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First Humpback Whale Of New 2017 Season Sighted Off West Cork

10th April 2017
Humpback whales like this one off the US coast are regular visitors to Irish waters Humpback whales like this one off the US coast are regular visitors to Irish waters Photo: Wikimedia

#MarineWildlife - The first humpback whale sighting for the new season in Irish waters was made last week off the Beara Peninsula.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s (IWDG) Patrick Lyne was in prime position to witness the unmistakable tail fluke some 5km offshore from Beara in West Cork on the afternoon of Wednesday 5 April.

While not the first humpback sighted this calendar year — that honour goes to a giant spotted off Wexford in early January — it’s still considered the first of the 2017/18 ‘large whale season’.

The sighting also continues a trend of earlier arrivals for Ireland’s regular humpback visitors over recent years, with 2016’s first recorded only four days later and spotted just 4km away.

Last Wednesday was a bumper day for marine wildlife sightings off Co Kerry, too, where Nick Massett spotted at least a dozen minke whales between Ventry, Slea Head and the Blaskets.

Many of these locations feature in Colin Stafford-Johnson’s new BBC TV series Wild Ireland, as BBC News reports. The two episodes are currently streaming via the BBC iPlayer, where available.

In other cetacean news, researchers believe that whale strandings may in part be caused by exhaustion when cetaceans flee human-made noise in the ocean.

According to the Irish Independent, a study by marine scientists at UC Santa Cruz found that beaked whales startled by low-frequency sonar raise their energy consumption by almost a third, increasing demands on their limited oxygen supply while below the surface.

The news will be fuel to those who suspect human activity at sea plays a major role in increased cetacean stranding rates.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, 2017 became the worst year on record for whale and dolphin strandings by mid February.

Published in Marine Wildlife
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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