Air Corps survey of whales


THE AIR Corps is to undertake the first dedicated aerial survey of whale and dolphin activity in Irish waters this week.

The survey, with a team from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, will leave Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, this morning, weather permitting.

Two humpback whales currently feeding off the southeast coast are among many cetaceans (whales and dolphins) which the team hopes to observe during the flight in a slow-flying Casa maritime patrol aircraft.

The Air Corps has accommodated scientific researchers on scheduled fishery patrol flights before.

It recently flew BBC broadcaster and adventurer Monty Halls over Irish waters as part of a new BBC 2 television profile of Connemara for his Great Escapeseries.

However, this week’s dedicated mission is part of a new service level agreement between the Defence Forces and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

The non-governmental organisation says that 19 whale and dolphin species have been observed in Irish waters since the first record in 1948.

Its recently published review for 2000-2009 found that 13,359 sighting records of 150,508 individual mammals had been reported to, or collated by, the organisation.

Most frequently sighted are harbour porpoises, at 33 per cent, followed by common and bottlenose dolphin, minke whale, fin whale, Risso’s dolphin, humpback and killer whales.

Ireland was designated as a whale and dolphin sanctuary in 1991 by former taoiseach Charles J Haughey.

Dr Simon Berrow of the whale and dolphin group believes protection should be extended to basking sharks, given the large numbers which have shown up off Donegal during recent tagging programmes.