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Humpback Whales Have Moved North From Southern Irish Waters

30th July 2023
Humpback Whales and a common dolphin in Irish waters
Credit: Daniella Morgernstern, IWDG

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) say that "the humpback whales so long a feature of summer in Cork and Kerry didn’t come this year; instead, they are far to the north, off Mayo, Sligo and Donegal, and reduced in numbers," says Dr Stephen Comerford, the IWDG Marine Policy Officer.

He refers to those as another example of the effects of climate change on the oceans and announces that the Group has produced a policy document on offshore renewable energy.

"It outlines our thinking and intention on this important topic. Our advice is dynamic and responds to new initiatives and developments, and we plan to update published policies in the coming months. Consultation by IWDG on ORE is ongoing and dynamic throughout the development.

"The world is suffering a climate crisis unique in human history with drought, wildfires, disrupted weather patterns and extremes of temperature on land and at sea. Ireland is fortunate not to endure 45-degree centigrade temperatures and hurricane-force winds, but our climate has been altered too. Erratic weather, increased storms and rainfall, changing growing seasons, and rising sea levels are affecting us profoundly. In the seas around us, fish stocks are behaving unpredictably, and changes may be catastrophic for ecosystem health and our food security.

"Unless we respond by transforming the way we generate the energy we need, both in Ireland and worldwide, then huge areas of the planet will become unliveable within the lifetimes of our children. Starvation and mass migration will be the inevitable results.

"We already have the tools to transition from fossil fuels in a just and sustainable way, and key to this in Ireland is offshore renewable energy (ORE). Ireland’s offshore waters have a unique and powerful wind resource which, as a nation, we must develop as soon as we can to help prevent the worst effects of climate change.

"The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group recognises the importance of offshore wind and equally understands that it must be developed to the highest environmental standards to prevent unintended damage to the marine ecosystem. ORE is coming to our offshore waters, and it is our job to ensure that all issues relating to cetaceans are fully taken into account. The IWDG consults with the wind farm companies and with government departments to advise on development to minimise impacts on whales, dolphins and porpoises and maximise potential advantages."

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for He presents the monthly programme Maritime Ireland on Podcast services and Irish radio stations.

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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!