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Dublin: 10°C Friday 16 April 2021

This strange-looking Arctic whale has popped up in Irish waters for the first time

The public are being asked to keep their eyes peeled for the elusive animal.

whale - 1 The bowhead whale spotted off of Carlingford Harbour Source: Patrick Rooney and John Morgan

HAVE YOU EVER set off somewhere, sure of your destination – and then inexplicably found yourself 2,000 miles away from where you’re supposed to be?

It would seem that’s exactly what has happened to a bowhead whale that has been spotted near Carlingford Harbour in Co Louth in recent days.

This is the first sighting of the animal in Irish waters, and puts it thousands of miles south of its usual Arctic habitat.

According to the Irish Dolphin and Whale Group (IDWG), this is the first time in 25 years that a new species of whale has been spotted in Irish waters.

The animal was first sighted on Sunday by a boat from Carlingford Lough Pilots, a family-owned company based in Louth.  

whale - 2 The bowhead whale Source: Patrick Rooney and John Morgan

The IDWG were able to confirm that the animal was a bowhead whale by looking at the shape of its rostrum (beak), its arched jawline and white chin.

It is estimated to be just over six metres in length, which indicates that it is most likely a juvenile.

Full-sized, the animals can grow to be more than 12 metres in length, with females growing larger than males.

They are known to feed on plankton, particularly a variant called Calanus copepods – which are known to be abundant in Irish waters at this time of the year.

Speaking about the finding, the IWDG’s sightings officer Padraig Whooley said: 

This is a fantastic news story and underlines the importance of maintaining the IWDG cetacean recording schemes which monitors cetaceans in all Irish waters.
We’d urge whale watchers, birders and wildlife enthusiasts along the Co Down and Louth coasts to keep an eye out for this whale while sea watching.

Since the sighting of the whale the IWDG’s yacht the Celtic Mist (which was once owned by Charlie Haughey) diverted its course to the Carlingford Lough area in the hope of catching a glimpse of the animal.

In an update today, it has said that there weren’t able to spot it, but is encouraging members of the public who might be in the area to report the sighting through their website or to call them on 0863850568.

Read: Foreign supertrawlers blamed for ‘dolphin carnage’ off Irish coast

Also: Cut up your six pack rings warns IWDG after dolphin death in Cork

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