Displaying items by tag: Irish Whale and Dolphin Group
#CELTIC MIST - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's (IWDG) new research vessel is finally set for its official launch three weeks from this coming Sunday.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Celtic Mist - the yacht formerly sailed by late Taoiseach Charles Haughey - was gifted by the Haughey family to the IWDG to assist in its marine wildlife conservation work.
The boat relocated to its new home berth in the Shannon Estuary at Kilrush, Co Clare in July last year - after one last hurrah in its former guise by completing a leg of last summer's Tall Ships Races from Waterford to Greenock in Scotland.
Celtic Mist entered dry dock last November for its necessary refit as a maritime research vessel, while the IWDG sought funding to complete the more than €60,000 project.
With a year gone by since the IWDG first took over the yacht, she is finally back on the water and undergoing the last few finishing touches before her first mission - which may involve tracking the elusive blue whale in Irish waters.
Internally, she is a very different vessel to the one that Charles Haughey sailed, with the aft cabin stropped out and replaced by berths for skipper and crew.
According to IWDG co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow, there is also "a science area where towed and dipping hydrophones and environmental logging software will be run."
The engine room, meanwhile, has been "completely cleaned out and painted including opening and de-greasing of the fuel tanks".
Berrow adds that there is "still considerable work to be done", explaining that the masts and rigging require inspection, aside from all the "painting, sanding, varnishing and more painting to be completed".
The plumbling and electrics also need to be finished, but Berrow says the refitting team is "making rapid progress".
All are welcome to the official launch of the Celtic Mist on Sunday 12 August at 2pm at Kilrush Creek Marina in Co Clare. For more details visit the yacht's official website at www.rvcelticmist.ie.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - Ten different cetacean species were accounted for among 143 sightings validated by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) for the month of June.
"It’s tempting to overinterpret sightings from a single month’s snapshot," said IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley. "But we are confident that these 143 sightings... represent a reasonable sample size."
The number is less than half of the 315 records for the same month in 2009, which Whooley says "illustrates how big an influence the weather is on our ability to detect cetaceans".
Basking shark sightings are particularly down after the worst June weather on record. "There is strong evidence that the 2012 shark season is as good as over," said Whooley, noting that this year's sightings peaked as early as April.
There was a flurry of minke and humpback whale sightings off Dublin and the Kish Bank in mid-June - possibly related to the rare sighting of a minke whale breaching in the Irish Sea.
However, the vast majority of activity for these large marine mammals is off the south and southwest, with Slea Head and Dingle Bay enjoying the highest diversity.
Orcas, minke whales, humpbacks and a "blubber biomass" of six fin whales were all spotted off the Kerry coast in June, not to mention the month's largest concentration of dolphins - some 400 common dolphins spotted off Clogher Head on 10 June.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has much more on the June findings HERE.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - The mystery creature washed up on a Co Clare beach last month has been confirmed to be a long-finned pilot whale, and not a narwhal as had been alleged.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the situation was a source of puzzlement for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) as the carcass was removed from Liscannor beach before their scientists could examine the remains.
Experts had been hoping to verify an eyewitness report that the carcass was indeed that of a narwhal, an Arctic cetacean renowned for its unicorn-like tusk. It would have been the first recorded sighting of a narwhal in Irish waters.
But RTÉ News reports that images sent to the IWDG confirm at last the identity of the animal as a long-finned pilot whale.
It marks the fourth reported stranding of a pilot whale in Co Clare and the 16th around Ireland this year alone.
The IWDG added that it was "always sceptical that the whale was a narwhal", and said Clare County Council did not deserve the criticism it received for removing the carcass over public health concerns.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - Researchers with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) have arrived in Cape Verde to continue their studies on the North Atlantic humpback whale.
In what is the fourth expedition by the IWDG to the islands off the west coast of Africa, Conor Ryan and Darren Craig will be collecting biopsy samples to study the whale's genetics and analyse for persistant organic pollutants in their habitat. They will also be recording whale song and collecting photo ID images.
According to the IMDG: "All these techniques are helping us to build up a picture of how isolated this population is, about the geographic range of these whales, and how large the population is."
#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has confirmed a new humpback whale sighting, this time in Northern Ireland.
According to the IWDG, this is the third consecutive year that a humpback whale has been spotted in Northern Irish waters, with this sighting being only the fourth ever validated record for the species in the North.
IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley described it as "an important development [that] highlights a trend towards increased sightings of this large baleen whale species in Irish waters."
He also remarked on the "unusual" location of the sighting in the fast-running waters of the Strangford Narrows at the Ards Peninsula.
The discovery comes just a week after confirmed sighting of two humpback whales at the opposite end of the island of Ireland, off Galley Head in West Cork, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - This past weekend saw confirmation that two humpback whales have made an unseasonal visit to Irish waters.
As previously noted on Afloat.ie, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) had received reports of a sighting of the large cetaceans by birdwatchers off Galley Head in West Cork - an event described as "unusual" by sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley.
But as the Irish Independent reports, those sightings have now been confirmed after IWDG members spotted the humpback pair near The Stags at Castlehaven harbour.
The team was able to get close enough to collect skin samples as well as photo identification, which confirmed that one of the duo is completely new to these waters.
Whooley commented: "Why these two young humpbacks are here during spring, when years of data shows them to be absent in these months, is a mystery."
The Irish Independent has more on the story HERE.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - The mystery disappearance of an allegedly rare whale carcass from a Co Clare beach last week has been solved.
As The Irish Times reports, Clare County Council admitted yesterday that the "badly decomposed whale" was removed from Liscannor beach "due to public health concerns".
The vanishing of the creature had been a source of puzzlement to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), after scientists dispatched to examine the carcass found no trace on arrival.
Experts had been hoping to verify whether the carcass was indeed that of a narwhal, an Arctic cetacean renowned for its unicorn-like tusk.It would have been the first recorded sighting of a narwhal in Irish waters.
Max Halliday from Shannon, who reported the find to the IWDG, said he was "convinced that what I saw is a narwhal. It had the long tusk protruding from its head, but its head was badly damaged. I am absolutely mad that I didn't take a photo."
According to the Irish Independent, the IWDG had appealed to those responsible for removing the whale to get in touch so the remains could be transferred to the Natural History Museum.
But it has since emerged that the creature was taken to a rendering plant in Derry by a team contracted by the council.
A spokesperson for Clare County Council said no remains of a tusk were found in the removal operation.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - At least two humpback whales have been spotted by birdwatchers off Galley Head in West Cork, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
"This is the first time since the large whale project commenced in 1999 that humpback whales have been recorded along the Irish south or coast during April, which has been up till now the one month in which large whales have consistently been absent from our inshore waters," said IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley.
The timing of this sighting was described by Whooley as "unusual". He also confirmed that one of the whales was recorded off Hook Head in Co Wexford in late January and early February of this year, which dispells the hypothesis that large whales leave Irish waters after the herring season in the southeast.
Meanwhile, Whooley sounded a word of caution for anyone hoping to spot the humpbacks for themselves, as the "sheer numbers of basking sharks about" often result in false sightings.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has more on the story, including images, HERE.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - Two killer whales have been spotted near Kinsale in recent weeks, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports.
Two separate sightings of the orca pair near Barry's Head have been confirmed by the group, via photos provided by John Murphy and Richard Cussen on 5 March, during what is normally the 'low season' for whale watching in Ireland.
The pair comprises one adult male and a smaller whale which is likely an adult female. It is not yet known, however, whether the whales are new to Irish or Scottish waters.
According to the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley, it is "interesting that they have stayed close to their original position and suggests they may have found 'rich pickings'".
In other news, the Whale and Dolphin Roadshow will be at the Galway Shopping Centre from 22-25 March in time for the European Cetacean Society Conference.
The roadshow "is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about whales, dolphins and porpoise of the ASCOBANS region" that encompasses the Baltic Sea, Northeast Atlantic and Irish and North Seas.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - The rate of cetacean strandings on the Irish coast remains unusually high, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
The group's Cetacean Stranding Scheme recorded 162 strandings in 2011 which, while numbers do vary from year to year, was 25-30 more than anticipated.
And already this year the numbers are up on last year's 'inexplicable' records for the first quarter.
Some 21 strandings were reported to the IWDG in January alone - the highest ever number recorded for that month, well above the average of 13.
February's figures are even more worrying, with 30 strandings reported this year compared to a five-year average of 11.4.
"As we are now well into 2012, it is clear that the numbers have not returned to what we could have considered to be more normal levels," said the group in a statement.
There is as yet no explanation, whether a single cause or a number of factors, for what might be causing this significant rise in strandings of both live and dead animals, although one curious clue is "the number of carcasses which had washed ashore with tail fluke/fins apparently cut away".
In other IWDG news, the group recently announced the receipt of £2,000 (€2,400) core funding support from Scottish-based veterinary X-ray firm BCF Technology Ltd, which funds a number of charities through its BCF Foundation.