Whale Research in Ireland

Whale Watch West Cork Research

Research Work

Whale Watch West Cork contributes significant resources towards ongoing research into the seasonal distribution of whales and dolphins along the West Cork coast. In addition we create places for researchers to join our whale and dolphin watching trips and use the RV Voyager and our other boats as a platform for ongoing research initiatives. We have successfully conducted two cetacean distribution research assessment projects during 2006 in association with University College Cork and the University of Swansea. We are expanding our research coverage from 2007 to include more in depth recordings of parameters associated with species distribution.

Recording Sightings of Whales

During every trip we gather valuable information on the numbers, composition, behaviour and sighting position of all whales and dolphins we encounter. This information is passed directly to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and the Sea Watch Foundation for inclusion on their respective sightings database. Whale news and sightings are also displayed at our News / Sightings page. We are planning to acquire a new software programme that will record sightings on board electronically along with a number of other environmental parameters, such as water depth, sea temperature, bottom topography and wind strength. This data will be fed into a wider research programme looking at the distribution of species encountered between The Old Head of Kinsale and Cape Clear. Constant effort monitoring of species distribution throughout the survey area is essential if we are to understand how increased degradation of the marine environment through pollution, destructive fishing practices and increased boat traffic, impacts cetacean populations off West Cork.

Photo Identification of Whales

We work closely with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and contribute towards the Irish Humpback Whale and Irish Fin Whale photo identification catalogue. We also provide photographs of bottlenose dolphins we encounter to The Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation for use in any future Tursiops distribution study. Whale Watch West Cork is pioneering the use of photo identification techniques in movement tracking of short-beaked common dolphin and minke whales along the West Cork coast and are part funding a study into the impact of tour boats on the whales and dolphins of West Cork. During 2006 Whale Watch West Cork contributed directly to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group research fund.

Acoustic Recordings of Whales

Using our on board hydrophone and recording devices we hope to increase our recordings of the different species we encounter which include Risso's dolphins, common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. Vocalizations of minke whales are rarely recorded and Whale Watch West Cork hope to increase the recordings of this species. We plan a study into the effects of noise pollution along the West Cork coast resulting from an increase in recreational and commercial boat traffic.

Impact of Whale Watching Operations

Whale Watch West Cork has been working to set up a study that will assess the impact whale and dolphin watching operations have on the behaviour of different cetacean species. There is some evidence to suggest that the presence of whale watching vessels has a negative impact of the feeding and socializing behaviour of some dolphin species. It would be reasonable to propose that the same may apply to larger whale species. Until further studies have been conducted Whale Watch West Cork is the only whale and dolphin watch operator in Cork to impose a very stringent set of guidelines, based at the species level, on all its boat operations to ensure minimum disturbance to the animals we view.

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Did you know...?

The Blue Whale is the largest animal ever to have lived on the earth. A fully grown female Blue Whale may reach lengths of over 32 metres with a weight of nearly 200 tons. The Fin Whale which we see regularly in Irish waters is the second largest animal to have lived on the earth and may reach lengths of 22 metres and weigh over 65 tons.

whale watching in ireland