Larne sei whale euthanased. 3rd day

31st Jul 2006 Update 9

Analysis of all available images end the debate on the identification of the Larne balaenopterid. It was clear from the post mortem that this was not a fin whale, and all indicators, including the jet black baleen on both sides, were that it was a sei whale. But there was an outside chance that it may have been a Bryde's (pronounced Brewders) whale, given that there was a hint of it having more than one rostral ridge running from the tip of the snout to the blowhole.

The debate has now been ended with the latest batch of images which clearly show only a single rostral ridge when seen front on, although it was a little confusing when seen from the side. So for now we have to accept the autoposy analysis that this is a sei whale, as it is definitely not a minke, humpback, fin, Bryde's or a blue whale. So by process of elimination, it can only be a sei whale Balaenoptera borealis and this is a really important record as it is the 1st confirmed record of a stranded sei whale in Ireland since 1914.

Any remaining debate on this species ID debate rests on osteology and molecular data, and tissue samples have been secured which should prove beyond doubt that this was a sei whale.

Pádraig Whooley


Update 8

28 July 2006



The initial report from the post-mortem suggest strongly that this was a sei whale and not a fin whale. This seems to be based on the very black colouring of the baleen plates on both sides of the top jaw, which would be pale on the right hand side if this was a fin whale.

Whale in Larne lough

Update 7

27 July 2006 20:15


We have just been advised by John Milburne, Wildlife Officer, EHS that the whale expired at around 19:30, some 90 minutes after receiving lethal injections.

An autopsy will be carried out tomorrow 28th July and we will advise of any results that may have a bearing on why this large whale strayed through the Lough's "Dire Straits".

Thanks to those of you who followed this difficult story with us and we'd ask you to keep using this website and its unique facilities to monitor cetaceans and their occurrences in Irish waters.

Pádraig Whooley


Update 6

27 July 2006: 17:50


The whale live stranded on the Island Magee side near Kilcoan at around 14:00. Brian Muscatt, a vet from Belfast Zoo who was on standby, arrived quickly on the scene.

We have been advised that four intra-muscular lethal injections of 15mls of large animal immobilon, as well as 20mls of Phenobarb have been administered to the whale at 17:00.

This is the largest animal to have been euthanased using this method in Ireland. By 18:00 the whale was still alive, but we will of course update this when we have word that the whale has died.

The County Council have secured the site and tissues samples will be collected for IWDG. These will confirm beyond doubt the species identification, gender and can be used for “stock analysis”, which may give us a strong idea as to which stock or region this whale may belong to.

After the autopsy the 10 metre carcass will be incinerated, as the carcass would be highly toxic after the lethal injections, and we could not run the risk that it would re-enter the food chain.

Full and final report and analysis of this stranding event to follow.


Update 5

27th Jul 2006


The whale, which we can now confirm is not a minke, but most likely to be a fin whale, failed to leave the Lough last night, despite being so frustratingly close to open water beyond the lighthouse at Ferris Bay.

Whale in Larne lough

As we now enter day 3 of this unusual event, we are faced with an all too common, yet stark reality that this whale, as with most others that