First images and 3rd only sighting record of a beluga whale in Irish waters

31st Jul 2015

There is now broad consensus from cetacean experts on both sides of the Atlantic that this is a confirmed sighting of a beluga whale from Co. Antrim yesterday 30th July. This is a significant record of this extreme vagrant in Irish waters.

STOP THE PRESS!!A BELUGA WHALE has been filmed off Northern Ireland by Gordon Watson! Reported to us by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust who spotted a post on facebook, our director Peter Evans was able to confirm the identification just moments ago.This sighting from yesterday is a fantastic addition to this year's National Whale & Dolphin Watch!

Posted by Sea Watch on Friday, July 31, 2015

These images were taken yesterday 30th July by Gordon Watson off Dunseverick, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland. This is the first validated record of this Arctic vagrant in Irish waters since IWDG started recording cetaceans in 1991. The previous record was from Cork Harbour in 1988. The other option could have been an albino or leucistic sperm whale, but this discussion is now a little academic as in the past hour video footage has been seen by colleagues in the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust which puts this matter to rest.

The SeaWatch Foundation sightings database from UK confirms beluga have been recorded on 10 occasions since 1964, and most of these sighting records are from Northern or NW Scotland or Northern England. The last record was from 2007. So even at much higher latitudes such as the Orkneys or Shetland, sightings of beluga are extremely rare events. If you think you may have further images or video evidence of this animal from yesterday or today, IWDG would really appreciate the opportunity to view them, as subsequent sightings may enable us track this rare visitor along the north coast. It is not known whether animals under these circumstances will be able to return to their preferred Arctic habitats, but its chances of survival so far south of its expected home range would we feel be quite low.


IWDG wish to extend a huge thanks to all our partners in N.Ireland, Scotland, The USA and Norway who contributed to this identification and indeed to Gordon Watson for sharing his images.

IWDG Sightings Officer