Mystery whale carcass offshore Co. Waterford.

28th Dec 2018

During a routine Naval Service patrol today (December 28th), the L.É. SAMUEL BECKETT came across a large white object floating some 53nm southeast of Ballycotton lighthouse, East Cork. On their report they go on to say that " It appeared to be the carcass of a large whale, belly side up with several sea birds feeding on the carcass. Images attached."

This is one of these unusual reports to IWDG which is neither really a sighting (as it's dead) or a stranding (as it hasn't stranded, yet). But it serves to remind us that the animals that wash up on our shoreline may represent only a small % of the total number of cetaceans that expire at sea of presumably natural causes. Many more will sink to the seabed where they become food for a host marine scavengers, both large and small. The location of this carcass off the Co. Waterford Coast is interesting as this area of the Celtic Sea has produced the most consistent large whale sightings in recent months, with fairly regular sightings of fin whales from land based sites between Ram Head, Ardmore extending east towards the Hook Head lighthouse, and so it's perhaps not surprising that this same area produced this dead specimen.  It's most likely to be a fin whale given its large size and throat pleats, although as it's in such poor body condition, it may have to be recorded as a "large whale species".  However, if you've any further insights into its species ID, we'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this matter.

Big thank you to Jason O'Brien | Lieutenant NS, for taking the time to report this interesting observation to IWDG, and we hope there will be plenty more sightings of large whale (alive) during January 2019, when traditionally fin whales and sometimes humpback whales can gather to feed on spawning pelagic shoaling fish such as sprat and herring. If you are fortunate to witness blowing whales, or indeed any cetacean species over the Christmas Holidays please report your observations to us on

Happy New Year to you all.

Pádraig Whooley, IWDG Sightings Officer

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