Narwhal stranding in Liscannor Bay, Co. Clare.. RESOLVED

22nd Apr 2012 Report Update, 22/04/12

The ongoing mystery of the whale stranded in Clohane near Liscannor in North Clare has been resolved. Images sent by Brian and Teresa Kelly confirm it to be a long-finned pilot whale. The image below shows the round, bulbous head, large dorsal fin and the upper part of its long pectoral fins. This is the fourth pilot whale reported stranded in Co Clare during 2012 and the 16th on all coasts - a very high number.


IWDG were always sceptical that the whale was a Narwhal, a species never previously recorded in Ireland. We record over 150 strandings per annum, making it unlikely that in missing this one, that we'd miss a species new to Ireland.

Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion, especially locally as to what had happened to the whale, and why Clare County Council removed it without reporting it to the IWDG. Clare County Council have received unfair criticism of their actions and we hope they will continue to be supportive of the IWDG by reporting stranded cetaceans to IWDG before disposal.

Many thanks to Brian and Teresa Kelly for managing to download their camera phone and resolve the mystery !

Report Update, 05/04/12

Despite much local, regional and national coverage of this story, IWDG have not received any images or descriptions in support of this mystery animal being a Narwhal. That's of course not to say that it wasn't one, but that to date we have no firm evidence that we can stand over.

We'd like to thank those who responded to our request for supporting evidence. With each passing day, it does seem less likely that this animal, which was removed by Clare County Council, was a narwhal. But the ultimate arbiter of this will be the genetic results from the Netherlands. IWDG will of course keep you updated when these results are known, which should take a few weeks.

Report I, 31/03/12

Before you ask; No, this is not an April Fools prank. While most IWDG personnel were in Galway at ECS during the week, a possible new species was recorded for Irish waters.

The stranded cetacean was seen on Sunday 25th by Max Halliday near the Rock shop in Liscannor, and was reported to IWDG by phone on Mon. 26th March. Alas, the message was only picked up by us on our return from the conference on Fri. 30th.

The description as provided to us was of a cetacean that was larger than a dolphin at c15ft, with no dorsal fin, but most interestingly with a spiral tusk, about the length of a hurley, protruding from its head. Of course the first question in this situation is...do you have any photos? and of course the answer was...NO!



But Max was pretty sure that this observation was not a run of the mill event and went home and looked up some books and the more he looked the more confident he became that what he saw was indeed a Narwhal. So we immediately made phone calls and within the hour Simon Berrow & Conor Ryan, IWDG and Joanne O Brien, GMIT and others were onsite.

Frustratingly, the carcass was missing, but they found where it had been and the grease stain indeed suggested an animal larger than a bottlenose dolphin. So the big question is where are the remains? Given the calm seas of the past week, it is unlikely that it was washed back out to sea, and so perhaps a member of the public found it, and realising its significance, removed it.

There were thankfully sufficient tissue remains at the site, that may, through a genetics process referred to as "sequencing the D-Loop" (Pers. Comm. Conor Ryan), help us confirm whether this was indeed a Narwhal. If we can prove this, then this is a very important finding, as this is a first for Ireland, bringing to 25 the number of cetacean species recorded in our waters. We've been stuck on