Displaying items by tag: killer whales
Sea angling brothers John and Pat Cunningham described the "beautiful sight" of two orcas who emerged from the water by their rowing boat half a mile from the coast off Glencolmcille.
"I've only ever seen them in the North Sea when I was commercial fishing up there", said John of the unexpected rendezvous.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's record of the sighting speculates that the killer whales may be the same pair spotted off Mizen Head in Cork on 11 June and Slea Head in Kerry a day later.
Killer whales are a rare sight so close to the shore but they are no strangers to Donegal - as last year's appearance of a well known orca pod in Lough Swilly demonstrates.
However, fears were expressed earlier this year that that particular family, often seen off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland, is on the 'brink of extinction'.
#MarineWildlife - Sperm whales and a killer whale were among the finds on the last big effort of this year's Cetaceans on the Frontier survey led jointly by the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, marine scientists from GMIT's Marine and Freshwater Research Centre are on board the RV Celtic Explorer to carry out the fourth dedicated survey of cetaceans on the continental shelf edge.
The ship was surveying a zig-zag pattern in the Atlantic yesterday 2 February, some 55 nautical miles west-by-northwest of Achill Island (visible on this map HERE) when the team encountered at least two sperm whales, though an elusive third may also have been present - as indicated by the hydrophone being towed 200m behind the vessel.
"The blows continued and as we got closer, more and more body of the surfacing whale could be seen until we were treated to some reasonable views of the steep nose, long flat back and stumpy dorsal fin on initial surfacing followed by a thick tail stock with ‘knuckles’ seen when flaking," writes Niall Keogh on the Cetaceans on the Frontier blog.
Soon after that, the researchers were treated to their first sight of a killer whale in Irish waters - followed by a number of pilot whales surfacing close to the ship.
Marine wildlife experts who have been monitoring the group for two decades say that no live calves have been recorded since their research began, and that the females of the group can no longer reproduce.
The orca pod, of which nine adults remain, is said to be genetically distinct from other killer whales in the North Atlantic, and bares closer relation to their cousins in Antarctic waters.
A spokesperson for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust described as "critical" the conservation status of the group.
"As sad as this is, the loss of this group has severe consequences, resulting in the loss of an evolutionary significant group of individuals," she added.
Sea angler Kevin Doherty, whose boat was treated to the spectacle, told UTV News: "We knew ourselves at that moment we were going to witness something special."
Local wildlife experts say the orca family came from the Scottish Hebrides and as well known - but this is the first time the whole family group has been recorded together on Ireland's North coast.
#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.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has announced two new reports of whale spottings off the Irish coast in recent days.
On 14 October the east coast rescue helicopter spotted a group of at least five lunge-feeding whales just four miles off Dunany Point on the southern side of Dundalk Bay.
Their relatively small size, white banding on the pectoral fin and absense of any obvious blow confirmed them to be minkes - a marine wildlife record for the area.
"This is further proof, not that it is needed, that there is a growing list of places outside of the expected 'hotspots' where whale activity is now being documented," said the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley.
Yet more were spotted on the opposite coast the day after, when Nick Massett reported up to a dozen minke whales in a 1.5-mile box off Slea Head, near Dingle.
Meanwhile, this week a group of four killer whales was observed by the FV Celtic Cross on the prawn grounds off Co Louth, travelling in a north-westerly direction towards Dundalk Bay.
"There may well be something very interesting happening in this section of the Irish Sea that is attracting both baleen and toothed whale in the same area," said Whooley.
Time may be running out for Scotland's only resident pod of killer whales, the Scotsman reports.
The four males and five females have been studied at their home in the west of Scotland by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group for almost 20 years.
The marine mammals have been sighted at various times since 1981 by members of the public in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
But since 1992 the group - known as the West Coast Community - has failed to produce a single surviving calf.
Marine biologist Dr Andy Foote said: "It's probably too late to save this group. I do believe that they will become extinct in our lifetime which is very regrettable since not many people even know that such a distinctive group of killer whales exist just off our coast."
Dr Foote believes possible contaminants in the waters off Scotland's west coast could be one reason why the pod is not successfully breeding.
The Scotsman has more on the story HERE.
Killer whales and a humpback whale have been spotted off the coast of Northern Ireland in recent weeks, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
Irish Weather Online quotes the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley, who said three killer whales - or orcas - had been seen off Rathlin Island in Co Antrim on 10 June. Two more were later spotted between the Down coast and the Isle of Man.
Then on 14 June a humpback whale was sighted off Bangor - only the third time the species has been seen in Northern Irish waters.
"Any sighting today of a humpback whale sends out a very strong conservation message," said Whooley.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has announced the largest aggregation of killer whales to date in Irish waters.
As many as a dozen killer whales, or orca, were spotted close to an Irish Naval Service vessel on patrol 30 miles off Tory Island in Co Donegal late last month.
According to Lt Cmdr Paddy Harkin of the LE Niamh, the killer whales were feeding among large shoals of mackerel that also attracted a large number of fishing vessels.
He added that the whales had apparently followed the mackerel from west of the Hebrides in north west Scotland, according to several fishing skippers - who placed their numbers at over 100.
The IWDG has more on the story (including photos) HERE.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) spotted killer whales off the coast of county Kerry during an offshore survey last weekend. The killer whales crossed within two metres of the bow of the research vessel, others swam just beneath the surface keeping a parallel course with the surveyors.
The sighting of an adult pod is a rare encounter in Irish waters. 2010 has been a good year for killer whale sightings here with 14 validated records to date.
IWDG surveyors were able to photograph the whales and have sent the findings to expert researchers in the University of Aberdeen. It is understood these are new animals, not previously catalogued during the past few years of surveying killer whales in the North East Atlantic.
More on the sightings HERE.