[MARMAM] Bowhead whale.....a new species for Ireland

Pádraig Whooley padraig.whooley at iwdg.ie
Tue Jun 7 11:05:36 PDT 2016

O*n Sunday 29th May 2016 at 12:15 pm a pilot boat from Carlingford Lough
Pilots Ltd. on a routine job observed, photographed and filmed a whale of
unknown species just outside the Lough mouth at the Helly Hunter Rocks. It
was clear that this was something unusual and was clearly none of the whale
species routinely observed in Irish waters. *

Padraig Whooley, IWDG Sightings Officer contacted Leo Cunningham of
Carlingford Lough Pilots, who has kindly forwarded the IWDG additional
sightings information, images and video which confirm this to be a bowhead
whale* Balaena mysticetus*. This is a new whale species for Ireland, as the
Arctic Bowhead whale has never previously been reported in Irish waters.

Species identification was confirmed through the shape of its rostrum,
extremely arched jawline and white chin, plus the fact that in common with
most Arctic species, bowhead whales do not have a dorsal fin and on no
images or video footage is there any evidence of a dorsal fin on this
individual. So IWDG is confident in confirming this new species for
Ireland, bringing the Irish cetacean species list to 25 species.

The whales was estimated at around c20ft, which is small for this species
and clearly a juvenile. It also leaves open the possibility that this could
be the same individual observed off Cornwall, off southwest England on May
15th, where it was seen close to the shoreline. In February 2015, a bowhead
whale was recorded off the Sciliy Islands, which makes this a remarkable
recent run of sightings of this very rare species at these latitudes.

Despite a follow up search by land, sea and air, there have been no
subsequent sightings of this individual since the initial sighting on May
29th 2016.

Arctic species are known to undergo "eruptions" when species move out of
their "normal" range. These include occasional incursions of Walrus into
Ireland. Last year we reported a Beluga from Northern Ireland, only the 3rd
sighting in Irish waters and earlier this year a Narwhal was washed up in
Belguim in April, the first record of this species in the low country. Are
these just coincidences or they a sign of disruption in the functioning of
the Arctic ecosystem.

Full story and images http://www.iwdg.ie/news/?id=2631 .
All images are courtesy of Carlingford Lough Pilots.

Pádraig Whooley

Irish Whale and Dolphin Group
Sightings Officer

Dereen, Rossmore
Co. Cork
Postcode: P85 F886

Phone: 353 (0)86 3850568
Website: www.iwdg.ie
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