The Moray Firth contains one of the best known resident groups of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in UK waters. However, despite concerns over the fate of these animals, few data exist on the size or status of this or other small cetacean populations around Britain. In August 1989, a coordinated survey was carried out around the coast of the Moray Firth to obtain a minimum estimate of the number of bottlenose dolphins present in the area. A minimum of 62 dolphins was counted during the survey, including at least seven calves. Most animals were observed in the inner part of the Moray Firth, particularly in the narrow mouths of the Cromarty, Beauly and Inverness Firths. These results show that coordinated land-based surveys can provide a useful first estimate of the population size of coastal small populations.