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Flurry of large whale activity off south west Ireland

06/12/2012 11:46:36

Humpback whale breaching off Baltimore, south west Ireland, 01/12/12.(c) Simon Duggan

Humpback and Fin whales in West Cork - Courtesy of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG)
December 2012. Over the last 2-3 weeks, there has been a lot of large whale activity off south and south west Ireland. Humpback whales have been active, but Fin whales have been present in larger numbers than their show off cousins. 6 Humpbacks have been identified from previous visits.

The whales have been particularly showing off West Cork, but this large whale activity is not limited to West Cork as there are currently Fin whales off both the Waterford and West Wexford coastline.

Humpback ID
Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) have been sent a lot of images of both dorsal fins and tail-flukes in the past few weeks, which enables them to state with confidence that this recent activity comprises a minimum of 6 humpback whales. They are HBIRL1, 3, 4, 6, 10 & 21. All of these Humpbacks have been previously recorded in Irish waters by the IWDG Cetacean Sighting scheme, and two of these (#3 & #10) have been biopsied.

IWDG are really happy to see the return of HBIRL1, who is their longest recorded humpback, having been first recorded back in Sept 1999 by Eoin O' Mahoney off the Kinsale Gas platforms. It is wonderful to know that 13 years on, this individual is alive and well and returning to Ireland's Whale Sanctuary. Also included is #HBIRL3, known to many in West Cork as "Boomerang", a male, who is without question the most frequently recorded humpback whale in Irish waters, if not in any European waters.

The IWDG's cetacean recording schemes enables them to build a larger picture and to give these sightings some context. For instance of these 6 Humpback whales, 4 of them were recorded in the same West Cork waters near Galley Head during Dec 2008, and have not been recorded since. Now five years later, they are back together in the same area. This raises important questions as to possible "associations" between these whales and whether they are somehow related, or what the level of kinship is between them.

Lunge feeding Humpback whales, West Cork. (c) Pádraig Whooley.

Lunge feeding Humpback whales, West Cork. (c) Pádraig Whooley.

Respect the whales
Humpback whales are one of the slower rorqual species, and as such are prone to disturbance from too many boats spending too long and approaching too close. IWDG reminds people taking their private boats out to watch these whales that your actions on the water can potentially impact on the whales and their behaviour. It may even tip the scales from habitat being "favourable" to unfavourable, which could push the whales out of the area, into other areas with less traffic.

Go to the website of the IWDG to see more about these sightings and whales in Ireland 

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