A sighting of 70 – 100 long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) was confirmed by the Aberdeen Lighthouse Field Station on Tuesday 4th May 2010 in the mouth of the Cromarty Firth, NE Scotland. The group consisting of adults and calves were reported to be behaving normally undertaking spy hopping, tail slapping, side breaching and logging activities. The same pod was sighted again off Latheron by Colin Carter in the morning of the 6th May, where they milled about until around 5pm when they started moving north and were photographed by SWF Regional Coordinator Colin Bird, passing Swiney Hill, Lybster at around 7pm.
Long-finned pilot whales are common and widely distributed in the deep waters of the north-eastern Atlantic and seasonally enter coastal waters around the Faroe Islands, north Scotland, and western Ireland. However, it is rare to see these animals travel so close inshore as we saw at Lybster. Male whales can grow to lengths over 6m and females to a maximum of 5.5m. Long-finned pilot whales are easily recognised by their dark grey or black bulbous head, low fin located far forward on their dark back, long pectoral fins and slow swimming pattern.
It is estimated that there are only 10,000 Long-finned pilot whales left in the North Atlantic Ocean. Historically this whale species has been traditionally exploited in Newfoundland, the Shetland and Orkney Islands and Ireland. Present day hunting continues to some extent in the Faroe Islands where there is a long tradition of driving the whales ashore and killing them. These hunts are subject to much concern and controversy. This whale species is also under threat from entanglement in long-lines, trawls and gillnets.
So far this is a great start to the season!