Weekly sightings summary 6-12th June 2011

13th Jun 2011 A fairly normal week on Irish waters, still yielded 30+ validated sighting records reported to IWDG comprising seven cetacean species and basking sharks.

You always know when it's the summer "silly season" when the phone starts ringing with calls from tabloid journalists asking bizarre questions about "man-eating" sharks in Irish waters. This morning's classic surely marks the start of this year's silly season. ...Q: "have you any comment on reported sightings of Oceanic white-tipped reef sharks off Cornwall"? Answer..."No".

Sometime later I convince her that almost every June since as long as I can remember, stories of great whites or other "man eating" sharks surface without as much as a shred of evidence, and for some odd reason the common denominator always seems to be Cornwall. Last year the source of this early summer madness was a mid-wife from Wolverhampton on a day drip to St Ives, who started the whole media-driven frenzy, with a fuzzy image on a camera phone of what was clearly a basking shark. So the poor journalists next question was......."are basking sharks dangerous", at this point I decide to pretend that my dinner was burning and excused myself on the grounds that no matter how I attempted to answer her questions, one way or another she was going to end up with a banner headline declaring our waters unsafe for swimming. If only the media would concentrate on marinelife actually found in our waters.

But while on the subject of sharks, with only three basking shark sightings last week there is a sense that our shark season is coming to a close; an opinion shared by Emmett Johnston, NPWS Donegal who has spent recent weeks searching for specimens to tag. Although one sighting of five sharks feeding off Keem beach, Achill Island on 10/06/11 (above) does stand out. Basking sharks may still appear throughout the summer, albeit in lower numbers than their April peak (2011) with perhaps even a few stragglers into Autumn, but there is little doubt that they are more a late Spring addition to our marine megafauna.

The three "resident" bottlenose dolphins continue to thrill whale watchers on the east coast with daily sightings this week in Dalkey/Killiney Bay area. IWDG have since August 2010 validated over 120 records of this group between Wicklow Harbour and Dunlaoghaire, but Killiney Bay does seem to represent important habitat for them. People are even reporting them from DART trains between Killiney and Dalkey stations. There aren't too many European capitals which can boast whale watching opportunities from public transport systems!

While these bottlenose are clearly a novelty, some footage sent to IWDG suggests that they are having to contend with heavy boat traffic, especially at weekends. We caution boat owners not to crowd them out, and to allow the dolphins determine the extent of the interaction. If you plan on taking out a boat to see them, we'd ask you to familiarise yourself with Marine Safety Notice 15, which covers Whale-Watching regulations. It is law, and not a voluntary code. As alway's, we'd encourage people to enjoy the spectacle from the shore, which may even offer the best overall views of them. Suggested sites would be Vico Road and White Beach area. But if you are on the water with them, and you feel it's becoming a bit of a circus, let your concerns be known to other boat users and leave the area.

These dolphins will feature on an RTE News report by Philip Bromwell 14/06/11.

After Sean Pierce's humpback whale sighting off Howth in July 2010, his latest contribution is of a large whale s

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