Fin whale activity concentrated off West Cork..for now!

25th Oct 2007 Regular "effort watches" off the Irish South coast in the past few days show that the fin whale activity appears to be concentrated off West Cork.


Over the past few days both land and boat based effort watches in the waters around Galley Head, Rosscarbery and Clonakilty Bay have consistently produced multiple sightings of fin whale Balaenoptera physalus, the 2nd largest animal on the planet, 2nd only to the blue whale. Our best estimate is that there are currently a minimum of 7-8 fin whales in these waters, which is great news indeed for "Whale enthusiasts".

Fin whale West Cork 25/10/07 © Padraig Whooley, IWDG

During a Photo-ID survey with whale watch operator, Colin Barnes today 25th Oct., IWDG photographed three individual fin whales. Two of which on preliminary examination look like new animals, and will be added to the Irish Fin Whale catalogue, while the 3rd is a re-sighting of #FWIRL25 an individual who was photographed twice in mid august in the same area.

Fin whale West Cork 25/10/07 © Padraig Whooley, IWDG

This Photo ID work is important if we are to begin to understand fin whale movements around Irish, EU and international waters and to recognize important habitat for this Annex IV species (EU Habitats Directive). For instance, thanks to Colin's expertise as a former commercial fisherman with 30 years experience at sea observing West Cork's marine eco-system, we could establish from landing a sample of a bait-ball that at least some of the whales were feeding on adult sprats. (pic) This is basic yet essential information, as without a reliable food supply there is no guarantee that these giants will return to our inshore waters year after year.

Skipper Colin Barnes with sprats landed on Holly Jo 25/10/07 © Padraig Whooley, IWDG

Alas, the weather looks like it will break over the bank-holiday weekend. But you have been advised, this is a wonderful opportunity to observe some world class whale watching, from land or boat. And I say this having just returned from South Africa within the last few weeks, where we could see Southern Right whales without getting out of bed. Give me whale watching off the Irish South coast any day!

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator