Displaying items by tag: Sperm Whales
#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.
Following the discovery of two sperm whale carcasses on the same day last week — in Donegal and west of the Aran Islands, the latter believed to have beached in Connemara — a third was found washed up on Streedagh beach in Sligo at the weekend.
Images of the latest stranding suggest it is an adult female, which the IWDG describes as “a little unusual” as “generally we get adult male sperm whales off the Irish coast”.
The close proximity of the strandings is also “now a concern”, though no cause of death has yet been determined, and plastic pollution is unlikely to be the culprit.
The IWDG added it “will explore some potential options regarding this increasingly unusual stranding pattern”.
Meanwhile, RTÉ News reports that the Galway council officials hope the sperm whale carcass washed ashore in Connemara will be taken out by high tides in the coming days.
#MarineWildlife - The remains of two sperm whales have been spotted around Ireland in recent days.
The first was sighted in the Atlantic Ocean some 100km west of the Aran Islands on Monday (25 March) by an Air Corps airman.
Later that same day, samples were taken from a 43ft sperm whale carcass found washed ashore at Magheroarty in Co Donegal. Highland News says it it thought to have been dead for a number of weeks.
Sperm whales are the largest predator in Irish waters and are relatively abundant in deep ocean but are rarely found above 300 metres, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.
The IWDG adds that a recent study estimated there are 3.2 sperm whales per 1,000 square kilometres of Irish waters.
#MarineWildlife - Four more sperm whales have beached in eastern England on the North Sea coast after the first died in Norfolk last Friday (2 January).
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the first whale died on a the beach at Hunstanton despite best efforts to refloat it.
Initially estimated to be 50 feet in length, the carcass was later measured around 30 feet and has been put under guard to prevent "scavenging", as BBC News reports.
The whale was one of a pod of five whose remaining members have since stranded and died across the Wash in the Skegness area, according to the Irish Examiner.
A number of those carcasses have since been vandalised with graffiti reading 'Fukushima RIP', 'CND' and 'mans fault' [sic] – alleging a connection between the Japanese nuclear plant disaster in 2011 and the health of marine wildlife in the world's oceans.
The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.
#Ambergris - The idea of 'whale vomit' is surely off-putting to most, but to high-end perfume companies it's worth more than gold - much to the delight of two Irish surfers who believe they've found a lump of the stuff.
The Irish Daily Star, via IrishCentral, reports that Alan Davey and Brian Miller discovered the turnip-sized lump of what appears to be whale excrement on the beach at the popular surfing haunt of Lahinch on the Co Clare coast.
And if it turns out to be the product of a sperm whale, it might well contain the valuable substance known as ambergris - produced in their digestive tract, and traditionally used as a key ingredient in perfumes - and could fetch the pair a cool €50,000.
A similar find on a beach at Morecambe in Lancashire last month could be worth as much as €115,000 to its finder, according to The Guardian.
#MarineWildlife - Sperm whales and a killer whale were among the finds on the last big effort of this year's Cetaceans on the Frontier survey led jointly by the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, marine scientists from GMIT's Marine and Freshwater Research Centre are on board the RV Celtic Explorer to carry out the fourth dedicated survey of cetaceans on the continental shelf edge.
The ship was surveying a zig-zag pattern in the Atlantic yesterday 2 February, some 55 nautical miles west-by-northwest of Achill Island (visible on this map HERE) when the team encountered at least two sperm whales, though an elusive third may also have been present - as indicated by the hydrophone being towed 200m behind the vessel.
"The blows continued and as we got closer, more and more body of the surfacing whale could be seen until we were treated to some reasonable views of the steep nose, long flat back and stumpy dorsal fin on initial surfacing followed by a thick tail stock with ‘knuckles’ seen when flaking," writes Niall Keogh on the Cetaceans on the Frontier blog.
Soon after that, the researchers were treated to their first sight of a killer whale in Irish waters - followed by a number of pilot whales surfacing close to the ship.