TV presenter Liz Bonnin has called for extra protections for Scotland’s global dolphin hotspot.

The Irish nature presenter and animal biologist, who worked on the Bafta-winning Big Blue Live, is a patron of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

As the Mull-based body reveals its new “marine atlas” covering 15 years’ worth of data on cetaceans and sharks, Bonnin says it is time to bring in extra safeguards for the west-coast waters that the trust says are a “global hotspot”.

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Bonnin said: “It is increasingly clear that the Hebrides is a truly special place for cetaceans and basking sharks, and that we need to do far more to protect them and their environment.

“I am thrilled to be able to lend my support to such an outstanding organisation which works directly towards these goals.”

Bonnin says she was “thrilled” to work on the trust’s research yacht Silurian, which has travelled more than 100,000 miles around the Hebrides since 2002, with voyages going from Kintyre to Cape Wrath and St Kilda.

During that time, 23 different dolphin, porpoise and whale species – a quarter of those known globally – and 30,000 individual animals have been recorded.

Discoveries include the Hebrides being a vital feeding ground for minke whales and basking sharks, and that the region is one of the most important areas for harbour porpoise in Europe.

The organisation’s evidence was used to identify the boundary of Scotland’s first protected area for harbour porpoise, approved by the Scottish Government in 2016.

It also established that the Hebrides supports the UK’s only resident population of killer whales.

Known as the West Coast Community, the eight-strong pod is expected to become extinct within just one generation as no calves have ever been seen.

And the Tobermory-based charity’s researchers were the first to suggest that bottlenose dolphins live year round off Scotland’s west coast.

The body also gathers data on sea temperatures, marine litter and underwater noise, with the scale of each threat on animal life still unclear.

More than 700 people have taken part on 200 expeditions, with leaders now recruiting volunteers to participate in marine surveys lasting up to two weeks in 2019.

Releasing the “marine atlas” today, the organisation said the “long, complex coastline” of the Hebridean islands, together with their “strong ocean currents, variety of habitats and the influence of the Gulf Stream all boost the area’s biological richness”.

The trust added: “With sea temperatures rising in the Hebrides, climate change may be a cause of a 20-fold increase in common dolphin sightings, as this species is generally found in warmer seas.

“Ongoing research is vital for monitoring such trends.”

The downloadable publication is backed by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Dr Lauren Hartny-Mills, science and policy manager, at the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, said: “This pioneering research is transforming our understanding of the Hebrides’ remarkable cetaceans, while offering new insights about trends and changes in the marine environment.”

The Hebridean Marine Mammal Atlas can be accessed at the organisation’s website: