Landscape photographer Richard Creagh was among the lucky few on Monday (27 June) to spot the orca known by the distinctive notch on his dorsal fin – though in more recent times he's also lost a chunk of his tail fluke, most likely to a shark bite.
Creagh, a keen marine wildlife watcher for the last 10 years, said: "Up to now killer whales had always eluded me but today I got to add them to my list, and what a sight it was! I’m still buzzing!"
John Coe's unique orca pod are regular visitors to Irish waters, though he himself was last spotted close to our shores almost three years ago at the Inishkeas in Co Mayo, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group – which is asking the public to watch the seas for any more sightings of the senior cetacean.
#DopeyDick - A killer whale who gained notoriety after swimming up the River Foyle in the late 1970s has been rediscovered enjoying his retirement off the west coast of Scotland, as the Derry Journal reports.
It's more than 38 years since the orca astounded the people of Derry by swimming up the estuary and hanging around the city for a number of days, earning the name 'Dopey Dick' for shrugging off attempts to lure him back to the safety of open water.
His whereabouts thereafter were unknown -- till cetacean experts with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust compared old photographs of his Derry visit with more recent images of the unique orca community that makes its home off the western Scottish coast, and identified a positive match.
Comet, as the orca is properly known, is estimated to be at least 58 years old, double the usual life expectancy for the species.
But that's not so surprising for the orca pod referred to as the 'West Coast Community', which has been a regular visitor to Irish waters over the years, and has interested marine wildlife specialists for decades due to its "evolutionary significant" qualities.
Sadly that group's numbers have been dwindling, with fellow orca Lulu becoming the latest victim after its believed she was entangled in fishing gear early this year, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
#MarineWildlife - The killer whale found beached on a Scottish island last weekend likely died after getting entangled in fishing gear for days, say experts.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the orca known as Lulu to researchers, who have been tracking her unique pod since the early 1990s, was discovered on the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides last Sunday 3 January.
Lulu's "evolutionary significant" group has been under threat for years due to the absence of calves among its number since scientists began monitoring them around the Scottish and north Irish coasts.
But according to The Press and Journal, Lulu's death was not down to natural causes – with a post-mortem report from experts at the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme claiming "convincing evidence that she had become chronically entangled" in fishing gear, with deep wounds consistent with a rope wrapping around her tail.
“There were no ropes or gear left on the carcass," said the scientists in a statement. "We’re assuming all this from the lesions we found on her body, so we don’t know if this was due to active fishing gear, abandoned or ‘ghost’ gear, or other marine debris."
The Press and Journal has much more on the story HERE.
As STV News reports, the orca known as Lulu to marine researchers was found beached on the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides on Scotland's west coast on Sunday 3 January.
Like John Doe, who is believed to have survived an altercation with a shark a year ago, Lulu was one of a familiar family of orcas that's regularly seen off Scotland and even as far west as the Donegal coast.
But the "evolutionary significant" group's numbers have been dwindling in recent years due to the absence of calves since scientists started tracking them more than two decades ago.
"It is particularly sad to know that another one of these killer whales, unique to the British and Irish Isles, has died," said the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. "There may be as few as eight individuals remaining in this population."
STV News has more on the story HERE.
#MarineWildlife - A seal pup was lunch for a killer whale that's been attracting onlookers to Wales' Irish Sea coast in recent days.
As the Carmarthen Journal reports, the orca was first sighted of Mwnt, north of Cardigan, over the summer, but has since been spotted further down the coast near Fishguard - believed to be attracted by a boom in the local seal population.
It marks a rare appearance for the species in the Irish Sea, as they're more commonly spotted in Scottish waters and off Ireland's North Coast.
And it comes not long after another rare sight in the form of a pod of Risso's dolphins sighted near Anglesey in north Wales earlier this month - with experts telling BBC News that it may be one of the largest such pods ever recorded in Welsh waters.
#orca – Crews from commercial and Royal Navy vessels have started training for the Orca Ocean Watch Week, an initiative by the whale and dolphin conservation charity ORCA, that is being launched at Portsmouth International Port this month.
Between 25th July and 2nd August bridge crews are being asked to report all sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises as they sail to and from Portsmouth International Port. The records they produce will help ORCA develop the clearest picture yet of just where the much loved marine mammals are living.
The enthusiastic team from ORCA have spent time training crews from a wide variety of operators, including the banana boats that come and go on a regular basis from the Caribbean and Central America. They've also spent time with the Royal Navy, briefing crews from Portsmouth based vessels.
The Royal Navy ships HMS Smiter, HMS Puncher, HMS Explorer and HMS Trumpeter will be sailing through the English Channel, down into the Northern Bay of Biscay and up into the Baltic Sea. These ships are among 11 vessels contributing to the activity from the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron that are operating all over Western Continental Europe and the British Isles.
Lieutenant Commander Phil Houghton of the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron said, "The Royal Navy and in particular 1PBS are delighted to be able to participate in OceanWatch 2015 and do what they can to support the better appreciation of the complex and vulnerable marine environment in which we operate. Only by understanding the animals and habitats around our local waters can we provide the appropriate protection for them."
Orca Ocean Watch Week will be launched on Monday 20th July by television wildlife expert Nigel Marven. Nigel will be joined at the new passenger terminal at Portsmouth International Port by a 50 foot, life-sized model of a blue whale, and school children eager to learn more about the variety of wildlife in the seas off Portsmouth.
By the time Ocean Watch Week is underway ORCA will have trained crews from over 20 vessels, including ferries, freight ships, cruise liners and small ships.
If you're interested in spotting these fantastic animals yourself, Brittany Ferries and ORCA offer Whale Watching mini cruises from Portsmouth, an increasingly popular trip across the Bay of Biscay, which is one of the most important habitats for whales and dolphins on the planet. ORCA is also working with operators at other ports along the South Coast and Scotland, attempting to get the widest coverage possible for its important survey.
The five-metre-long female orca was described as being in "a very fresh condition" and was found to have very worn teeth, which points to malnutrition as a potential cause of death.
A post-mortem is scheduled to be carried out tomorrow by a team from the IWDG and Galway-Mayo IT.
The incident is the latest in a "disturbing high" rate of cetacean strandings around the Irish coast this January, with a total of 32 recorded across nine identifiable species.
While it's as yet unknown what has caused this spike in numbers, the recent severe weather systems coming from the Atlantic may be a factor in driving carcasses of animals that may have died of natural causes towards the Irish coast.
The IWDG has more on the story HERE.
Marine wildlife experts who have been monitoring the group for two decades say that no live calves have been recorded since their research began, and that the females of the group can no longer reproduce.
The orca pod, of which nine adults remain, is said to be genetically distinct from other killer whales in the North Atlantic, and bares closer relation to their cousins in Antarctic waters.
A spokesperson for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust described as "critical" the conservation status of the group.
"As sad as this is, the loss of this group has severe consequences, resulting in the loss of an evolutionary significant group of individuals," she added.
Sea angler Kevin Doherty, whose boat was treated to the spectacle, told UTV News: "We knew ourselves at that moment we were going to witness something special."
Local wildlife experts say the orca family came from the Scottish Hebrides and as well known - but this is the first time the whole family group has been recorded together on Ireland's North coast.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - Two killer whales have been spotted near Kinsale in recent weeks, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports.
Two separate sightings of the orca pair near Barry's Head have been confirmed by the group, via photos provided by John Murphy and Richard Cussen on 5 March, during what is normally the 'low season' for whale watching in Ireland.
The pair comprises one adult male and a smaller whale which is likely an adult female. It is not yet known, however, whether the whales are new to Irish or Scottish waters.
According to the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley, it is "interesting that they have stayed close to their original position and suggests they may have found 'rich pickings'".
In other news, the Whale and Dolphin Roadshow will be at the Galway Shopping Centre from 22-25 March in time for the European Cetacean Society Conference.
The roadshow "is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about whales, dolphins and porpoise of the ASCOBANS region" that encompasses the Baltic Sea, Northeast Atlantic and Irish and North Seas.