Displaying items by tag: Whales
#MarineWildlife - "What if whales were nature's ultimate geoengineers?" That's the question Philip Hoare poses on the Guardian's Comment Is Free section upon the news that US scientists have identified cetacean waste as a potentially pivotal link in the climate change chain.
Marine scientists from the University of Vermont compiled decades' worth of research in their new report that claims whale faeces – and deceased whales on the ocean floor – might comprise "massive carbon sinks" absorbing the CO2 human industry puts into the environment while also providing nutrients for other marine wildlife.
Indeed, it's now thought that areas where cetacean populations have shown signs of recovery after decades of hunting are also seeing "higher rates of productivity" among commercial fishing species.
The new report also supports the notion that climate change "may have been accelerated by the terrible whale culls of the 20th century" that removed a necessary balancing effect to counter the huge levels of man-made carbon emissions.
As Hoare writes: "A burgeoning global population of cetaceans might not just be good for the whalewatching industry, they may play a significant role in the planet's rearguard action against climate change."
The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.
#MarineWildlife - Though the winter months comprise Ireland's major whale-watching season, this time of year brings more people to the coasts to witness Ireland's bounty of marine wildlife.
And if you're not sure where to look, BreakingNews.ie has a guide to some of the best opportunities for cetacean spotting.
Whether boating off Baltimore, kayaking off Kerry or simply hogging the binoculars from cliffs and headlands around our coasts, there's a good chance of sighting some of the many species of whales, dolphins and porpoise that call Irish waters home - or at least come to visit for a few months.
And that's not to mention our good friends the basking sharks, the ocean's second-largest fish, and the seal colonies that regularly entertain harbour-goers.
The guide also reminds potential spotters what to look out for, such as sudden reflections on the water, unusual vapour in the air, ripples against the current or seabirds going wild over a certain feeding spot.
If you're lucky, you may even have an encounter like the Ballyholme Yacht Club members who saw a humpback whale near the Copeland Islands in the North Channel recently, one of only a handful of sightings off the Co Down coast in the last 100 years.
#MarineWildlife - Humpback whales caught in a feeding frenzy off the Blasket Islands last week points to a potential bounty of big whale sightings over the winter months, as Nick Massett writes on the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website.
A large aggregation of six humpback whales - a quarter of all those previously catalogued in the area - was witnessed feeding west of the Foze Rocks on Saturday 14 September.
Seven in total have been identified this year off the Blaskets, and with no sightings elsewhere around the Irish coast it's believed the humpbacks are content to feed exclusively within the Dingle Bay area for now.
Of course this is just the start of the big whale season, and the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley indicates that larger species such as the humpback and the commonly sighted fin whale - the longest ocean animal behind the elusive blue whale - are beginning to move inshore in greater numbers.
Even at that, inshore records "are likely to be the tip of a much larger iceberg", as imagery captured by the Irish Air Corps shows an incredible nine-strong group of fin whales feeding offshore along the Porcupine Blight where the water depth reaches more than 1km.
"But if this year pans out like previous years, the best has still yet to come," writes Whooley, "as historically the months November to January are the peak period for the "herring hog" inshore along the Irish south coast."
All this good news comes tinged with a some sadness, however, considering the rising trend of strandings of whales and dolphins on the Irish coastline - itself potential evidence of ill health among the whale and dolphin populations that visit our shores.
#RareWhale - A recent trip to the edge of the continental shelf by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's (IWDG) research vessel Celtic Mist resulted in an encounters with one of the ocean's most rarely seen creatures.
Surveying an area in the Porcupine Basin, just north of the Goban Spur, researchers sighted three beaked whales passing within 50m of the vessel on the morning of 4 September.
"These three animals were almost certainly True’s beaked whales but from the photos cannot be distinguished from Gervais beaked whales," writes the IWDG's Patrick Lyne.
"These animals, first seen alive in 1995 and with only two confirmed sightings in the wild, must be some of the most rarely seen animals on the planet. Mostly they are only known from strandings of already dead animals."
The following day, the team sighted Northern bottlenose whales, one of the more abundant species of beaked whale but one that's an infrequent visitor to Irish waters.
The IWDG has more on the story, including photos, HERE.
The studies, part funded by the US Navy, found that beaked whales where particularly sensitive to sonar - and that even blue whales, the largest animals on earth, were distracted from feeding by the subsurface noise.
It's long been feared that the use of sonar is to blame for unusual behaviour among whales, who navigate and communicate with each other over long distances using sound.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) identified sonar activity by Royal Navy submarines as a possible cause of a the mass stranding of pilot whales in Donegal in November 2010, in which as many as 35 whales died.
Now for the first time, sonar has been proven to affect behaviour of cetaceans to a detrimental degree, confirming for many a connection between the use of sonar technology and recordings of whale and dolphin strandings identified since the 1950s. The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.
In more positive whale-related news, the IWDG reports that its next Cape Clear summer whalewatching course over the weekend of 26-28 July is "filling up nicely".
Places are still available but as it coincides with the tourism high season in West Cork, anyone interested is advised to book sooner than later to ensure they have someone to stay nearby.
The most recent weekend course over the June bank holiday witnessed numerous harbour porpoises and common dolphins, but its hoped the elusive whales will make an appearance next time round!
Ron Howard is directing the adaption of the Nathaniel Philbrick book, which follows the fortunes of the whale ship Essex and its encounter with an angry sperm whale in the South Atlantic.
The film also features Thor star Chris Hemsworth, and is set to begin shooting in the UK this September.
The volunteer lifeboat crew launched their inshore lifeboat shortly after 10am following reports from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) that a 25ft pilot whale had beached in the area.
The lifeboat helmed by Joe May, and with crew members Emma Wilson, AJ Hughes and Laura Boylan onboard, made its way to the scene where May got into the sea and helped manoeuvre the whale back into deeper water.
Skerries RNLI then shadowed the whale guiding it out to sea, preventing it from turning back to shore by positioning the boat in its way. The lifeboat did this for about 25 minutes until the mammal was well clear of the shore.
Meanwhile, RTÉ News reports that a second whale was found dead on the beach near Mornington, north of Bettystown.
Despite initial fears that the whale was the same one rescued in the morning, it was later determined to be a different creature.
#MarineWildlife - A gray whale has been sighted many thousands of miles from its usual Pacific swimming grounds in the South Atlantic.
As Pádraig Whooley writes on the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) website, the whale was spotted in the last week in Walvis Bay, Namibia - only the second ever confirmed sighting of the marine species in the Atlantic Ocean, and the first south of the equator, since records began.
Previously a solitary gray whale was tracked in the Mediterranean in May 2010 from the coast of Israel to Barcelona in north-eastern Spain.
That was the first time a gray whale had been seen anywhere east of the Pacific Ocean following the presumed extinction of the Atlantic gray whale in the 17th century.
Whooley calls the latest sighting "a fascinating discovery" and says it "points strongly towards a dramatic shift in distribution facilitated by climate change.
"This is a timely reminder that we should never assume to know what species occur in our local waters, especially when this species seems to have literally come back from the dead."
#MarineWildlife - Seven dolphins and two beaked whales have stranded on beaches in the northwest in events described as "unusual" by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
On the Mullet Peninsula, a group of seven common dolphins - comprising five adults and two juveniles - live stranded at Tarmon Beach on Sunday 12 May.
Though initial attempts to refloat them were successful, one of the juveniles was later found dead and the other was euthanised due to poor health.
Meanwhile in Donegal, the fresh carcass of a female True's or Sowerby's beaked whale was found on Sunday evening on Five Fingers Stand at Inishowen - some days after a reported live stranding of a Sowerby's beaked whale on the Welsh coast.
The Inishowen stranding was followed yesterday 14 May by the discovery of a dead beaked whale calf at Trawbreaga Bay, in what is believed to be a connected stranding.
Samples of the adult female were taken in order to confirm the species, either of which would mark a rare cetacean record for Ireland - the first since 2009.
#DolphinExhibition - Balbriggan Maritime Museum has opened a new public display in Balbriggan Tourist Office on Quay Street near Balbriggan Harbour.
On show is a Whale and Dolphin Exhibition, bones, models and general information to celebrate the biodiversity of sea mammals off the coast. This follows the previous popular 'Cannon Balls Exhibition'.
Appropriately, 'Water & Biodiversity' is the theme of the 2013 International Day for Biological Diversity which falls on Wednesday, 22nd May.
Balbriggan Maritime Museum volunteers have assembled bones from many sea animals, such as a vertebra from a Fin Whale, the second largest whale in the world growing to 88ft in length. No wonder this bone is too heavy for one person to lift!
The Humpback Whale model, in real life, is about half the length of a Fin Whale and weighs only 40 tonnes! Even so, Humpback Whales, which are seen in the Irish Sea, would be too big to fit into Balbriggan Courthouse!
Smaller skulls from Common Dolphin, Pilot Whale and Grey Seal, as well as a Minke Whale jawbone can also be examined during May when this Whale and Dolphin Exhibition will be on display from Tuesday to Sunday when the Balbriggan Tourist Office is open.