23 May 2024

All this and more in beautiful Baltimore and the Islands…

I thought my sightings of blue whales off Baja this past February 2014 were insurmountable…but I always forget just how fabulous Spring wildlife sightings are off gorgeous Baltimore and the Islands.

Voyager leaving Baltimore - the whale watching capital of West Cork

Voyager leaving Baltimore – the whale watching capital of West Cork

After her routine winter refit and servicing our trusty ship Voyager was back in the water early April and since then we have had some lovely marine wildlife encounters off Baltimore and the Islands, around The Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse, south of The Kedges and well offshore. Sightings have been increasing steadily throughout April in what has been a great month from the weather point of view with bouts of really warm, sunny weather.

On many trip we were able to venture well offshore and had several good encounters with common dolphin groups as they foraged along the coast. Early in the season is not a traditionally the best time to see the short beaked common dolphin as they tend to move inshore towards the end of July affording us gorgeous sightings right through to the end of the year.

Short Beaked Common Dolphins

Short Beaked Common Dolphins

With the warm sunny weather the phytoplankton has been drawn up to the surface of the water column and you know what that means…yes, basking sharks. Right on cue the “baskers” turned up off Baltimore and we have recorded an eight metre animal south of the harbour with some nice breaching activity off the islands. Although the window of opportunity is not huge for basking sharks, the second largest fish in the world, we hope to see them through until the beginning of June.


Following a 75% drop in porpoise sightings throughout our operating area during the 2013 season we have started to see this engaging little cetacean more frequently towards the end of April and during early part of May. A group of 10-12 animals feeding in the Gascanane Sound May 2nd was a treat we had not enjoyed for several months. I love this diminutive little animal as they really don’t like people, engines or boats very much and to get good sightings requires all the tenets of responsible boat based cetacean watching, something Whale Watch West Cork champions through their membership of the Responsible Whale Watch Partnership of Whale Watch International.

Basking Shark (c) Les Dean

Basking Shark (c) Les Dean

My colleagues around the coast have been sending in sightings of a variety of marine wildlife but none are so exciting as the first sightings of one of my favourite little baleen whales, the minke whale. Over the last few weeks sightings have been sent in to Whale Watch West Cork with good encounters off Derrynane, the Mizen Head and Cape Clear Island to name a few.  All confirmed sightings sent in to me are posted on the Sea Watch Foundation website where you can post directly online. During the past two weeks some excellent minke whale sightings have been recorded from both land and sea off Baltimore and the Islands.

Young Minke Whale surfaces by boat

Young Minke Whale surfaces by boat

One of the highlights of this past 10 days was the group of 12 Risso’s dolphins we encountered in Baltimore Bay. Feeding with several young animals it is always a delight to see these unusual dolphins with their white colouration (older animals), snub noses and large dorsal fins so reminiscent of a young female killer whale. Lots of spy hopping and tail splashing from the younger, darker skinned members of the group.


For the avid birders among us we are encountering good groups of guillemots, black guillemots, puffins, razorbills, Manx shearwaters, gannets and great northern divers around the islands and offshore Baltimore.

Risso's dolphins

Risso’s dolphins

More to come as we get further into the season and regular postings on Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t forget the National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2014 run by the Sea Watch Foundation. For a whole week from 26th July to 3rd August. They are delighted to get any sightings you may have and you can post them directly online through their up-to-date website.

If you are heading down the stunning Wild Atlantic Way this year don’t forget to make a turn down the Golden Spur to Baltimore and the Islands. Sample the local fresh cuisine in family run restaurants and bars. Stay in B&B’s and small hotels offering some of the best value in Ireland and travel to the islands. All this and more available in beautiful Baltimore –  the whale watching capital of West Cork.

2013 was an exceptional whale watching year…

Like wine a whale watching year can be good or simply outstanding. 2013 was an outstanding year in terms of breadth of species and the consistency of sightings. It was no coincidence that we also had an excellent summer with lots of sunshine and calm sea conditions!

Basking Shark (c) Les Dean

Basking Shark (c) Les Dean

The weather in April and early May though did not bode well for the forthcoming season as we had some very cold easterly winds which caused a temperature inversion where the surface waters were colder than the deeper waters. This had an impact on basking shark sightings. We think it stopped the phytoplankton from rising to the surface waters as it encountered a thermocline around two metres down. We saw plenty of “baskers” just under the water surface in all the old haunts but not so many at the surface feeding, mouths agape. Traditionally, although the basking sharks may be present for many months feeding below the surface, we don’t see them until the warm sunny weather draws the phytoplankton up in the water column. Then these enormous animals, the second largest fish in the world, follow this food source and we see the tell tale dorsal and tail fins breaking the surface. With the younger animals we also see the bulbous, rather porcine snout. Unusually this year we saw a disproportionate number of quite young basking sharks.

One of the unusual occurrences of 2013 was the reduction in the number of porpoise sightings. We run a continuous porpoise survey every year in Roaringwater Bay and east to The Stag Rocks. Monthly numbers recorded from April through to December were well down on previous years causing us some concern initially. Strangely enough, my colleague Duncan Jones in Penzance recorded higher numbers for 2013 than in previous years. We are looking to try and link our data and surveys as this is quite likely to be related to the availability of suitable food. It may also support our long held belief  that these diminutive cetaceans are not restricted to coastal waters and that they may well travel large distances over open ocean to more productive feeding grounds.

Young Minke Whale surfaces by boat

Young Minke Whale surfaces by boat

The stars of 2013 however, were the minke whales. Even in the very cold April and May we were seeing young animals throughout inshore waters off Baltimore but in late June warmer conditions prevailed and the water temperature rose 5 degrees within a few weeks. The resulting plankton blooms provided a ready food source for sprats and other small shoaling fish and we saw large aggregations of these different fish species throughout West Cork’s inshore waters. Unsurprisingly the minke whale numbers from Galley Head to the Mizen Peninsular burgeoned and the resultant sightings were little short of stunning. Helped by the consistently good weather last year we had some unique encounters with this lovely little baleen whale from June all the way through to October. After October numbers start to decline throughout West Cork’s  inshore waters as they move offshore and we assume further south. Little is known about the movements of the northern hemisphere minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) during the winter months. Some have suggested they may travel over the equator to the southern hemisphere but as yet this has not been demonstrated conclusively. Current thinking is that northern hemisphere populations of baleen whales remain north of the equator for the whole year making less dramatic seasonal migrations than some of their southern counterparts.

Short Beaked Common Dolphins

Short Beaked Common Dolphins

Another cetacean species that quite simply “blew us all away” during 2013 was the short beaked common dolphin. Traditionally these charismatic little cetaceans move inshore to feed during the second half of July affording us stunning encounters with groups of adults, adolescents and calves well into December. We broke our own record of short beaked common dolphin sightings last season. From 21st July through until the 29th September we had an almost unbroken record of daily encounters. Between those dates we had nine days when we failed to encounter dolphins and for seven of those days we were unable to get out on the water due to weather anyway! A better than 90% sighting record much to the delight of our many customers from all over the world.

Humpback tail fluking

Humpback tail fluking

One of the highlights of late August was an early encounter with two travelling humpbacks. This is quite early for sightings of this species off West Cork. Heading west from The Kedges, where we picked them up, we had some lovely views of these large baleen whales blowing and tail lobbing as they traversed Baltimore Bay towards the Gascanane Sound and on towards the tip off Cape Clear Island and points west. Later in November and into December this same species treated us to some lovely lunge feeding activity across Baltimore Bay culminating in fabulous breaching activity captured so skilfully by Robbie Murphy of Sherkin Island whose lovely images were published in the national broadsheets yet again confirming Baltimore as the premier whale watching destination of Ireland.

Fin Whales surfacing

Fin Whales surfacing

During the first week of September we encountered a lone fin whale south of Cape Clear Island followed a few days later by reports from fishing boats heading into Baltimore of groups of fin whales feeding south of Baltimore Harbour. We enjoyed a week of lovely encounters as these animals continued to feed as far south as The Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse and on one occasion heading right into the Gascanane Sound between Sherkin and Cape Clear islands before heading southeast. We continued to see fin whale activity throughout November and December off Baltimore, Cape Clear Island, Sherkin Island and The Kedges and into Barlogue Bay. Some of the best images of West Cork’s fin whales I have seen were captured by the very talented Deirdre Fitzgerald aboard Voyager, showing some lovely lunge feeding activity, which she so generously shared with other customers and over 2000 followers on our Whale Watch West Cork Facebook page.

Minke Whale swimming under Voyager

Minke Whale swimming under Voyager

2013 was certainly a year of highlights. We had the largest Atlantic sunfish I have ever recorded off West Cork, easily two metres long and a metre high. A lone Risso’s dolphin and calf. Many juvenile minke whales and one very new minke calf that came and inspected our stationary boat – judging by it’s size we estimated it to be no more than two weeks old. Minke whales swimming under the boat on several occasions. A minke whale that breached over 17 times in front of the boat as we headed slowly up the south coast of Sherkin Island to the Gascanane Sound. This same animal later breached within 20 feet of Voyager’s stern as we drifted on the tide. No season is complete without a turtle sighting. On several occasions through the summer we encountered large leatherback turtles heading west across Baltimore Bay. Pelagic bird species continue to thrill the birders amongst us. Skuas, petrels, razorbils, puffins, guillemots and shearwaters consistently being seen. During 2013 we had large numbers of Corey’s shearwaters feeding inshore among the groups of Manx shearwater forming some of the largest rafts of mixed shearwater species we have ever encountered off West Cork.

WWWC Ambassador company for responsible whalewatching

WWWC Ambassador company for responsible whalewatching

As Whale Watch West Cork enters it’s 10th year of operation on the water we continue to promote responsible and sustainable whale watching here in Ireland and in our overseas destinations through our alliance with Whale Watch International and the World Cetacean Alliance. We are also celebrating our 10th year with a number of exciting initiatives which include:

>>> Weekend, residential whale identification and watching courses. We are ideally situated in Baltimore to run these exciting whale watching events for the cetacean enthusiast. We plan these popular courses from July to November. Dates will be published very shortly.

>>> By popular demand we will be running boat based and terrestrial walking tours to view other species of Ireland’s Marine and Estuarine wildlife. Details to be published shortly.

>>> Once the larger species have departed from the Baltimore Bay area and started to move east following the herring we will be continuing with our “Cork Whale Watching with Nic Slocum” programme through the winter months off East Cork.

Inflatable humpback used in schools

Inflatable humpback used in schools

Other initiatives designed to address some of the pressing issues related to Irish Whale and Dolphin Conservation will be announced as they are developed this year including expansion of the schools programme.

For the second year running we will run our popular wildlife weekend in conjunction with Sea Shepherd Ireland July 11th, 12th and 13th. This action packed weekend will include island nature walks on Cape Clear Island and boat based whale watching courses as part of the programme. A must for anyone interested in supporting Sea Shepherd Ireland and the important direct conservation work that Sea Shepherd get involved in, both here in Ireland and overseas. Whale Watch West Cork will be running tours all that weekend in support of this Sea Shepherd initiative. There will be a whale identification course running in conjunction with this weekend.

During the summer we will see the return of Sarah Hucek, our outstanding assistant guide and crew aboard Voyager. Sarah, who is Austrian, proved an invaluable asset to us on board Voyager last year as she manages all our German customers. Her warm and friendly nature makes our customers feel at ease immediately they step on board.

In November 2013 Whale Watch West Cork attended the International Whale Conference in Gloucester, Massachusetts as part of the team from the Responsible Whale Watching Partnership (RWWP) of Whale Watch International. Whale Watch West Cork achieved second place in the prestigious Responsible Whale Watch Awards competing against whale watch operations as far apart as Iceland, Australia, Panama and the USA.

Symbolic release of Morgan a wild caught killer whale

Symbolic release of Morgan a wild caught killer whale

Nic has been the chairman of the steering committee of the RWWP this past year and attended the International Whaling Commission Working Group for Whale Watching in Brisbane, Australia in May 2013 at the invitation of the IWC and NOAA. This busy year of meetings culminated in March 2014 with Whale Watch West Cork exhibiting at WhaleFest, the largest whale festival of its kind in the world based in Brighton, UK. It was good to catch up and compare notes with some old friends from Whale Watching Panama, Futurismo from the Azores, Tumares from Spain, Cape Ann Whale Watch from Gloucester, Massachusetts, ROW Adventures from Vancouver Island and Marine Discovery Penzance from the UK among many others. We all attended the symbolic release of Morgan, a wild caught killer whale now languishing in abysmal conditions in the horrible amusement park Loro Parque in Tenerife.

The documentary film “Blackfish”, released in the last year highlights the plight of killer whales and other cetaceans kept in captivity but especially that of Tilikum, the bull killer whale involved in the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in February 2010 at SeaWorld, Orlando, Florida. Try to see this film if you have not already.

Whales Worldwide tours to Mexico and Maui

Blue Whale peduncle waving

Blue Whale peduncle waving

Our overseas tours to see iconic species in difficult to get to locations continue to be very popular. We run these overseas tours through our sister company Whales Worldwide and our tours during early 2014 to Mexico and Maui were outstanding. The blue whale activity throughout the Loreto Marine Reserve this year was incredible with humpbacks and fin whales also being seen among the islands of the reserve. The humpback activity in the Moloka’i Channel between Maui and Lanai Islands was equally stunning with some amazing breaching and male heat run activity taking place. Mother calf pairs, some with newborns and others with boisterous “teenagers” continue to enthral our customers who come with us on these overseas whale watching adventures. We are busy promoting and filling the 2015 Mexico and Maui tours as we speak with a number of other tours being scheduled.

Looking forward to an outstanding 2014 season in Ireland

Voyager leaving Baltimore - the whale watching capital of West Cork

Voyager leaving Baltimore – the whale watching capital of West Cork

We will be launching Voyager after the winter layoff during the weekend of 5th/6th April and are really looking forward to the 2014 season of whale and dolphin watching off Baltimore – the Whale Watching Capital of Ireland.


Nic Slocum. 3/4/14

UN International Court of Justice Ruling…will it make a difference?

Yesterday the UN International Court of Justice ruled on a court case brought by Australia against Japan in 2010, citing that Japan’s so called “scientific whaling” was commercial whaling by another name.

The ruling has found in favour of Australia and considers that Japan’s insistence that their self imposed quotas of over 1000 whales to include the still endangered and threatened fin and humpback whales, was not justified under the caveat of “scientific whaling”. A loophole granted by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at the time the world wide moratorium on commercial whaling was set up in the mid 1980’s.

This is an extract from a recent BBC news post…

“…The UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that the Japanese government must halt its whaling programme in the Antarctic.

It agreed with Australia, which brought the case in May 2010, that the programme was not for scientific research as claimed by Tokyo.

Japan said it would abide by the decision but added it “regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision”.

Australia argued that the programme was commercial whaling in disguise.

The court’s decision is considered legally binding.

Japan had argued that the suit brought by Australia was an attempt to impose its cultural norms on Japan…”

Is this a time for rejoicing or quiet reflection?

For marine conservationists and whale admirers the world over this has to be fantastic news. It is a true delight to see the UN International Court of Justice stand up for what so many consider to be a morally and scientifically sound environmental decision, rather than take a politically expedient view. Quite rightly you can jump for joy…

But beware of complacency. Japan still kills many hundreds of whales in their North Pacific “fishery” and the appalling abuses and cruelty of the dolphin and porpoise drive hunts of Taiji and elsewhere along the Japanese coast, show no signs of abating. Mark my words Japan is still very much committed to killing both small and large cetaceans in their thousands and may well increase self allocated quotas elsewhere to make up for any shortfall as a result of losing the Antarctic kill quotas.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

A number of questions still remain unanswered…

> Will the current fiercely anti-environment Australian government relax pressure on Japan in some way as a sop to this ruling?


> Will Japan honor their commitment to abide by the ruling? Many believe that their commercial whaling operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary were simply for political reasons to ensure their freedom on the high seas and to distract world attention to the damage their fishing fleets are doing in the Pacific.

> Will this harden the attitudes of the Japanese Government when it comes to dolphin drive hunts and other whaling activities?

> Will this increase the market in Japan for Icelandic whale meat? There is, as we speak, a ship, The Alma, heading down the West Coast of Africa that departed Iceland some days ago, laden with 2000 tonnes of frozen whale meat…widely presumed to be bound for the Japanese market.

> With declining taste for whale meat in Japan will those with vested interests now develop the luxury doggy treat market using whale meat? It is claimed that there are warehouses in Japan full to overflowing with frozen whale meat that was originally bound for the table. With declining demand will this now end up being fed to dogs?

These are just some of the questions. There are many more…but the 94 million dollar question is…will this ruling make a difference?

You are damn right it will make a difference! It sets a precedent and gives the thousands of conservationists around the globe hope that “the establishment” will one day step up to the mark and take marine environmental protection seriously.

However, there is a caveat! In the world of politics and marine environmental protection all is not as it may seem…this may end up being an elaborate exercise in smoke and mirrors…

During the last two years there has been a huge increase in the “normalisation” of eating whale meat. Tourists now flock to Iceland and Greenland to watch these enigmatic denizens of the deep only to return to eat whale meat washed down with fine claret in the many restaurants that now specialize in eating cetaceans.

whale menu

Shipments of whale meat have crossed Canada and EU nations en route to Japan…a nation whose residents it is said don’t want to eat it!

So did the UN International Court of Justice have a choice in the matter? I suspect not. They could not in all realism come to any other decision as Japan’s abuse of the commercial whaling moratorium in the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary were palpable. A huge floating factory ship supported by three killer boats, freezing down the whale meat to be sold on the open market back in Japan. This for the scientific study of whales?

No, the honourable judges who came to this conclusion had no other route but to find in favour of Australia…and Japan have known that all along and been preparing for this eventuality I feel sure. But to take four years to make that ruling while pulling down hefty salaries beggars belief!

We must see the ruling for what it is. Simply that…the Japanese overt commercial whaling operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary were not justified under the caveat of “scientific whaling”. Japan have been requested to stop that operation and Japan have said they will comply with that request.

This is not an end to commercial whaling. Norway, Greenland and Iceland still send their boats out to catch whales for commercial exploitation. The Faroe Island still slaughters huge numbers of long finned pilot whales and Atlantic white sided dolphins in the name of cultural tradition…and Denmark supports them! The Solomon Islands have dolphin drive hunts that kill hundreds of animals annually.

However, hope springs eternal and to paraphrase Winston Churchill:

“…This is not the end. This is not the  beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning…”

Written by Nic Slocum /April 2014





Discover The Wild Atlantic Way with Irish Ferries and Whale Watch West Cork

Wild Atlantic Way South East Guide

Brian Gallagher on Whale Watching with Whale Watch West Cork

The journalist Brian Gallagher spends a day whale watching aboard Voyager with Nic Slocum of Whale Watch West Cork and is amazed by the sightings and rounding the Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse.



Whale and Dolphin Weekly is out!


Whale and Dolphin Weekly is out…

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Codes of Conduct 2013

Whale and Dolphin Watching Guidlines 2013

Nic Slocum and the Whale Watch West Cork team have spent many years reviewing  codes of conduct for boat based interactions with cetaceans from around the globe.

We have compiled the most comprehensive Code of Conduct for the interaction between boats and cetaceans in Irish waters. This Code of Conduct is reviewed every year and updated where necessary based on first hand experience of the interactions we have each year with the many species we encounter off West Cork with Whale Watch West Cork and abroad with Whales Worldwide.

Nic Slocum has been watching whales and dolphins from boats for over 25 years and has been running Whale Watch West Cork for nearly 10 years. He runs overseas whale watching tours to Baja, Maui and Patagonia and is an outspoken advocate of responsible and sustainable whale and dolphin watching. He is the Chairman of the Steering Committee of The Responsible Whale Watching Partnership

Little is known about the nature of human cetacean interaction and unregulated exposure to whale watching tourism may have a detrimental impact on cetaceans. There is no mechanism in place in Irish southern coastal waters to monitor the impact of whale and dolphin watching operations on either migratory or resident animals. This requires whale watch operators to maintain very rigid standards and adopt a highly responsible mode of operation in order to reduce negative impact to a minimum.


Whale Watching Guidelines…

Version 2013

As the more responsible protagonists within the global industry have expressed the need for a more formal approach to the development of whale watching activities, a plethora of guidelines for the interaction of boats and cetaceans have been produced, many of them only voluntary. Some, like those in Ireland, have been incorporated into a formal publication. This requires commercial and recreational boat users operating in Irish waters to adhere to a minimum set of guidelines when they encounter whales or dolphins.

Educational Value of Whale Watching…

Whale Watch West Cork is committed to the educational value of whale and dolphin watching in enabling the sharing of the wider marine conservation message with as many people as possible, especially the young. We also provide a platform for research and the gathering of routine information that will help in the wider understanding of whales and dolphins in Irish waters.

Responsible Whale Watching…

Whale Watch West Cork is a “RESPONSIBLE” whale and dolphin watch operator who strongly adheres to the statutory guidelines. However, following many years of whale and dolphin watching from boats we believe these guidelines to be insufficient at the species level. Whale Watch West Cork has conducted an assessment of both statutory and voluntary guidelines and codes of conduct around the globe and reviewed the findings of our own research. As a result we have developed a Code of Conduct that incorporates the Irish statutory guidelines as set out in Marine Notice 15 of 2005 but also includes that which we judge to be a minimum requirement for the interaction of boats and cetaceans at the species level in Irish waters. As we gather more information and make further conclusions from our research we will adjust our Code of Conduct accordingly.

Code of Conduct for Recreational and Commercial Boats when Interacting with Cetaceans in Irish Waters

1) When whales or dolphins are first encountered, craft should maintain a steady course.

  • When practical stop the vessel or assume a “no wake speed” to determine whether they are feeding, travelling or prospecting for food. Assess what direction they may be moving in. Never cross the path of cetaceans attempting to cut them off or anticipate their moves. This applies to all species encountered.
  • Never approach animals at 90 degrees to individual animals or groups or head on or directly from behind. This applies to all species. Common and bottlenose dolphins will however, frequently approach boats of their own volition from a head on position and boats should be brought to a standstill until they have engaged.

2) Boat speed should be maintained below 7 knots.

  • We recommend all boat interactions with cetaceans to be carried out at tick over or “no wake” speed or less. A “no wake speed” is usually around 4 knots.
  • Ensure propeller revolutions are reduced to a minimum. This is very important with unguarded propellers. Particularly important when some dolphin species engage the boat.
  • When leaving the field of interaction to a distance of at least 400 meters boat speeds should be no more than 5 knots.
  • NEVER make rapid accelerations TOWARDS or AWAY from cetaceans however far away they may be.

3) Do not attempt to pursue whales or dolphins encountered.

  • Marine mammals should NEVER be pursued under ANY circumstances. This applies to ALL species.
  • Never split up groups of cetaceans. If you find yourself inadvertently in this position stop the boat and remain stationary with engine ticking over until the animals have moved away. This applies to all species.

4) In the case of dolphins, they will very often approach craft and may engage in bow riding. Always allow dolphins to approach a boat rather than attempt to go after them.

  • If dolphins engage voluntarily and bow ride be very vigilant, especially for young and adolescent animals as they may be less experienced than adult animals around boat bows, keels and propellers.
  • If there is any swell on the water and dolphins are bow riding always attempt to travel downwind or in the same direction as the wave train to avoid rapid “up and down” bow movements associated with heading into wind and waves.

5) Maintain a distance of at least 100m from whales.

  • Our research findings strongly indicate that 100 meters is often close enough to influence feeding behaviour patterns in both minke and fin whales. We therefore maintain distances of 150 meters during minke and fin whale interactions in order to minimize disturbance unless animals pass closer to the boat of their own accord during engine off “passive” viewing.

6) Maintain a distance of 200m between any other boats in the vicinity.

  • With minke and fin whales we try to establish at least 3-400 meters distance between whale watching craft when more than one boat is present during an interaction and encourage other boats to do the same.

7) Attempt to steer a course parallel to the direction whales or dolphins are taking.

  • With some dolphin species, especially the common dolphin, they will frequently actively engage the boat and bow ride to the front and side. Always travel in the same direction the animals were moving in when encountered. Extra vigilance should be exercised if very young and adolescent animals are present.
  • Never make sharp, sudden alterations to course when dolphins are bow riding.

8) Do not corral whales or dolphins between boats.

  • If this inadvertently happens due to the whale’s movements the boats should be stopped in the water with engines at tick over until animals have moved away.

9) Special care must be taken when young calves are seen – do not come between a mother and her calf.

10) Successive boats must follow the same course.

  • All approaches to a viewing area when another boat is present should be on the side opposite to any animals present. If there is any doubt use your radio and talk to the other boat/s.

11) Boats should not spend more than 30 minutes with whales or dolphins.

  • If there are two boats present at fin or minke whale interactions we recommend time limits of 15 minutes with an individual or group. We do the same in the presence of all dolphin species. In the case of engine off “passive” encounters we may remain in the field of interaction for up to 30 minutes if the animals remain in the area of their own accord.
  • During common dolphin interactions we limit interaction as follows: Traveling groups with young and adolescents and groups of feeding adults 15-20 minutes. Feeding groups with young and adolescent animals 10-15 minutes.
  • All boats should limit their cumulative time within an area in which whales or dolphins are present or thought to be present, to 30% of the scheduled tour time. This would be around 75 minutes for a scheduled tour of four hours in length.
  • All boats should stick rigidly to time limits. This will reduce the cumulative impact of many vessels on animals present and demonstrate consideration to other viewers, the environment and ABOVE ALL, the whales and dolphins being viewed.

12) DO NOT attempt to swim with cetaceans

  • Never attempt to touch animals or feed them.
  • Never encourage the boat Captain to get closer to animals and dissuade others from doing so politely. The best whale watch operators are those who abide by a very strict code of conduct and are thoughtful of the animal welfare issues and the environment. They are frequently those who have the best sightings.
  • Make as little noise as possible when you are in the presence of cetaceans. Sound travels furthest through water and can sound very loud to aquatic animals. When safe engine off encounters may yield some of the most memorable encounters with cetaceans.
  • During photography with all marine mammals flashes should be turned off.
  • All sonar devices (depth sounders, fish finders) should be switched off when a vessel is in the vicinity of whales and dolphins. These acoustic reduction measures are addressed as a precaution against noise pollution.
  • Always be aware of signs of distress. If you think animals are distressed leave the area of interaction immediately and very slowly.
  • Whenever a vessel is upwind of and in the vicinity of whales, engine exhaust emissions should be minimized by shutting down one or more engines if it is safe to do so.

Cousteau launches global alliance to save the whales again!

Jean-Michel Cousteau

Cousteau launches global alliance to

save the whales again!

 Charities and businesses from around the world form ‘world cetacean alliance’ in an overdue new partnership for whales and dolphins

In 1982 we thought we had ‘Saved the Whale’ when  in Brighton, UK, 42 world governments met at the Hilton hotel and took an historic vote to cease killing whales.  Yet today, despite years of campaigning, 1000 of these animals die daily from causes such as fishing by-catch, pollution, plastics, undersea mining, ship strike, whaling, and the captivity trade. Whales and dolphins (collectively known as cetaceans) are in trouble.

Now a group of organisations and dedicated individuals have joined forces to form a new network to represent these charismatic animals and bring together all who fight to protect them.

Led by Honorary President Jean-Michel Cousteau, the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) launches as a partnership of charities, whale watching businesses and individual advocates from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, UK, and the USA.

“Without collaboration we will achieve nothing more than a drop in the ocean”, explains ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, who has campaigned for ocean conservation for decades as an environmentalist, educator, and film producer. Mr Cousteau continued: “The World Cetacean Alliance is a unique opportunity to combine our collective energy, knowledge, and expertise in order to protect whales, dolphins, and their habitats.”

The Alliance believes everybody deserves a say in the important decisions that affect whales and dolphins, and will involve the widest possible stakeholder community, and especially the public, in all of its agreed actions. Even the Alliance’s name was chosen by a public vote.

WCA Partner Dr Ingrid Visser of the Orca Research Trust explains: “If the public knew that we didn’t already have a global network working together to protect whales and dolphins I think they would be shocked! In the past campaigns have often been disjointed and have typically lacked support from other organisations. As a result they usually have low impact, or fail altogether. The World Cetacean Alliance is our best chance in years to change all that; it’s a very exciting opportunity and we owe it to cetaceans to make it work!”

The Alliance begins with experts and the public mapping their ‘Areas of Concern’ for whales and dolphins around the world. This free online survey will identify and map priority issues affecting cetaceans, and each and every person that submits a map will be making a real difference. Every time the public circles an area they are concerned about, that place gets HOTTER. The hotter the place, the more pressure the WCA will be able to apply to get protection in that location.

As part of this the WCA is targeting three locations in need of immediate action. The first is New Zealand, home to the last 55 Maui’s dolphins, the most critically endangered dolphin in the world and threatened by commercial fishing practices. Second is one of the planet’s few remaining wildernesses, Antarctica; where the Ross Sea needs protection from commercial exploitation. Thirdly, the island of Tenerife, where wild orca ‘Morgan’ must be saved from an inhumane life in captivity.

The Alliance faces huge challenges but this does not daunt Dylan Walker of Planet Whale, the organisation that facilitated its creation. Said Mr Walker: “I am proud to be a part of this new network of organizations and individuals with a deep, collective determination to protect whales and dolphins. By working together we know we can achieve so much more than in the past. With a collective focus and a positive outlook, we will turn the tide before it is too late!”


For further information please contact:

Dylan Walker

Secretariat, World Cetacean Alliance

Planet Whale

2a Church Road, Hove, BN3 2FL. UK.

Tel: +44 (0)1273 355011

Cell: +44 (0)7900 471490



A rare and mysterious visitor in Walvis Bay

Original article produced in the Namibian Dolphin Project blog

Click on the header for original article…

That illusive tail fluke

A rare and mysterious visitor in Walvis Bay

by: John Paterson, Albatross Task Force and Walvis Bay Strandings Network

Gray whales, Eschrichtius robustus, live in the high Arctic and northern Pacific Oceans coming as far south as Baja California and Mexico on the west coast of America and the Korean Peninsula to breed in summer. It used to occur in the North Atlantic Ocean, but was hunted to extinction in the 1700’s. It does not venture south of the equator. Or so we thought.
Last Saturday, 04 May 2013, tour boats doing dolphin cruises to Pelican Point saw a strange whale. Several more sightings during the following week seemed to indicate the unlikely fact that a gray whale was visiting Walvis Bay! On Sunday 12 May a member of the Walvis Bay strandings network confirmed the reports that there was a gray whale about. This is the first known record of this species in the Southern Hemisphere. The question is now “what is the origin of this whale?”
In May 2010 a gray whale was seen off Israel in the Mediterranean sea and the same whale was seen 22 days later in Spanish waters, also in the Med. This sighting raised much speculation on the origin of the whale and the reasons for its appearance. It was suggested that the whale originated from the eastern Pacific population and was able to navigate around the northern Canada due to the reduction in size of the Arctic ice cap caused by global warming. This climatic trend would potentially allow these whales to re-colonise their historic range in the north Atlantic. The authors of that report stressed that it was difficult to draw conclusions from a single event and were only proposing likely hypotheses. Three years later a gray whale makes its mysterious appearance in Walvis Bay. Comparing photographs of the Walvis Bay animal with the Mediterranean animal (courtesy of Aviad Scheinin –  http://www.hamaarag.org.il ), it seems unlikely that this is the same individual. Is it another individual that has traversed the North West Passage, or perhaps travelled around the southern tip of South America and across the Atlantic? Unfortunately, we’ll never know the route it followed to get here but keen eyes on the water may tell us where it goes next, so please send your reports to the WBSN if you see this animal.
Gray whales grow up to 14 m in length and undertake the longest known migration of any mammal completing a round trip of over 30,000 km between their summer feeding grounds in the high Arctic and winter breeding area off the coast of Mexico returning to the high Arctic again. The whale seen off Israel had completed the longest known stray by any mammal. Though they are baleen whales gray whales are unique in that they feed off the bottom of the sea floor by sucking up mud, usually through the right side of their mouths, and filter out the bottom mud dwelling amphipods on which they feed. This results in the baleen being shorter in one side of their mouths.
This sighting highlights the chances of seeing amazing animals in Namibia and also how important our marine environment is to sea life. Well done to the marine tour operators for locating this whale and operating in a responsible manner and not scaring the whale off. The Walvis Bay Strandings Network would like to thank the tour operators for passing on all sightings of this whale and particularly Mola Mola Tours for making space on their vessel so that we could confirm the identification and get photographs.

UK politicians united in call on Japan to end commercial whaling

First published by Tom Quinn of  The International Fund for Animal Welfare in association with the launch of their new report “The economics of Japanese whaling”…


MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum in Britain have called upon Japan to end its cruel and unnecessary whaling programme. More than 30 Parliamentarians attended the launch of our new report, ‘The Economics of Japanese Whaling’ in the House of Commons, all united in their opposition to this outdated, costly and unsustainable practice.

At our event, the International Fund for Animal Welfare Japan representative Naoko Funahashi led attendees through an engaging presentation outlining the stark reality that Japanese whaling only continues to be viable due to a sizeable Japanese government subsidy, including funds donated for tsunami relief following the devastating earthquake in 2011. She highlighted national polls demonstrating that the majority of Japanese people are indifferent to whaling and that the vast majority oppose the use of their taxes to prop up this dying industry.

Naoko also provoked much amusement as she revealed clear statistics demonstrating the lack of market for whale meat in Japan. Chicken, pork, beef and even horsemeat are more popular than whale for Japanese consumers. For a nation gripped by the news that horsemeat has been retailing as beef in many processed food products this provided light relief from the grim picture Naoko painted of a pointless industry that continues to hunt these sentient and majestic creatures for no discernable benefit.

Jointly hosted by Liberal Democrat Adrian Sanders MP and Conservative Justin Tomlinson MP, our event saw Labour Shadow Minister Tom Harris MP confirm his party’s unequivocal opposition to whaling. Tom has joined IFAW on our Song of the Whalescientific research vessel, watching minke whales off the coast of Iceland, and so he kindly spoke in glowing terms of the scientific rigour on which we base all of our campaign work.

He was also quick to praise the commitment of his opposite number, Environment Minister Richard Benyon, to ending commercial whaling. IFAW works closely with the Minister on this issue, but unfortunately due to personal reasons he had to pull out of speaking at our event. Nevertheless he confirmed the Government’s opposition to whaling in a letter to IFAW, stating that “there is absolutely no justification for this whaling and the UK will continue to oppose it”.

All the MPs who attended had their photo taken endorsing our report, and a great many were successful in promoting their support on this issue in their local media. The message from our event was clear – no matter what political differences they may have, politicians from all parties in the UK are united in their opposition to commercial whaling.


National Whale and Dolphin Watch – Sea Watch Foundation

Sea Watch Foundation

National Whale and Dolphin Watch

27th July – 4th August 2013

 National Whale and Dolphin Watch, Britain’s largest cetacean watch is fast approaching and we’re hoping to make it bigger than ever – please help us publicise the event by posting it on your events pages and by printing off copies of the attached poster and putting them up in your local region.

More information at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk or sightings@seawatchfoundation.org.uk

How to get involved

NWDW – how to get involved


NWDW 2013_poster


Naval Exercises Kill Cetaceans…It’s official


Click here for full article

On June 9, 2008, at least 60 dolphins stranded along the coast of Cornwall, England, in what was by far the largest common dolphin mortality ever seen in British waters. For hours, rescuers tried to lead them back to sea — often unsuccessfully, as some of the animals were panicked and others just milled about in tight circles, resistant to saving. The forensic investigation that followed involved 24 experts

(c) Live Science

Nic Slocum of Whale Watch West Cork and Whales Worldwide appointed to Chair of Planet Whale steering committee of the sustainable whale watching partnership

Dr Nic Slocum, Managing Director of the Ireland based whale watch operator Whale Watch West Cork has been appointed to the chairmanship of the steering committee of the Planet Whale responsible whale watching partnership as of May 2013.

This role will entail pulling together a team of experts from the responsible whale watching partnership who will look at such diverse issues as codes of conduct at the species level for different activities such as swim with programmes, education within the whale watching industry and working with the IWC standing committee  for whale watching in the launch of their new five year plan for whale watching and the implementation of their proposed online whale watching guide.



International Whaling Commission (IWC) invites leading Ireland based whale watch operator and pioneer of sustainable whale watching to attend whale watch operators workshop in Brisbane, Australia…

Dr Nic Slocum, Managing Director of Whale Watch West Cork and chairman of the steering committee of the Planet Whale responsible Whale Watching Partnership, has been invited to attend the IWC Whale Watch Operator’s Workshop on 24th-26th May in Brisbane, Australia.

The IWC is drawing on operator expertise from around the globe during this two day workshop to assist in the implementation of it’s five year plan for sustainable whale watching. This will cover issues such as the use of whale watching boats to gather meaningful scientific data; systems for monitoring adverse impact of whale watching on cetacean populations; how to share expertise between whale watching nations, building responsibility for sustainable whale watching within the industry and the creation and development of an adaptive management framework.

Ryan Wulff, NOAA, Chair of the IWC Working Group on Whale Watching said “…we’re looking forward to your input and making real progress with implementation of the five-year plan and development of the online whale watch handbook…”

The IWC has been considering the issue of sustainable whale watching since 1975 and adopted its first resolution on global whale watching in 1993. In 1998 a standing whale watching sub-committee was set up under the existing scientific committee and has since addressed a range of matters concerning the sector. Much of its work has focussed on better identifying, assessing and understanding the impact of whale watching on whale communities both large and small.

“…I am delighted to attend this important international workshop and contribute some of the momentum we have achieved over the past nine years with Whale Watch West Cork through the development of species specific codes of conduct. With whale watching becoming an increasingly important and unique tourism attraction off the south coast of Ireland, it is imperative to draw on the expertise of others around the globe. This will ensure we develop a workable framework for best practice down to the species level that may be applied as a benchmark for those developing whale watching operations for the first time…” Dr Slocum said.

About Whale Watch West Cork

Whale Watch West Cork is dedicated to providing our customers with a safe, comfortable and educational whale and dolphin watching experience. We seek to impart detailed knowledge on the marine mammals and other wildlife we encounter and on the wider issues of marine conservation through informed commentary with special emphasis on the current threats facing these unique animals and their fragile environment.


About Planet Whale

Planet Whale is the global community that will change the way we view whales and dolphins forever. By harnessing the passion and ideas of individuals, we will achieve more to protect and defend our oceans than ever before.


About the IWC

The International Whaling Commission is an Inter-Governmental Organisation tasked with the conservation of whales and the management of whaling. It is set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling signed in 1946. The Commission has a current membership of 89 Governments from countries around the World.


The Humpback Whales of Baltimore

Baltimore, West Cork has long been the whale and dolphin watching capital of West Cork with a season spanning April through December. Sightings include species from the smaller minke whales and common dolphins right up to the mighty fin whale and humpback whale. In addition, basking sharks, leatherback turtles, Atlantic sunfish, harbour porpoises and seals all make up the regular marine sightings that we get off this part of the southwest coast with Whale Watch West Cork.  Occasional sightings of rarer species like Risso’s dolphins make up the portfolio of marine varieties we get in these rich waters and around the islands of Roaringwater Bay and to the east.

During the 2012 season we have documented a stunning array of sightings of iconic species. Lunge feeding minke whales, breaching basking sharks, large aggregations of harbour porpoises, large adult leatherback turtles and “super groups” of common dolphins have all contributed to this year being one of the best sightings years we have had for the past half decade. This was only marred  when Baltimore was in the news after a young Fin Whale stranded in the harbour mid summer. Taking several days to succumb this animal was a distressing sight as we all had to endure the spectacle of a large marine mammal during it’s death throes.

Ever the whale watching capital of the southwest of Ireland, Baltimore has been back in the whale news for all the right reasons this Autumn. From the beginning of November, we have been having regular sightings of both Fin and Humpback whales both in the harbour offing and further east and south of this part of the West Cork coastline between The Galley Head and Cape Clear Island.

For the avid whale and dolphin enthusiast there have been some fabulous opportunities for whale watching, both from the boat Voyager and from the strategic outlooks on land. Some of the best land based sightings have been from our observatory overlooking Castlehaven and Rosscarbery Bays and from Toe Head which overlooks Barlogue Bay and into the southern reaches of Baltimore Bay. Jaw dropping displays of lunge feeding of small groups of fin whales and humpback whales have been recorded beneath equally impressive flocks of gannets, kittiwakes and other gulls wheeling and screeching as they feed on bait balls of sprats driven to the surface by hungry mouths beneath the surface…not a good time to be a fish in these waters!

Of all the behavioural activities we observe, breaching (leaping out of the water) is one of the most spectacular. This season, 2012 has been the “year of the breach”. A poorly understood activity which may be associated with feeding or breeding behaviour. From early season breaching basking sharks to, only the second time we have recorded it in West Cork, breaching sunfish in August. Large groups of Porpoises breaching as they feed inshore in the Autumn…this was only surpassed by the multiple breaches we observed in mid August of an adult minke whale that had been feeding off the mouth of Baltimore Harbour. This season of breaching behaviour has culminated in a humpback whale breaching in Baltimore Bay and recorded by photographer Simon Duggan of Baltimore 

The fin whale and humpback whales off Baltimore have provided a lovely end to a stunning season of cetacean activity.

















Humpback Whale video

Another Humpback Whale video



Deutsch Übersetzung

Die Buckelwale von Baltimore

Baltimore ist seit langem die Wale und Delfine beobachten Hauptstadt von West Cork mit einer Saison Spanning April bis Dezember. Species Sichtungen von den kleineren Zwergwale und Delfine bis hin zu den mächtigen Finnwal und Buckelwal. Riesenhaie, Lederschildkröten, Atlantic Mondfisch, Schweinswale und Robben alle bilden die regulären marine Sichtungen, dass wir aussteigen diesen Teil der Südwestküste. Gelegentliche Sichtungen seltener Tierarten wie Rundkopfdelphine bilden das Portfolio von marine Sorten erhalten wir in diesen reichen Gewässern und um die Inseln Roaringwater Bay und im Osten.

Während der Saison 2012 haben wir eine beeindruckende Auswahl an Sichtungen von ikonischen Arten dokumentiert. Lunge Fütterung Zwergwale, Verletzung Riesenhaie, große Ansammlungen von Schweinswalen, große Erwachsene Lederschildkröten und “super Gruppen” Gemeine Delfine haben alle in diesem Jahr als einer der besten Sichtungen Jahren haben wir im letzten halben Jahrzehnt hat beigetragen haben. Dies wurde nur getrübt, wenn Baltimore war in den Nachrichten nach einem jungen Finnwal im Hafen gestrandet. Unter mehreren Tagen auf dieses Tier erliegen war eine erschütternde Anblick, wie wir alle, um das Schauspiel eines großen Meeressäuger während ihres Todeskampfes ertragen.

Schon der Walbeobachtung Hauptstadt der südwestlich von Irland hat Baltimore zurück in den Wal-Nachrichten für alle den richtigen Gründen in diesem Herbst gewesen. Ab Anfang November haben wir mit regelmäßigen Sichtungen von beiden Finn-und Buckelwale sowohl im Hafen offing und weiter östlich und südlich von diesem Teil der West Cork Küste zwischen The Galley Head und Cape Clear Island.

Für den passionierten Wal-und Delfin-Enthusiasten gibt es einige fantastische Möglichkeiten für die Walbeobachtung, sowohl vom Boot Voyager und den strategischen Perspektiven auf dem Land. Einige der besten landgestützten Sichtungen wurden von unserer Sternwarte Blick Castlehaven und Rosscarbery Bays und Toe Head, die Barlogue Bay überblickt und in die südlichen Ausläufer von Baltimore Bay gewesen. Jaw dropping Displays Ausfallschritt Fütterung von kleinen Gruppen von Finnwale und Buckelwale haben unter ebenso beeindruckende Schwärme von Basstölpel, Dreizehenmöwen und anderen Möwen kreisten und Kreischen, als sie ernähren Köder Kugeln Sprotten an die Oberfläche getrieben von hungrigen Münder unter der Oberfläche erfasst … nicht ein guter Zeitpunkt, um einen Fisch in diesen Gewässern sein!

Von all den Verhaltensstörungen Aktivitäten, die wir beobachten, ist verletzt (springt aus dem Wasser) eine der spektakulärsten. In dieser Saison hat 2012 war das “Jahr der Verletzung” einer schlecht verstandenen Tätigkeit, die mit der Fütterung oder Brutverhalten verbunden sein können. Von Beginn der Saison verletzt Riesenhaie auf, erst das zweite Mal haben wir es aufgenommen haben in West Cork, Verletzung Mondfisch im August. Große Gruppen von Schweinswale Verletzung, wie sie Küstenfischerei füttern im Herbst … das war nur durch die zahlreichen Verstöße wir Mitte August von einem Erwachsenen Zwergwal, dass hatte Fütterung vor der Mündung des Baltimore Harbour beobachtet übertroffen. In dieser Saison der Verletzung Verhalten wurde in einem Buckelwal Verletzung in Baltimore Bay mündete und aufgezeichnet wurde vom Fotografen Simon Duggan von Baltimore

Der Finnwal und Buckelwale off Baltimore haben eine schöne Ende einer atemberaubenden Saison Tätigkeit vorgesehen is