With set year round routes CalMac was ideally placed as a platform for the monitoring of the marine environment,” said the company’s environmental manager, Klare Chamberlain.

“We offered our vessels to help with wildlife surveys and both organisations were keen to get involved.”

After further discussions the partnership developed into a citizen science project using volunteers to gather data on-board.

The aim of the project is to help the Scottish Government further understand the status of marine wildlife in Scottish seas.

And the project – which involved marine bird and mammal surveys carried out from CalMac vessels – was backed by SNH, Marine Scotland, RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology, Argyll Bird Club, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, ORCA, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

“Our pilot was very successful with over 390 animals observed by ORCA staff from the bridges of our vessels,” continued Klare.

“We are planning a full survey next year and also a pilot Marine Bird Survey later this year.  I’m delighted our initial success has been recognised by the SCDI.”