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Displaying items by tag: humpback whales

A humpback whale regularly spotted in Ireland’s South West has been traced to Norwegian waters in the first confirmed link between our two countries, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Researchers and citizen scientists in the Happywhale collective made the discovery last week as they matched images of #HBIRL43 — first recorded in Ireland in 2015 — with a whale sighted in the waters of the High Arctic in the vicinity of the Svalbard arcipelago.

“This is our first international re-sighting of this individual who was the first humpback recorded this season off the Stag Rocks in West Cork,” IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley says.

“We documented it this spring/summer on four occasions between 27 April and 6 June. This match suggests it travelled a minimum distance of 3,800km over a period of 75 days, a daily average of 50km.

File image of HBIRL43 sighted off off Toe Head in West Cork | Credit: Dan LetticeFile image of HBIRL43 sighted off off Toe Head in West Cork | Credit: Dan Lettice

“This sighting puts it circa 900km further north of the last known position of #HBIRL07 and is our only humpback to be recorded in what we’d term the High Arctic.”

It wasn’t the only remarkable news this week, as Whooley confirms that another Norwegian whale, #NA09849 — which has been sighted regularly off Tromso and Iceland over the last decade — was photographed this past June some 500km west of the Aran Islands.

“We’ve decided that, as this animal was so far offshore and well outside the Irish EEZ in international waters, for now anyway we’d keep it off the Irish catalogue,” he says.

“But it’s another important link to Norway and who knows just how useful these offshore encounters may prove to be in years to come as IWDG continue to unravel the mystery of this most iconic of our whales.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says last Sunday 29 August will stand out as “particularly memorable” for sightings of humpback whales, with the marine wildlife giants spotted at four separate locations.

At Slea Head in Co Kerry, Jimmy Flannery of Dingle Sea Safari and Nick Massett located and identified #HBIRL107 just south of Crow Rock.

Shortly afterwards, Eoin Delaney was sea kayaking off Carraroe in Connemara when he happened upon a humpback feeding in among common dolphins.

“While we can’t get a positive ID on this individual, any humpback sighting record from Galway Bay is an important event,” IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley says.

Map of humpback whale sightings off Ireland on Sunday 29 AugustMap of humpback whale sightings off Ireland on Sunday 29 August | Credit: IWDG

Later on Sunday afternoon, Colin Barnes of Cork Whale Watch was on his second trip of the day when he photographed a third humpback breaching close to the cliffs at Scullane Point. This turned to be a new humpback not previously recorded in any Irish waters, and it has been allocated the ID #HBIRL113.

Slightly further away, a pelagic birding voyage off the Isles of Scilly crossed paths with #HBIRL77, a humpback that’s been documented in Ireland’s West and South West coastal waters every year since it was first recorded in 2016 — most recently off the Blaskets in June.

“These encounters and re-sightings are important, as they help IWDG build a more complete picture that reveals how these humpbacks are using Irish and adjacent waters,” Whooley says.

The sightings officer also appealed for anyone “fortunate enough to have an encounter with this most charismatic of our whales” to get in touch with [email protected] with a photograph of the ventral surface of their tail fluke, which is the most effective way for the IWDG to confirm identity.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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A Cape Cod lobster diver said he feared for his life after getting caught in the mouth of a humpback whale, as the Associated Press reports.

Fifty-six-year-old Michael Packard said he was some 14 metres below the service off Provincetown, on the northern tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, on Friday 11 June when “all of a sudden I felt this huge bump, and everything went dark”.

Packard believes he was trapped in the jaws of the marine wildlife giant for around half a minute before it surfaced and spat him out.

The Associated Press has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it has confirmed its first humpback whale match between Ireland’s waters and the Canary Islands.

Images of a fluke and dorsal fin captured by Alex Brenner at Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera were, with the help of Nick Massett, compared with those of a humpback photographed by IWDG member Simon Duggan at Baltimore in early December 2012.

“On matching the images we can confirm that this is indeed the same individual #HBIRL21, whom we’ve not recorded in Irish waters over the interim nine years,” the IWDG says.

The development marks an important new connection between Ireland and the Spanish island chain off north-west Africa, following earlier links confirmed with key humpback whale breeding grounds off Cape Verde further south.

Published in Marine Wildlife

West Cork is enjoying a veritable bounty of whale sightings “in dolphin numbers”, as the Southern Star reports.

Video recorded last week near Union Hall shows two humpbacks who followed a whale watching vessel “in a very sociable mood”, according to Cork Whale Watch’s Colin Barnes.

He descried it as the best marine wildlife sighting of its kind in the last two decades — a sentiment echoed by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Padraig Whooley.

Noting a recent report of as many as 100 minke whales spotted on a single boat trip, Whooley said the whale activity off the South Coast at present is “exceptional on a global scale”.

The Southern Star has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has warned the public to stay away from the final resting place of a humpback whale carcass that washed ashore in West Cork last month.

And according to the Southern Star, poor weather forecast for later this week has dampened hopes to potentially retrieve the marine wildlife remains for public display.

The carcass of the juvenile humpback whale is only the ninth recorded stranding of the species in Ireland, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

First spotted in the waters of Roaringwater Bay, it eventually came to rest on the rocky shore at the foot of steep bank at Colla West near Schull, where IWDG volunteers have examined the remains over the weeks since.

Plans had been mooted to preserve the skeleton as a potential tourism draw for the area, the IWDG’s Pádraig Whooley said, though this would be “at great expense”.

“Although the plan was tentative, if successful, it would be a wonderful opportunity because the only other humpback whale on display is in the Natural History Museum, and that dates back to 1893,” he added.

The Southern Star has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The carcass of a juvenile humpback whale washed ashore in West Cork is only the ninth such stranding of the species in Ireland, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Sightings officer Pádraig Whooley confirmed from images of the marine wildlife specimen captured in Roaringwater Bay yesterday (Wednesday 24 February) that it was a juvenile male not previously recorded in Irish waters.

Such young whales are not unexpected close to our shores at this time of year, when adults of breeding age are either en route to or already at lower-latitude breeding sites such as Cabo Verde off West Africa.

“This is something that some young humpbacks can opt out of, as it’s a long track south to places like the Cabo Verde and with no hope of successfully breeding there is nothing much in it for them,” Whooley explains.

“So a cohort of young, independent humpbacks seem content to over winter at higher latitudes, where there is, or should be, plenty of food for them.”

In this case, however, Whooley says: “The images we’ve received so far suggest it is in rather thin condition and so it may not have fed for some time.

“There are no obvious signs of rope marks or net damage that may suggest entanglement in fishing gear, something that slow-swimming humpbacks that remain inshore are prone to. And there are no large traumas to suggest ship-strike. So as is so often the case, the circumstances underpinning this stranding are unclear.

“IWDG hope in the coming days to visit the site to take detailed measurements and get skin and blubber samples which can be used for genetics, contaminants and stable isotope analyses.”

Whooley adds that the IWDG is in liaison with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) regarding examination of the carcass and its disposal, but suggests that because of its remote location “there is no strong case for removal”.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it has recently documented evidence of a humpback whale scarred by entanglement in fishing gear in Irish waters.

Humpback IRL#HB43 was photographed in Dingle Bay on Sunday 11 October by IWDG member Nick Massett, who noted in his images some significant scarring on its tail fluke that was not present when the same whale was spotted off West Kerry two months prior.

The charity says this scarring is consistent with entanglement — and it’s believed, based on the marine wildlife giant’s known movements between August and this month, that the lesions were sustained off West Kerry.

Humpback whales regularly feed in Ireland’s inshore waters during the summer and autumn. But this activity also brings the whales into close proximity with active fisheries.

“It’s likely this animal got caught in the rising rope of a marker buoy to a string of lobster pots, or gill net,” Massett says.

Entanglement in fishing gear is an issue of emerging concern to the IWDG, which is working with Dr Charla Basran at the University of Iceland’s Husavik Research Centre to quantify the rate of entanglement of humpback whales in Irish waters.

Dr Basran recently published work showing that 24.8% of 379 individual humpback whales photographed in Iceland presented wrapping injuries and notches known to be indicative of entanglement.

Ireland shares a whale population with Iceland, and the IWDG says will be interesting to quantify the rate of these lesions on whales photographed in Ireland — and potentially reveal where along their journey to the North Atlantic from their southern breeding grounds they pick up their wounds.

The IWDG is planning a workshop on the issue supported by knife-maker Spyderco, which has provided knives customised for cutting ropes from live whales.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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One of the victims of a deadly mass stranding of bottlenose whales in Donegal last week has not reappeared, according to Highland Radio.

Seven of the marine mammals died in the biggest mass stranding of its kind on record in Ireland, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

The eighth whale was refloated in the shallows when the tide came in, and hopes were that it would make to back to deeper waters on its own. However it was confirmed to have died the following morning, Thursdasy 20 August.

Local volunteers with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) have appealed for the public to report any possible sightings, as they are keen to get samples which might reveal more details about the whale pod and its sudden demise.

Elsewhere, rare video has been captured of the humpback whale known as ‘Boomerang’ off West Cork, as RTÉ News reports.

The whale is the third humpback in the IWDG’s records. It was first identified in 2001 thanks to its unique dorsal fin, and has returned to feed in Irish waters regularly over the last two decades.

This story was updated on Monday 31 August to correct details about the refloated bottlenose whale, which was not presumed to have survived as the previous version stated.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Whale watchers off the Kerry coast have been gifted a treat with a “feeding frenzy” of humpback whales near the Dingle Peninsula, as RTÉ News reports.

As many as 12 of the marine wildlife giants have spent more than a week chasing sprat shoals even in inshore waters — providing a rare opportunity to see them from land.

And the number includes the latest addition to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s records: a juvenile that’s the 107th individual humpback in Irish books since 1999.

But the approach of Storm Ellen later today (Wednesday 19 August) means any prospective whale spotters will have to put off their plans as Status Red conditions loom.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Irish Fishing industry 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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