Rare beaked whale stranding in Co. Sligo

20th Mar 2009 Strandhill, Co. Sligo was the scene today for one of Ireland's rarer cetacean strandings - a True's beaked whale Mesoplodon mirus. The animal was reported by Gary Waters to the Irish Seal Sanctuary (ISS) this morning (20/03/09) near the steps at the seaweed baths. The ISS immediately passed on the report to IWDG as it was thought to be a large dolphin and still alive.

IWDG member Will Woodrow (Woodrow Sustainable Solutions) went to check out the stranding but was unable to get close enough to identify it due to the high tide. The animal had obviously been dead for some days and was in poor condition.


As the tide receeded, Dr. Don Cotton (Sligo I.T.) was able to examine the animal and identified it as a 4.7m, male True's beaked whale. The two teeth were still present near the tip of the lower jaw which aided identification.

This is only the tenth recorded stranding of this whale species in Irish waters since 1899, and the first recorded since June 1997 at Ownahincha in Co. Cork. Today's incident is very close to Culleenamore, where a much publicised live stranding of a sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus occurred in September 2006. There have been a number of beaked whale strandings in Sligo in the recent past, including a Sowerby's beaked whale Mesoplodon bidens in November 2006, an unidentified beaked whale in February 2008 and a Cuvier's beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris in March 2008.

Thanks to Gary Waters, Will Woodrow, Dr. Don Cotton, Jean Dunleavy and Brendan Price of the Irish Seal Sanctuary for their assistance with this stranding.

Mick O'Connell,

IWDG Strandings Co-ordinator.