Displaying items by tag: Cuvier's Beaked Whales
The hooded seal was spotted by Helen Tilson of Schull Sea Safari on the mudflats at Toormore Bay in West Cork on New Year’s Day, and represents only the fourth or fifth Irish record for the Arctic marine wildlife species.
Video recorded by Tilson of the animal “removed any doubt” it was a a hooded seal “as it shows the nasal sac starting to balloon as she approached it, and it made a growling roar, the likes of which I’ve never heard from one of our grey seal bulls”, according to IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley.
It’s believed this particular seal is a sub-adult male “in rather thin condition”, which is to be expected as it is so far south of its usual range.
Meanwhile, reports of four stranded Cuvier’s beaked whale carcasses within 12 days and 70km of each other in December have prompted fears of a new mass stranding event for the deep water species.
The IWDG’s Mick O’Connell said all four were recorded along the Cork coast, beginning in Tragumna (16 December) and followed by Castlepoint in Roaringwater Bay (17 Dec), Lislevane in Clonakilty (21 Dec) and offshore at Galley Head (27 Dec).
“For the third time in five years we are looking at an unusual mass stranding of Cuvier’s beaked whales on the Irish coast, likely caused by a single event at sea,” he said.
But the situation as yet defies explanation. “Without specialised post-mortem of very freshly dead animals … we can’t even establish cause of death,” O’Donnell added.
#MarineWildlife - The Department of Foreign Affairs will assist with an investigation into the extraordinary numbers of Cuvier’s beaked whale deaths in Irish waters over recent weeks.
Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has “instructed his department, in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to initiate discussions regarding these about large number of stranded Cuvier's beaked whales with the UK authorities,” according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the IWDG had expressed concern over the large numbers of dead beaked whales washed up on Ireland’s North West coast last month.
The total of whale strandings since the beginning of August has now risen to 58 across Ireland and Scotland, many of them Cuvier’s or True’s beaked whales, as BBC News reports.
Following the discovery of five beaked whales in a single day at the start of August, the IWDG says a minimum of 16 — a new Irish record — were recorded along the North West coast from Galway to Donegal between 3 and 22 August.
“During the same period, at least 13 were found in Scotland and two in Iceland,” said IWDG strandings officer Mick O’Connell.
“Previous studies have suggested that only a small number of dead animals actually get washed ashore and recorded, so the number of dead animals may be significantly higher.”
While no cause of death has been established, due to the poor condition of the carcasses, it appears that the animals all died around the same time, which “makes causes such as disease, plastic ingestion etc seem unlikely as these would tend to be spread out over a longer time period and perhaps geographical range,” O’Connell said.
“The behaviour and distribution of this species makes large-scale fisheries interaction also seem unlikely.”
Sonar use has been suspected as a cause in previous similar strandings. “Mass strandings of beaked whales coincidental with naval exercises have been recorded in Greece, the Canaries and the Bahamas,” O’Connell said.
The Naval Service in Ireland does not use sonar on its vessels.
But in Dingle, she’s just another acquaintance for Fungie in his daily adventures.
#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has issued a joint statement with fellow marine wildlife conservation groups on what's been labelled as "an unusual mortality event" involving Cuvier's beaked whales in Scotland and Ireland.
Last month, scientists in Scotland said they were baffled by the "unusually large number" of strandings of the deep-water whale species, rarely seen because they feed so far below the surface.
More recently, the Sunday World reported on further strandings on beaches around Ireland – leading some experts to point the finger at the suspected use of sonar in the British navy's alleged search for a rogue Russian submarine at the end of last year.
The joint statement says there are "many case studies from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and Mediterranean Sea where mass strandings of this species were linked to exercised using military sonar.
"Furthermore, a controlled exposure experiment has demonstrated prolonged reactions by some beaked whale species to navy sonar."
However, only anecdotal evidence of any naval sonar activity in the affected areas exists, and the Naval Service has told The Irish Times that it had no knowledge of any such activity over that period.
Similarly, the Department of Energy said no seismic surveys had been conducted offshore since October, and that any such surveys – a significant source of underwater noise that can be harmful to cetaceans – must comply with National Parks and Wildlife Service Guidelines.
The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.
#MarineWildlife - Could the recent mass strandings of Cuvier's beaked whales in British and Irish waters be connected with the recent real-life 'Hunt for Red October'?
Last month scientists in Scotland were baffled by an "unusually large number" of strandings of the deep-water whale species, rarely seen because they feed so far below the surface.
And as the Sunday World reports, even more have been found washed up on beaches around Ireland since then, amid an alarmingly high rate of cetacean strandings for the start of this year that includes the killer whale beached in Waterford last week.
While the recent severe weather systems from the Atlantic have been suggested as a possible cause, another culprit might be the British navy's search for a rogue Russian submarine at the end of last year.
Mick O’Connell of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says that loud sonar such as that used to detect submarines can distress deep-diving whales into surfacing too fast and getting 'the bends'.
It's believed that all eight of the beaked whales washed up in Ireland died in the same incident.
Though their actual cause of death cannot be determined, decompression sickness has been suggested as reason for the earlier Scottish whale deaths.
The Sunday World has more on the story HERE.
Five of the rarely seen species were found washed up on Scotland's west coast in late December, a five-fold rise on the annual average.
And as Dr Conor Ryan of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust states, there are "no obvious clues as to what is causing such an obvious increase in strandings."
Recent stormy conditions may be a factor, he said, but alone they don't explain "why we are finding just one deep-diving species in such high numbers."
According to BBC Earth, Cuvier's beaked whales are the deepest diving of any large marine wildlife, plunging almost 3km into the depths in search of food, thanks to a unique physiology that allows them to withstand the crushing pressures and lack of oxygen.
It's possible that the whales may have succumbed to 'the bends' – which killed 14 beaked whales that washed up in the Canaries in 2002 – but the poor condition of the carcasses has ruled out any clues that a postmortem might provide.
The Scotsman has more on the story HERE.