Humpback whale in Waterford harbour..UPDATE II!3rd Aug 2007 Update II 3/08/07
A report from John Crowley suggests that this humpback whale, "Boomerang" has moved west towards the Tramore area. On on 1st August it was observed at 16:30 between the Metal man and Brownstown Head.
Alarmingly, there is some evidence that the whale has been getting some "rough treatment" by small craft owners. We've been reminded by the local NPWS Conservation Ranger that under Wildlife Act it's an offence to disturb these mammals. But we'd like to reiterate how fortunate we are to have any humpback whales in Irish waters, and would ask boat owners in the area to keep a safe distance of 200m, and to slow down to a "no wake" speed, and if they must travel with the whale that they keep a parallel course with it.
If the whale is harassed, it will likely be forced out of a possible feeding area, which would be a shame. We'd also point out that there is always some potential of risk of injury to both people and animal if vessels get too close to a humpback which can breach unpredicatably clear of the water.
Thanks for your support in this.
IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator
It's with a certain sense of relief that we can confirm the return of the humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae known as Boomerang" or #HBIRL3 on the Irish humpback whale catalogue. It was photographed by Joe Murray on the evening of 31st July at the mouth of Waterford Harbour, and the images clearly show he was "bubble-net" feeding.
This is a truly remarkable saga of perhaps one of the most recognisable humpback whales in any European waters. IWDG have documented 25 validated sightings of him/her, most of which are from the West Cork area. Its full sightings history is available on the Photo ID section of www.iwdg.ie. If you click on the sightings option on the home page , then Photo ID and select "humpback whale" from the drop-down menu, you can track its movements since his early encounters with Whale Watch impressario Colin Barnes back in 2001.
The following year it was 1st photographed by Skipper Joe Aston from his yacht, "Anna M" on 15 & 16th July 2002, off Mine Head, Co. Waterford, but a few weeks later it showed up in the West Cork area. In each of the following years 2003, 2004 & 2005 Colin Barnes and IWDG have tracked his/her movements in the same period of last week in August to 1st week in Sept., and in same West Cork locations in the waters close to the Galley Head area.
We failed to observe him/her in 2006, but whether this was due to poor weather or its absence from the Irish South coast was not clear, but given that we had seen it on each of the five previous years, there was some cause for concern that it had either died, or dropped Ireland off its travel schedule. So we are delighted that he/she has returned to the South coast, and it will be interesting to see whether it now continues to travel West towards West Cork.
If you do observe this or any other humpback whales in Irish waters, the most useful images for photo identification are taken from behind the whale as they "tail-fluke" or lift their tails out of the water before a deep dive. This exposes the ventral surface of their flukes which are all uniquely marked and can confirm whether they are currently on the Irish Humpback whale catalogue, or if they are new whales.
To date we have just six humpback whales catalogued in Irish waters, and such a high resighting rate suggests very low numbers. Please be mindful that humpbacks remain "Globally Endangered", and that sightings o