First pilot whale strandings for the east coast

21st Jun 2013

IWDG received a call from the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) early yesterday (20 June) of a large (up to 25') whale/dolphin live stranded at Gormanston, Co. Meath. This was an unusual size for a cetacean stranding on the east coast where harbour porpoises and the occasional common dolphin are the norm so the first questions raised were; what is it (especially bearing in mind recent beaked whale strandings in the north and west) and what can be done if it really is that size? Contact was made with Mark Coleman (local IWDG stranding network contact) and with local National Parks and Wildlife officers who were quickly on the scene.

Prompt action from the Skerries Coastguard, Lifeboat Service and the Boyne Fishermans Rescue and Recovery Service resulted in the whale being refloated - quite a feat with what turned out to be a c.6m animal. Shortly afterwards, a further call from MRCC and a whale stranded at Mornington Beach some 8km or so to the north. Initially, this was thought to be the same animal restranded but when Mark went to the site, it turned out to be a smaller animal which had different markings (scarring) than the first. Local people confirmed that this second animal had live stranded in the morning and died shortly afterwards.

At this stage Mark confirmed both animals to be a long-finned pilot whales. While pilot whales are found stranded relatively frequently, a quick search through the strandings database on www.iwdg.ie shows that between 1753 and 2013, there are only two recorded strandings of long-finned pilot whales in the Irish Sea - and they both occurred yesterday. Due to the distance apart, these two strandings have been recorded as separate incidents but in all likelihood are connected. Once again we are left wondering at an unusual stranding event - what brought these two pilot whales, which would normally be found far off the west coast at the continental shelf, to the shores of county Meath?

Mick O'Connell,

IWDG Strandings Officer