Whale Watch Ireland 2018 results

29th Aug 2018

On Saturday 25th August the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group delivered Whale Watch Ireland 2018. All–Ireland Whale Watch day, now in its 18th year, comprises free, guided land-based watches, spread over 14 counties, and in all four provinces and continues to be one of the largest events on the Irish wildlife calendar. 

To maximize the impact of this event it was once again timed to coincide with Heritage Week, thus helping us introduce this event to as wide an audience as possible.  The main objective of Whale Watch Ireland is to raise awareness of the 25 species of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) recorded to date in Irish waters, and to promote their conservation by highlighting public participation in our successful recording schemes, which encourage members of the public to report sightings and strandings to the IWDG.

As usual there was a good mix of both Irish and overseas visitors to the watches, and for many attending, this was their first encounter with a cetacean in the wild in Irish waters.  Those attending at many of the sites were provided with interpretation by IWDG personnel, who have considerable experience regarding cetacean identification, ecology, biology and the conservation threats facing these marine mammals. An assortment of whale artifacts were on view at some sites, and there was plenty of handouts and information sheets supplied by both IWDG and Inis, the event’s sponsor www.seathebeauty.net

This year’s event was attended by C.950 wildlife enthusiasts and visitors at 19 sites; a 26% decline from 2017. Most sites (13) reported a reduction in numbers, 3 sites remained the same, with just a modest increase at 3 further sites. Interestingly, of the 3 sites that had an increase in numbers, only one, Clogher Head, Co. Kerry had a paid promotion on Facebook. The most likely explanation for the lower than expected numbers given the fine weather on the day, was the visit of Pope Frances that weekend.  So in future we’ll strive to avoid dates clashing with papal visits!

The success or otherwise of this outdoor event is generally determined by the prevailing weather on the day, and thankfully most sites were treated to calm seas and clear skies which resulted in cetacean sightings at 73% of the sites covered at this year’s event. This compares with 75% in 2017. There was however no standout result from this year’s event, as 12 sites (63%) recorded 1 species (mostly harbour porpoises), two sites recorded 2 species (Galley Head, Co. Cork and Bloody Bridge, Co. Down), while no cetaceans were recorded at 5 sites. It is noteworthy that sightings were significantly lower at almost all sites, by a factor of 43%.

Despite the lower attendance and sighting rates at this year’s event, IWDG are very pleased with the overall results, and we hope that among those who attended, there will be some new members for IWDG and dedicated whale watchers who are willing to volunteer some of their time and energy in furthering our understanding of the whales and dolphins that live in Irish coastal waters.

From all of us in IWDG, we extend a huge thanks to Inis in Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow for once again making this wonderful day possible

Summary results



1.  Overall, sightings at 14 of 19 sites = 73.6% (compares with 75% in 2017)



2   Cetacean species recorded (3): harbour porpoise, common dolphin & minke whales  (6 spp. In 2017)

3.  Zero species @ 5 sites, 1 species @ 12 sites, 2 species @ 2 sites



4.  Other species: Basking shark (1) Sunfish (1), and Grey seals



5.  individuals: hbr. porpoise x 50, common dolpin x 40, minke whale x5


6.  Attendance 945 (26% decrease on 2017): Down on 13 sites, 3 remained same, & small increase at 3 sites


Images from Top

1. Loop Head, Co. Clare with Simon Berrow

2. Gerald Butler attendent lighthouse keep at Galley Head, West Cork

3. Bray Head, Co. Wicklow with Justin Ivory

4. Family sporting Sponsors Inis t-shirts up at Clogher Head, Co. Kerry

5. Whale watchers at Clogher Head, Co. Kerry with Nick Massett

6. The other Bray Head...Valentia Island with Sean O' Callaghan showing some fin whale bones



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