Inverin stranded humpback was Kerry whale

23rd Jul 2006 The dead whale was reported washed up at Baile na hAbhainn, Inverin in Galway Bay by Rory Thynne. After an email to IWDG Galway members, Joanne O'Brien, visited the site to confirm it was a male humpback whale calf. The whale was in good condition with most of its skin intact. At 6.0m long the whale is very young probably less than a year in age.

A humpback whale was filmed in Dingle Bay on Friday 14 July and observed breaching off Beginish Island in the Blaskets on Saturday 15 July. The whale was last seen on Saturday evening by IWDG effort watchers on Slea Head.

Humpback whales can be individually identified by distinctive markings and shape of their tail flukes. Digital grabs from footage taken by Jonathan Smith of the BBC were made available to the IWDG to compare with the Inverin stranding to see if it was the same whale. The whale has two distinctive notches towards the centre of the tail fluke which confirms without doubt that it was the same whale.

A small whale with long perctoral fins was reported by fishermen from Spiddal on Monday 17 July. If it was the same whale, which seems likely, this whale swam the 120km from the Blaskets in 24-36 hours.

digital grab of fluke image from whale in Dingle Bayfluke image of whale on beach at Inverin

No cause of death could be determined from postmortem examination. No food remains were recovered from the stomach apart from a small plastic bag ! Fluid was present and samples taken to determine whether this was milk.

It is likely that this whale was not weaned and would not have survived on its own, however it was not apparently emaciated. The mother might still be off the west coast however it was alone when filmed in Dingle Bay so perhaps the calf was separated or the mother died.

postmortem of humpback whale calf on Inverin beach

The IWDG would like to thank all those involved in this event. To Rory Thynne and Garda Emma Kerrin for reporting the stranding, to Jonathan Smith from the BBC for providing a digital grab and Nick Masset and Mick O'Connell for sightings information and to Joanne O'Brien for visiting the sighting to confirm species identification and Padraic de Bhladraithe for providing an interview for TG4.

This event demonstrates the value of the IWDG network and the rapid reporting of sighting and stranding information.

Simon Berrow

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