A Stunning Glimpse of Offshore Nature!

6th Jul 2017

The trouble for anyone with an interest in the natural world is that 'offshore' wildlife is far more difficult to observe than its inshore equivalent - especially when it's something happening over 200km off the northwest coast of Donegal. Apart from our television/computer screens, we rarely get a glimpse of what is 'going on' out there. Well, we received some photos from our good friends in the Irish Air Corps Maritime Squadron that give an indication of what a healthy ocean ecosystem looks like.

It's not often that we get sent such clear images of a dead cetacean being scavenged on by sharks in Irish waters, but it does give an indication of the importance of dead mammals to the marine food chain; in a similar manner as say the importance of dead wood to insect, birds etc in a woodland. The photos were taken from the Irish Air Corps CASA CN235 maritime patrol aircraft at around 12.50pm on 4 July 2017 and show at least 5 blue sharks feeding on the whale carcass (species unknown).

Unfortunately, whenever 'sharks' are mentioned in regard to Irish waters (or anywhere for that matter!) there is a risk that the 'danger' will be hyped out of all proportion, despite the fact that you are far more likely to die from being stung by a bee than being attacked by a shark! The human race, however, manages to wipe out something between 50 and 100 million sharks per year worldwide. Hmmmm, so who should be afraid of who??? It would be interesting to quantify just how much of our paranoia about sharks is down to the Hollywood blockbuster 'Jaws' - written by Peter Benchley who, despite making millions from the book and film regretted the effect it had on our attitudes towards sharks and he later became a shark conservationist himself. So yes, we do have quite a few shark species in Irish waters, 23 at last count, but w'd be more concerned about the drive to and from the beach!

We are very grateful to Captain Patrick Mullan and all of these photos are copyright of 101 Squadron Irish Air Corps.

Mick O'Connell,

IWDG Strandings Officer