Celtic Sea Herring Acoustic Survey 2015 - UPDATE 19 Oct

4th Oct 2015

Updated 19 October 2015

Lots of fin whale activity southeast of Mine head last Wednesday evening and Thursday.  We counted a minimum of 5 animals as the light was fading on Wednesday evening and from sunrise on Thursday morning we observed whale blows to the south and later passed closer to a minimum of 7 animals as we moved along the survey transect line.  At one point two whales looked to be lunge feeding in the distance but they had moved to the east by the time we got closer.  There were also numerous common dolphin encounters during the day but no particular area with concentrated feeding activity.   

Since then we've had a few relatively quiet days as we surveyed the area south of Ram Head to Cork harbour, although we had heard that there has been humpback activity off Ram head we unfortunately didn't see any - conditions weren't ideal with high sea states on Saturday when we were in that area.  

We are currently on anchor in Dunmanus bay completing a calibration exercise and were accompanied by common dolphins all morning as we were approaching the bay.  There has been feeding activity within a kilometre of the ship since we anchored with 40+ dolphins and at least 2 minke whales.

Fin whales off Mine Head © Mairead O'Donovan

Heading north to survey Bantry bay later.

Updated 18 October 2015

We had some excitement over the weekend with orcas spotted by Ciaran O'Donnell of the Marine Institute and some of the crew when they were shooting nets.  Typically none of the MMO/bird team with all our binoculars and long lense cameras got to see them!  According to the lucky ones who enjoyed the brief encounter there were 2-3 animals and they were in an area where there were a lot of herring.  There were common dolphins seen around the same time.  On the same day we recorded 2 fin whales, 1 humpback, a minke and a couple of unidentified whale blows, all within the same area with high herring densities.  

We are closer to shore now and doing shorter inshore transect lines, southeast of Mine head on the Waterford coast at the moment.  We've had stalwart common dolphins every day and conditions are great.  Hoping to see some bigger cetaceans as we head west - we've heard reports of feeding activity close to the coast near Ram head so will hopefully pass by some of those animals during daylight hours!

 

Updated 9 October 2015

A few sightings the past couple days that weren't common dolphins!  So a bit of excitement.  We were south of the Nymphe bank about 60 - 65 nm southeast of Helvick head yesterday and all sightings were in the area of a deep gully that we criss-crossed over a few times.  We had two tuna sightings of 4 and 10 animals; two Minke encounters with single animals; 3 bottlenose dolphins including one juvenile and judging by their lighter colour they were of the inshore ecotype (is that unusually offshore for inshore animals?).  And we did also have a couple of common dolphin encounters! - 73 animals in total.  Today we had more tuna and common dolphins and also a distant blow that I'm fairly confident was a fin whale's.

The fisheries guys got the first herring of the trip during a trawl last night.  Before that it had been mainly sprat.  

Hopefully more activity as we head east!

 

Updated 6 October 2015

Brief update from Mairead

  1. Saturday (minke, humpback) and Monday (melanistic common dolphin).
  2. Sunday sightings: 3 Common dolphin groups (15 animals total) as we transected north towards Baltimore and 2 Common dolphin groups (13 animals total) south of Glandore
  3. Monday sightings: 6 Common dolphin groups (33 animals total) southeast of the Old Head of Kinsale.  Melanistic individual present on two occasions

 

The IWDG are surveying for whales, dolphins and porpoise on the 2015 Celtic Sea Herring Survey onboard RV Celtic Explorer. This is 12th year in a row IWDG have collected these data on this survey making it one of the longest time-series on an annual fisheries survey in Europe. As each additional year is collected the data become more and more valuable.

This year Mairead O’Donovan is our cetacean recorder and onboard is a strong seabird team with Niall Keogh as head birder ! With all the large whales and dolphins being reported all around the southwest coasts at present it promises to be a great survey as long as the weather isn’t too bad.

Thanks again to the Marine institute and especially Ciaran O’Donnell for inviting us once again to participate.

Follow the survey on its blog on: http://scientistsatsea.blogspot.ie/