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The BBC One Show Captures Marine Wildlife in Irish Waters

19th January 2018
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The BBC One television crew members joined scientists undertaking the WESPAS (Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic) Survey in July 2017 The BBC One television crew members joined scientists undertaking the WESPAS (Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic) Survey in July 2017

For the first time, a BBC One television crew joined a Marine Institute scientific survey, in search of seabirds and marine mammals in the offshore waters around Ireland and Scotland. Their voyage on the marine research vessel RV Celtic Explorer, was recently screened on The BBC One Show as a four-part series.

The BBC One television crew members joined scientists undertaking the WESPAS (Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic) Survey in July 2017.

The WESPAS survey is an annual acoustic survey of herring and boarfish in the oceans to the north, west and south of Ireland, and west of Scotland to determine the distribution and abundance of herring and boarfish stocks.

In the first episode, Chief Scientist from the Marine Institute Michael O'Malley shows BBC's Mike Dilger the route the RV Celtic Explorer will travel over the next 22 days, a the second part of a survey covering more than 5,000 nautical miles in total. After only a few hours into the survey, a huge pod of Common Dolphins surrounds the RV Celtic Explorer.

In episode two, and a week into the voyage and 100 miles from shore, the crew experience hostile weather conditions, and the RV Celtic Explorer sails through a Force 8 gale. Mike Dilger speaks to experienced fisherman and crewman aboard the RV Celtic Explorer Frank Kenny about the dangers of fishing. Near the Continental Shelf, several Risso's Dolphins are spotted leaping out of the water.

In episode three, Aidan Long, PhD student from NUI Galway, shows Mike Dilger how plankton samples are collected by the towed Gulf sampler, and views gelatinous zooplankton under the microscope. As the survey rounds the Butt of Lewis to the north of the Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, Minke Whales can be seen close to the RV Celtic Explorer.

The final episode sees a huge flock of Gannets surround the RV Celtic Explorer, as scientists continue to catch fish for analysis. A Fin whale, the second largest mammal on the planet, is also spotted in the distance sprouting water 10 metres into the air. As the survey passes through the North Channel off the north east coast of Ireland, a Thresher shark leaps out of the water only metres from the vessel.

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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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