Fair Seas campaign manager Aoife O’Mahony recently joined the Irish Whale and Dolphin on a sunny whale-watching trip out of Baltimore in county Cork.

The whale-watching crew left Baltimore harbour on a gloriously sunny and calm day, to the background sound of the loud cheers of Irish rugby supporters celebrating another historic rugby win over New Zealand.

Padraig Whooley, sighting officer at the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), welcomed all the new volunteers and regular IWDG volunteers on a busy Baltimore pier. He also provided the enthusiastic new volunteers with lots of information about the differences between a dolphin and a whale – the main difference being the location of the dorsal fin. In dolphins, it is centred on their backs, which is why Orcas, also known as killer whales, with their tall central dorsal fins are dolphins, not whales. The dorsal fin on whales is further down their body, approximately ⅔ down their back. We also learned about the different types of feeding mechanisms, those whales that use teeth and those that use baleen plates to filter water to capture their prey.

No sooner than we passed the Beacon at the mouth of the harbour the common dolphins emerged from the waves, with their beautiful distinct hourglass yellow sides shimmering under the water.

Further out we had the privilege of being escorted by a mother common dolphin and her calf.

Common Dolphins by Sibéal Regan

We circled the Fastnet Rock around noon to admire this amazing feat of engineering 13km off the Cork coast.

We then headed south to Glandore where Fin whales have been sighted all week. En route, we passed an ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, an unusual visitor at this time of the year, and we spotted harbour porpoises who were true to their shy personalities and stayed well away from the boat.

Sunfish in the Aran Islands by Aoibheann Gillespie-Mules

We continued on in search of the fin whales and got a glimpse of the Stag rocks- most famous for the sinking of the Kowloon Bridge over 30 years ago.

As we skirted the Irish coast, the sun disappeared and the recommended extra layers were added. We spent over 4hrs exploring this magnificent coast but unfortunately, we didn’t spot any whales this time.

On the pier at the end of the trip, Padraig added; “This was the quietest trip since 2015 and similar to what the other boats have been saying”. This leads the scientists to ask Where are the whales now? Where have they gone? Why have they moved? Next month, the same trip will be taken again as part of the IWDG monthly survey, and hopefully more species will be spotted.

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We also welcome you to join us in Cork on 8th June, where we are hosting our inaugural World Ocean Day conference. We are bringing ocean advocates, government, industry and key stakeholders together to map out the next steps for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Irish waters.

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