Whale-Watch Ireland 2018 set to kick off next weekend

Published by Niall Sargent on

August 17th, 2018

The recent arrival of species like minke and humpback whales and other species of whales and dolphins along the Irish coast is a good omen for this years All Island Whale Watch day.

The day, hosted by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), will see whale watching events at headlands across the country between 2:00-5:00 pm on Saturday 25th August.

All watches are land-based and will be led by experienced IWDG researchers, enthusiasts and whale watchers from counties Cork, Clare, Dublin, Kerry, and many more.

These experts will show members of the public how to observe and identify some of the more commonly recorded cetacean species seen in Irish waters.

The purpose of whale watch day is to raise awareness of the 25 species of cetaceans – porpoises, dolphins and whales – recorded in all Irish waters and to give the public an opportunity to observe these wonderful marine mammals in their natural environment.

The week also provides IWDG researchers with a unique snapshot of whale and dolphin activity around the Irish coast, the group said.

This annual, all-island event, organized by the IWDG in association with Inis is free and open to all.

Whale in the sea Photo: TheDigitalArtist/ Creative Commons

Whale in the sea Photo: TheDigitalArtist/ Creative Commons

Those interested in attending should bring binoculars or a spotting scope and dress appropriately for outdoor weather conditions.

Although there is no guarantee that you will see whales or dolphins at your chosen site, the IWDG recorded whales or dolphins at 15 of 20 sites last year.

“You’ve quite a good chance of seeing some really interesting marine wildlife, and in the process, you’ll be supporting whale and dolphin conservation in Ireland by becoming actively involved in Citizen Science,” the group said.

You can visit the IWDG website for more information and also find out more about whale and dolphin sightings and strandings in Irish waters.

Earlier this month, several Cuvier’s beaked whales were found washed up at different locations along the coast in counties Donegal and Mayo last weekend.

According to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), the similar conditions of all three animals indicate that the whales died at around the same time.

Three to four stranding events in a year would be “relatively normal”, the conservation group said, making last weekend’s discoveries “highly unusual”.

The most recent mass-stranding recorded on Irish coast occurred between December 2014 and January 2015 when around 20 beaked whales washed up in Ireland and Scotland coasts. The Department of Heritage reported that this was linked to a sonar activity.

Sonar activity can damage the navigational and communication abilities of deep diving whales, the Department said, leading to the animal’s death.

dolphin plastic bag at fernando de noronha Photo: Jedimentat44

Dolphin with a plastic bag caught on its flipper Photo: Jedimentat44

Threats to cetaceans

Almost ten per cent of whales, dolphins, and porpoises examined as part of a 2017 Irish study were found to have plastics in their digestive tracts.

The study published in Environmental Pollution found that 8.5 per cent (45 individuals) of Irish cetaceans tested had marine debris in their stomachs and intestines.

Concerns are also raised about the impact of offshore oil and gas drilling on cetaceans, with seismic exploration, carried out before drilling, deemed to be very damaging.

Seismic exploration can cause disorientation and internal bleeding in whales, dolphins and porpoises for distances of up to 100 miles.

More significant than this is new evidence from leading science journal Nature that shows a single exploratory blast kills 100 per cent of zooplankton larvae and 64 per cent of adult krill within at least 0.7 miles.

These organisms are the basis of the marine food chain and without them, there are no fish to catch.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London