Our Wales Development Officer, Katrin, last week pointed us in the direction of a fin-tastic sighting of one of the world’s largest whales in the Celtic Deep.
Sea Trust observers on board the ferry between Cherbourg and Rosslare spotted a minimum of twelve fin whales in the waters about halfway between Cornwall, Pembrokeshire and Ireland. They were able to watch the animals surfacing and blowing for around an hour on their trip last week.
Fin whales are seen in this area every year (particularly during summer months, but also in the winter too). Back in August 2005 the, then, largest ever group of fin whales recorded in UK coastal waters occurred off South-West Wales. “It was one of the most memorable sights of my life. We believe they were all attracted by the large numbers of herring which were present in the area at that time” noted Sea Watch Foundation founder and director, Dr Peter Evans who was on board to see the spectacle of six fin whales close together feeding just a few miles west of Ramsey Island.
“Fin whales are usually found around the edge of the continental shelf in relatively deep waters. In UK waters, this species is usually seen in one of three main areas: west of the Outer Hebrides, off the Northern Isles of Scotland, and in the Celtic Sea and Celtic Deep between SE Ireland, SW Wales and SW England. Occasionally the species comes into the North Sea occurring as far south as the Yorkshire coast around Whitby. Last year, MarineLife observers recorded around 25 fin whales in the Celtic Sea and groups of up to twenty individuals have been seen off the south coast of Ireland. Nevertheless, this latest record of at least twelve individuals gives further support to the relative importance of this area to the species ” remarked Kathy James, Sightings Officer for Sea Watch Foundation.
“Large creatures such as fin whales are part of the UK’s fauna and most people are oblivious to their presence. A mammal, even the size of a porpoise, would cause a stir on land, but under the sea they go unnoticed” said Alan Airey, Sea Watch Foundation Regional Coordinator for North Grampian. Based on the east coast of Scotland, Alan reported a fin whale sighting to Sea Watch Foundation at the beginning of May this year. Other 2014 sightings have occurred off County Waterford and Rockall (430km north-west of Ireland), in January and February respectively.
“It is thought that fin whales use the Celtic Sea area (the location of this most recent sighting) to give birth to their young in the winter months but may remain there year round, taking advantage of rich supplies of fish in summer. With this in mind we’d appreciate it if people along the coast bordering the Irish Sea kept a look out for more whale activity and report it to us at Sea Watch so that we can establish whether the fin whales are staying in the area or are just passing through. We would also urge boat operators in the Celtic Deep off the coast of Pembrokeshire to keep an extra-special eye out at this time” suggested Kathy.
The team at Sea Watch Foundation.