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Recent Whale Strandings No Longer Considered ‘Unusual’, IWDG Says

27th February 2022
The remains of a female sperm whale found on Malin Head on Wednesday 16 February
The remains of a female sperm whale found on Malin Head on Wednesday 16 February Credit: Ali Farren/Malin Head Community Association

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it’s clarified its opinion on recent whale strandings in Donegal, explaining that the evidence does not suggest an “unusual mortality event” or UME.

It has been feared the strandings of two female sperm whales — at Maghery and on Malin Head respectively — were linked to Russian military exercises in the North Atlantic, as Afloat.ie reported last weekend.

But upon reviewing the data of marine wildlife strandings on the Irish coast between 15 and 21 February, including a female Cuvier’s beaked whale and a female long-finned pilot whale, the IWDG says that the incidents do not deviate from the expected annual stranding figures.

“Before any claims can be made calling this a UME or linking these current deaths to the military testing, additional evidence is needed,” IWDG strandings officer Stephanie Levesque said.

“We must wait to see if any further deep diving species wash up over the next few weeks as these numbers themselves currently are not out of the ordinary.”

However, Levesque added: “Two female sperm whales washed up at the same time is unexpected as most stranded sperm whales in Ireland are mature males.”

Meanwhile, it’s believed that “souvenir hunters” may be responsible for removing jaw bones from the two female whales washed ashore in Donegal.

Levesque told Donegal Live that such practice is common but it’s not known why.

“I don't know who does, but it is something that happens with sperm whales when they strand — the lower jaw is the first thing to go,” she said. “I don’t know if people think they are worth something.”

Donegal Live has more on the story HERE.

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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