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Humpback Whales Identified East of Fastnet Lighthouse by Research Student

3rd June 2022
A humpback whale, one of three sighted by PhD student Miguel Blázquez Hervás some 10 km east of Fastnet lighthouse, West Cork
A humpback whale, one of three sighted by PhD student Miguel Blázquez Hervás some 10 km east of Fastnet lighthouse, West Cork

Stunning humpback whale images have been captured by a postgraduate student east of the Fastnet lighthouse during a research trip off the West Cork coast.

Miguel Blázquez Hervás, a PhD student at the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) in Galway, was on his first trip out to try and sight some humpback whales when he came across a pod of three.

“I arrived down in West Cork last Saturday (May 28) and took the Cape Clear ferry Carrig Mhór,” Blázquez Hervás, from Madrid, Spain, said.

He was participating in a training course run by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

“The weather was good but quite windy, so it was a little bumpy. I wasn’t expecting to see anything and when I saw the three whales, along with some common dolphins which were also feeding on schools of fish,” he said.

The vessel was about 10km east of the Fastnet lighthouse at the time.

The humpback is one of 24 species of whale regularly seen in Irish waters, and there have been over 1,000 validated sightings reported.The humpback is one of 24 species of whale regularly seen in Irish waters, and there have been over 1,000 validated sightings reported

One of the three whales has been catalogued by the IWDG with the identification number HBIRL67, but the other two had no previous records.

The HBIRL67 whale is a female and can be recognised by the tooth rakes on the left side of her fluke, the two lobes of the tail. The rakes may have been caused by an encounter with killer whales.

She has been an annual visitor to Irish waters since 2016, according to the IWDG.

The humpback is one of 24 species of whale regularly seen in Irish waters, and there have been over 1,000 validated sightings reported.

In 2019, the IWDG confirmed a positive match between a humpback photographed at feeding grounds off the Irish south coast in 2015, and an animal photographed at breeding grounds in the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa that year.

Blázquez Hervás’s postgraduate research involves trying to determine the length and body condition of humpback whales in Irish waters using a drone, along with an analysis technique to determine abundance and trends over time.

His postgraduate scholarship is grant-aided by Fundación Mutua Madrileña

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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