Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Whale Species New to Ireland Confirmed by Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

17th May 2022
The dwarf sperm whale found washed up in Glengarriff, Co Cork earlier this month
The dwarf sperm whale found washed up in Glengarriff, Co Cork earlier this month Credit: Clare Heardman/NPWS

A whale species never before recorded in Irish waters has been confirmed by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The marine wildlife specimen reported at Glengarriff in West Cork on 1 May — which live-stranded before it was found dead the following day — is that of a dwarf sperm whale, IWDG strandings officer Stephanie Levesque said.

Video footage received of the whale was shared with international experts “who confirmed that in their opinion it was a dwarf sperm whale due to its taller dorsal fin and smaller back”.

Levesque acknowledged concerns over the distress of the animal in the supplied video but said that “there is nothing [anyone] could have done as it was thrashing violently on slippery, seaweed covered rocks … It is extremely important to understand, if you see a stranded animal thrashing violently in this way, as difficult as it is to watch, you must keep your distance.”

The 2.25-metre female whale was with calf when it died, and a post-mortem by Drs Jim Donovan and Mercedes Gomez-Parada at the Cork Regional Vet Lab could not confirm the cause of death.

Examining the carcass of the dwarf sperm whale, a 2.5m pregnant female | Credit: Simon BerrowExamining the carcass of the dwarf sperm whale, a 2.25m pregnant female | Credit: Simon Berrow

“Prey remains, including squid beaks, were found in its stomach which was recovered together with the whole intestine for further analysis,” Levesque added. “The skeleton will be prepared by the IWDG and donated to the National Museum of Ireland (Natural History) to be preserved by the State.”

Meanwhile, genetic testing of a skin sample was performed by Dr Eileen Dillane, a geneticist at UCC’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who identified a 99% match with the genes of dwarf sperm whales from the Western North Atlantic.

The last known record of a dwarf sperm whale in this part of the world was a sighting off Cornwall in the UK in October 2011.

“Whether we might expect more strandings of this ‘warm water’ species in Ireland and the UK following the impacts of climate change remains to be seen, but it is very important to continue to report stranded cetaceans to the IWDG so we can monitor these trends into the future,” Levesque said.

This was the second animal to be examined under the new Deep-Diving and Rare Cetacean Investigation Programme (DDRIP) launched by the IWDG recently.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Afloat.ie Team

About The Author

Afloat.ie Team

Email The Author

Afloat.ie is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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!

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating