Humpbacks return to Irish south coast

16th Jul 2013

Rightly or wrongly, there is always a sense, regarding whales in Ireland that unless the activity been recorded in places like West Cork, West Kerry or elsewhere along the Irish south coast, that it doesn't really count.  So for instance last month we had confirmed humpback whale sightings northeast of Rockabill, Co. Dublin and the following day another sighting of what could easily have been the same individual, off the Isle of Man, some 50 miles to the northeast. This growing trend of early season humpbacks occuring in the Irish Sea is of great interest and certainly merits further study.  This matter is fleshed out more in the next IWDG members Ezine due out soon.

If we take an average over the past 10 years of all minke whale sighting records from 1st Jan- 15th July we get an average of 76 records for this period. So far in 2013 we have recorded 114 minke whale records, an increase of 50%.  Whether this increase reflects an actual increase in animals or an increase in observer effort due to brilliant weather, calm seas etc, remains unclear. But one thing that was always predictable, was that with so many minke whales being recorded in southwest waters in particular, it was only going to be a matter of time before larger baleen whale species joined the action.  So there was a certain predictability to Nick Massett's fin whales off Slea Head, Co. Kerry last week. A conversation with Colin Barnes yesterday resulted with IWDG receiving the above image from Pio Enright, taken on Saturday 13th while angling off the Ling Rocks, southeast of the Old Head of Kinsale, Co. Cork, which confirm the first humpback whales along the Irish South coast for the 2013/14 "large whale" season.

So as I type, we can confirm the Irish south coast is currently home to minke, fin and humpback whales. With Met Eireann showing absolutely superb sea conditions for the coming week as the Atlantic jet stream is for once way to our north, enabling the "Azores high" build over Ireland, there has never been a better time to get involved in the work of the IWDG.  We suggest perhaps taking part in the land-based effort watches at a local headland and reporting your results to us, or joining IWDG on Cape Clear Island for the 2nd of our three Whale Watching weekend courses on 26-28th July.  Next month on Sunday 18th August, see's All Ireland Whale Watch day which will be held at 16 headlands throughout Ireland's coastline.  So there is plenty of scope for people to become actively involved in whales, whale watching and whale conservation In Irish waters.  Our Cape Clear weekend courses cost €90 and include a year's IWDG membership. If interested in more details contact or phone 353 86 3850568


Pádraig Whooley, 

IWDG Sightings Coordinator

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