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IWDG Takes Samples From Sperm Whale In Sligo As Unusual Strandings Remain Unexplained

5th April 2019
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The IWDG team use local authority diggers to examine the sperm whale remains on Streedagh Strand The IWDG team use local authority diggers to examine the sperm whale remains on Streedagh Strand Photo: IWDG

#MarineWildlife - A team from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) was on site at Streedagh Strand in Sligo yesterday (Thursday 4 April) to investigate the third sperm whale stranding in a matter of days along Ireland’s West Coast.

As reported yesterday on Afloat.ie, the discovery of a third such whale carcass made for an “increasingly unusual stranding pattern”.

While sperm whales are relatively abundant in Ireland’s deep ocean waters, they are rarely found above 300 metres — and male specimens are far more common than the female whale found in Sligo.

The IWDG confirmed that samples were taken from the 10.4m carcass, which showed “no obvious signs of ship collision [or] entanglement, nor was the whale emaciated”.

Examination of stomach contents found no plastic debris and few food remains.

“So as is so often the case with strandings, we know more about what didn’t kill the whale than what did kill it,” the IWDG stated — adding that it is liaising with Scottish colleges after a decomposed sperm whale was found on Uist in the Outer Hebrides, due north of Ireland, in recent days.

The group also notes that multiple warships and submarines are involved in Nato’s annual Joint Warrior exercise ongoing west of the Hebrides.

Sonar activity from military vessels has been suggested as a cause of whale strandings throughout Europe in recent years, including a major event across Scottish and Irish waters last year.

“However, these whales have been dead for one to two weeks so this can’t explain these strandings, unless some active equipment was tested offshore prior to the start of this exercise,” the IWDG says.

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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