New Humpback whale for Irish waters off Wexford.

24th Jan 2012 IWDG are delighted to announce a previously unrecorded humpback whale photographed yesterday 23rd Jan off Hook Head, Co. Wexford, bringing to 19 the number of individual humpbacks recorded to date in Irish waters.

Well it was only a matter of time before humpback whales joined the feeding activity off Hook Head, given the recent run of fin whales in the area. In recent weeks upwards of 6-7 fin whales and at least one minke whale (very late record) have been documented, photographed and some biopsied by IWDG personnel under the “large whale project”.

In 2010 IWDG documented a humpback whale #HBIRL11 off Hook Head on 17/01/2010 and we'll never likely forget his fantastic breaching display that featured on main RTE News and the Wild Journeys wildlife documentary. Its gender was confirmed by genetic analysis from a biopsy sample taken by Dr Simon Berrow. Then in 2011 a further two humpbacks #HBIRL13 &14 were added on the 9th and 11th January respectively and both off Co. Wexford. So this latest sighting is perhaps not such a surprise and one could argue that it was entirely predictable that a humpback would show up in this area, at this time of year, given past sightings.

We've also added another humpback (HBIRL19) to the Irish Humpback catalogue. This was a whale that became entangled in fishing gear off Hook Head on 21st June 2009 and was successfully saved from a certain slow death by crew from Fethard-on Sea Coastguard. Although we don't have any fluke shots of this whale, it is still very well-marked on the right flanks (see photo below) and should be relatively easy to match, should it show up in Irish waters again. This latest addition is noteworthy as it shows us that this species doesn't limit its use of Wexford waters to winter months. Irish Humpbacks have an increasing knack of showing up in unusual places, when you least expect them, which hopefully is a sign that their numbers are on the increase.

During 2011/12 large whale season, IWDG has added 5 new humpbacks to the Irish Humpback Whale catalogue which can be interrogated on on the following link . This is a unique resource and means anybody fortunate enough to secure images of a humpback can compare their images with a suite of images of 19 humpbacks documented in Irish waters. We'd love a chance to view any images of this most iconic of our visiting large whales.

Let's hope this animal remains in the area and that boat owners will be sensitive in how they approach it and in how they handle their boats around this humpback and the fin whales currently off the Hook Peninsula.

Huge thanks to Sean Slevin and Richard Creagh for forwarding images to IWDG, several of which appear on the online Photo ID catalogue.

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Co-ordinator

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