Fin whales remain near the shelf edge in the southwest ....Update

9th Sep 2008 Report IV. 09/09/08

Fin whales were observed offshore in the southwest region during a research cruise aboard the R.V. Celtic Voyager. The cruise which was funded by the Marine Institute, aimed to investigate the use of macroalgal rafts, gelatinous zooplankton and megafauna, as indicators of ocean fronts and different water masses. There were 17 sightings of 36 animals, over an area about 20 nautical miles long, 60 nautical miles west of the Blasket Islands. They were found in waters between 800m and 300m deep, along the shelf edge. The whales were probably feeding on dense shoals of fish, several miles long which were observed on the depth sounder at a depth of about 150m.

The whales were moving too quickly to obtain photo ID images and generally remained greater than 500m from the ship. Several hundred common dolphins, 15 bottlenose dolphins, three leatherback turtles and sunfish were also observed in the area.

Conor Ryan

IWDG


Report 111. 01/09/08

IWDG Dublin member, Ivan O' Kelly is a regular recorder of cetacean activity in Kerry inshore waters and during the summer months spend a lot of time on the water and regularly observes and reports minke whale sightings to IWDG.

Early on Saturday 30th August they ventured offshore in search of tuna and at the time were totally unaware of the BIM report from the previous week (see below). During the day they had no less than three fin whale encounters of groups of 10-12, 4 and 1 fin whales. Although no images were obtained, the description of their massive blows and 60ft+ length is consistent with their being fin whales, and would suggest that the fin whales reported earlier by BIM may have moved closer inshore.

Also observed during this pelagic angling trip was a very large group of 300+ common dolphins. All sightings were in a box ranging from 40-70 miles Southwest-West of Valentia Island, Co. Kerry. No doubt our effort based observers will be watching closely to see if they move closer inshore.

Sightings such as these give us a much more accurate picture as to the distribution of these giants in all-Irish waters, and not just the tiny areas of West Cork where watch effort is greatest. If weather and whales oblige in the coming weeks, IWDG will endeavour to locate and photo identify these fin whales in an effort to add fin whales from outside the known West Cork hotspots.

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator




Report 11. 27/08/08

Skipper Colin Barnes of the MV Holly Jo www.whalewatchwithcolinbarnes.com has just contacted IWDG to let us know that he observed two fin whales today 27th Aug. c19 miles SSE of Galley Head among large numbers of common dolphins. This is the 1st confirmed sighting of fin whales in West Cork inshore waters of 2008, following the BIM offshore encounter in the following report.


Report 1. 27/08/08

IWDG have received a very interesting record from Dr. Peter Tyndall and Ronan Cosgrove, BIM, of large aggregations of fin whales associating with Albacore tuna in waters 75-120 miles off the West Cork/Kerry coast. This is another interesting piece of the fin whale puzzle, as IWDG continues to ask the biq questions in order to improve our understanding of this species in Irish waters.


The fin whales were observed over a three day period between 21-23rd August during albacore tuna trials. On the 21st c4 fin whales were observed and photographed (location 1), while the following day a minimun of 15-20 were seen (location 2). The description of whales and "blows" throughout the day and from many locations suggest these estimates may be conservative.



These observations are a si