Return of the whales


A POD of fin whales indulging in a “feeding frenzy” on Celtic Sea herring grounds includes two which were identified in the same location a year ago.

The fin, which is the second-largest living animal on the planet after the blue whale, has not been known for being a return visitor to Irish waters – unlike several humpbacks, including west Cork’s “Boomerang”.

The identification was confirmed by Andrew Malcolm of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), who counted up to six fin whales feeding about 3km (1.86 miles) southeast of Hook Head, Co Wexford.

Mr Malcolm was with a group on board the Rebecca C, owned by Martin Colfer, when he photographed the dorsal fins, and compared records. Two of the six had been identified in the same spot on January 30th last year.

“The herring has been bringing them in, as these are the spawning grounds, and the fins breached a number of times very close to the boat, giving us a very clear view,” he said.

Up to 30 common dolphins, a minke whale and some porpoises were also sighted during the trip.

Humpbacks often follow fin whales into feeding grounds, and it was off Hook Head that the first humpback of 2011 was identified by IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley in mid-January last year.

The IWDG noted recently that the majority of fin whales identified off the south coast were first-time recordings.

Late last week, a dead sperm whale, which attracted thousands of visitors to north Connemara’s Omey Island over the new year, was buried at sea.

The carcass of the 13m (43ft) whale was towed west of High Island last Thursday by a cargo vessel hired by Galway County Council. The mammal had been deemed too big to bury on the shoreline, as the beach area at Trá Chúil on the back of Omey is confined and rock-strewn.

“Sea conditions were good, the whale was towed out to sea by the tail and the body released,” Claddaghduff resident Féicín Mulkerrin said.

Up to 10,000 people travelled to see the whale, which is believed to have died at sea.

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