Lonely Planet Writer

Whales in record numbers visit Ireland for rich fishing

Ireland has become something of a whale-watcher’s paradise as the giant mammals are drawn by the rich variety of fish stock in its waters.

Humpback whales are now a feature in Irish waters
Humpback whales are now a feature in Irish waters Image by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith / CC BY-SA 2.0

Various type of whale – from minke, to fin and humpback –  live  there for up to 10 months of the year which is a big bonus for those spotters who arrange their holidays around their hobby.

Minke whale off the coast of Iceland.
Minke whale can now be seen off the coast of Ireland. Image by Andrea Schaffer / CC BY 2.0

Seven fin whales were identified recently, swimming in Irish waters as part of the Spring-Summer influx of the sea creatures. The magnificent seven were observed off the Old Head of Kinsale, making their way along the east coast of Cork.

Padraig Whooley, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group officer, said Tomas Kelly, a helicopter crewman with Bond Air Services, had seen the school of the second largest creatures on earth, from his craft from 1000ft up over the Kinsale gas fields.

Mr Whooley claimed there were now more and more sighting of these mammals off the Cork-Kerry coasts, adding that they stay from May until up to February.

The Irish Examiner reports that up to 100 whales are reported off Irish waters every year but the true numbers of sightings are believed to be many times higher.

What was gratifying for marine experts in Ireland was the fact that the animals were not just swimming by on their way to another destination because a big number were staying for months on end in Irish waters.

Their arrival has led to commercial boats taking enthusiastic followers out for four- to five hour trips where they get the chance to see the whales in their natural habitat. “It’s really reaching an international audience,” he added.

The longevity of the whale watching season in Ireland is a source of envy for other nations, particularly South Africa, consider the best site for this activity but it is limited there to a maximum of only four and a half months.

The reason for the whales relocation to Irish water is because it has become an important international feeding ground for whales which likes to consume spawning herring and sprats.