The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group proves you don’t have to go anywhere exotic to observe whales, sharks, and dolphins

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) recently embarked on a first-of-its-kind expedition that sought to learn more about the diverse predatory wildlife that lives off of the Irish coast.

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Speaking with The Irish Examiner, Simon Berrow from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) said: “You watch David Attenborough and we go to Alaska and South Africa with him on screen to see whales and sharks and dolphins, but this is all happening in Ireland, this is all happening on the west of Ireland.”

On August 1, Berrow joined Sean O’Callaghan, chief scientist at IWDG, GMIT researchers Sally O’Meara and Sibeal Regan, and NUIG researcher Ciaran Tierney for a “multidisciplinary survey investigating the biological and oceanographic features of the 100 m contour line from Cork to Galway.

The investigation took place under their 'marine top predators on the 100 m contour' survey.

Celtic Voyager lies at the Port of Cork in the heart of Cork City. Tomorrow (Thursday) at 5:00am it will depart on an...

Publiée par Irish Whale and Dolphin Group sur Mercredi 31 juillet 2019

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On their website, the IWDG said: “The inspiration for the survey came from the regular occurrence of humpback whales observed near the 100m contour line, especially off west Kerry. Was this a real feature of interest, is this consistent along the whole 100m contour. This depth contour lies close to west Kerry but is further offshore along the Cork coast.”

Among the data the team collected was where predatory wildlife gathers, what their food sources are, and, using recording devices, the sounds that whales and dolphins use to communicate.

At the start of their expedition, that ran from August 1 through August 8, the IWDG shared this amazing footage of dolphins spotted alongside their yacht:

Good start on the Celtic Mist after two days in Port due to bad weather conditions. We are sailing up to Kilronan in Inismore and we met a group of 12 common dolphins bow riding and playing. Two calves and at least 5 juveniles were part of the group, what a good surprise!

Publiée par Irish Whale and Dolphin Group sur Mercredi 7 août 2019

“We’ve seen six species now, of whales, dolphins, and sharks,” Berrow told The Irish Examiner.

“We met eight to 10 fin whales lunge-feeding off the Fastnet Rock the other day,” Berrow added. “The fish were close to the surface, so the whales were throwing themselves on their sides and then getting the fish. You could see the blows of whales everywhere.”

“These guys are 70-80 feet long and weigh up to 60 tonnes. We’ve also seen plenty of blue sharks cruising at the surface and bluefin tuna, which are as big as dolphins.”

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Discussing where their research took them, Berrow said: “So south of Cork we went about 30 miles out, 40 miles was definitely the furthest off-shore we went. In west Kerry, we were five miles off-shore, and at Bull Rock off Cork, we only needed to go one or two miles out.”

“This is the first targeted survey of the 100-meter contour, combining oceanographers and biologists.”

Sean O’Callaghan told The Irish Examiner there was a lot of “feeding activity off Cork between the whales and dolphins and tuna and birds.”

“The top predator would be the killer whale who have been known to take porpoises. Two orcas were seen off Kilkee in Clare last week,” said O’Callaghan.

The team shared regular updates about their findings on their blog Scientists at Sea, as well as on the IWDG website.

Whale Watch 2019

On August 24, the IWDG will host its annual, free, open-to-all Whale Watch event all around Ireland: "The purpose of whale watch day is to raise awareness of the 25 species of cetaceans (porpoises, dolphins, and whales) recorded to date in all Irish waters, by giving the public an opportunity to look for and observe some of these wonderful marine mammals in their natural environment."

"This event also provides IWDG researchers with a unique snapshot of whale and dolphin activity around the Irish coast."

Have you ever observed wildlife off the coast of Ireland? Tell us about it in the comments!