The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has expressed concern that Ireland’s only resident group of killer whales (Orcinus orca) could be dying out due to the long term effects of marine pollution.
Known as the Scottish west coast community group, the killer whale pod is the only known resident pod of this apex marine predator around Britain and Ireland. The group is largely based around the west coast of Scotland and Ireland, spending much of its time in Irish waters. Scientists have studied this particular group of killer whales for around 30 years, but in all of that time the group has never produced a calf.
There is a real fear among scientists that pollution in the marine food chain has rendered the pod infertile.
“It is down to about seven animals now,” said Dr Simon Berrow of the IWDG. “The big male is called Jon Coe, and there is a big notch in his dorsal fin. Others are called Nicola and Floppy Fin. They move down through Irish waters and go back to Scotland.”
The IWDG is still awaiting the results of an autopsy on a killer whale that washed up dead on the coast of County Waterford earlier this year, but Dr Berrow confirmed that pollutant levels have been high in previously stranded killer whales around the Irish coast.
“There is a concern they are very, very highly polluted as they are top predators and long-living, so they pick up pollution in the sea through food and accumulate more and more every year.”
While the Scotish west coast community group is the only known group of resident killer whales around the Irish coast, Dr Berrow also points out that Irish waters are frequented by other visiting groups of killer whales.
“People should know one of nature’s top predators is regularly seen in Ireland close to shore and off shore,” he said. “Every year we have sightings. We have them on the east coast, the west coast and probably mostly up around Donegal and Northern Ireland, but they are around the Irish Sea as well. They can be very close to shore and you can literally see them from shore.”
If you see a killer whale from shore or from a boat around the Irish coast please report your sighting via the IWDG online sightings scheme.
You can view the full photo-id catalogue of the Scottish West Coast Community Group on the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust website.