First Aerial Whale Survey cut short

21st Jan 2011 The first dedicated aerial whale survey had to be cut-short due to technical difficulties. The survey onboard the Maritime Squadron Casa 252 aircraft successfully completed one-third of its track-lines before the mission was terminated.

The survey is part of a joint IWDG/GMIT project called PReCAST funded by the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. During this project we are mapping the distribution of cetaceans in all Irish waters, especially offshore, testing the efficiencies of different platforms to fulfill our monitoring obligations and exploring the relationship between whales and they prey in the Celtic Sea.

The IWDG provided nine parallel track-lines of 60nmls in length to the Maritime Squadron stretching from east Wexford to West Cork. The survey started as the sun rose over the Sugarloaf mountain, Co. Wicklow. Sea-state was good and a sighting of a single harbour porpoise near the Arklow bank was a good omen. Two more sighting of dolphins near the Tuskar Rock were followed by the first whale sighting of a fin whale around 100km south of Carnsore Point.

Three track-lines were completed with seven sightings including two fin whale sightings before a technical problem with the steering meant the Casa 252 had to return to Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel prematurely. This was an obvious disappointment but obviously if the aircraft is signalling a warning message this has to be fully respected.

It is hoped we may be able to repeat this survey in the near future to complete this ground-breaking survey. As ever the IWDG thank the Maritime Squadron for their ongoing support for this ground breaking research.

Dr Simon Berrow

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