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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Rosnowlagh Beach

Six bottlenose whales die after mass stranding on Donegal beach

The northern bottlenose whales were found stranded earlier today.

AT LEAST SIX whales that were stranded on a beach in Donegal today have died, with all of the whales expected to be dead by morning.

A group of northern bottlenose whales were found stranded at Rosnowlagh beach in Donegal earlier today, around 19km north of Bundoran.

Three whales were stranded on the beach, with at least another four identified as stranded in the shallow water of the bay.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has been providing first aid to the whales on the beach, but most of them have died.

Speaking to, a spokesperson for IWDG said that “there was one alive who did swim out, but it’s most likely going to restrand”.

“I would say by the morning they will all be dead, which is expected. These are an offshore species,” he said.

The IWDG still has team members on the shore, but as the tide comes in, there is little they can do for the whales.

“We’re all meeting in the morning up in Rosnowlagh with the Council and the Wildlife Service where they will be recovered by Donegal County Council.”

Researchers will use samples from whales to learn more about the species, which are rarely seen in Ireland.

Earlier today, the IWDG shared a video on social media outlining the likely outcome for the whales.

“We had a phone call first thing this morning about live stranded whales up in Rosknowlagh in Co Donegal in Donegal Bay,” IWDG CEO Simon Berrow said in the video.

“There were reports of 7-8 bottlenose dolphins, which we thought was strange because bottlenose dolphins don’t really live-mass strand,” Berrow said.

“But we got a video from tourists on the beach of northern bottlenose whales. These are a very very big offshore species,” he said.

“We know very little about them, but they are prone to mass strandings. This is the largest mass stranding of this species ever in Ireland.”

“To be honest, there’s very little you can do about it. They probably weigh 3 or 4 tonnes the adult males, so they’re not good candidates for refloating.”

“You just have to let nature take its course, provide first aid on the beach, make sure they’re not stressed by people who are too close or yapping dogs.”

“People ask the questions – why can’t you refloat them, why can’t you euthanise them – which of course, are all valid questions to ask.”

Refloating is not possible because of their size, Berrow said, and the team also had to consider whether questions as to whether refloating the whales into Donegal Bay would be the right thing to do, given that they are a deep-diving species.

Euthanasia would also be difficult to carry out due to a lack of appropriate chemicals available in Ireland for an animal of that size, Berrow said.

Northern bottlenose whales are part of the Ziphiidae whale family and are most recognised for their large foreheads.

They usually live in pods of between four and twenty whales and can dive to over 1,400 metres deep.

The northern bottlenose whale is found mostly in the cooler waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.

In July, a Sowerby’s beaked whale, another deep-diving species, died on the east coast after being found in distress in Wicklow harbour.

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