West Coast Beaked Whale Survey: Update

30th Sep 2010 30th September

After heading back to sea on the 25th, the 'Song of the Whale' continued where she had left off on the 22nd. The first target was a large canyon system on the north slopes of the Porcupine Bank. While sighting conditions were very good, unfortunately no beaked whale sightings were made. One unidentified whale was sighted and recordings made in the vicinity of this animal will be assessed to see if its identity can be revealed. Also sighted were a decent sized leatherback turtle, several pilot whale groups and a couple of sperm whales hanging out at the surface. The survey continues northward...

24th September

The IWDG are currently participating in a survey of beaked whales in slope and canyon habitats off the west coast of Ireland. The unique survey is being conducted by Marine Conservation Research on board the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) research vessel 'Song of the Whale'. The survey is funded by IFAW and the Irish Department for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The survey is designed to locate deep diving cetaceans such as sperm whales, pilot whales and the enigmatic beaked whales, of which little is know in Irish waters. Dave Wall from the IWDG and GMIT (Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology) participated in the first leg of the survey which Departed Plymouth on the 15th September. After sailing through the English Channel and western approaches, Song of the Whale crossed the south coast of Ireland to commence the survey track at the south end of the Porcupine Bank (click here for map of Ireland's offshore areas).

During the next week the survey team conducted visual and acoustic survey (using a towed hydrophone) of deep-water slope and canyon habitats which lie along the continental shelf slopes to the west of Ireland. Sightings were made of common dolphins, striped dolphins, pilot whales, fin whales, sperm whales minke whales and bottlenose dolphins.

After a successful first week, Song of the Whale berthed in Killybegs Harbour for a crew change and resupply stop. IWDG member John Brophy joins the survey team at Killybegs while other team members depart. The Song of the Whale will continue her survey on the 25th September on the north slopes of the Porcupine Bank and will continue to survey north along the shelf slopes and into UK waters. The survey will end in Northwest Scotland on the 11th October.

The survey blog may be followed on the IFAW website (click here).

Further information may be obtained from Dave Wall (dave.wall@iwdg.ie).