All Irish Humpback whale Photo ID catalogue updated on

Hi to all humpback whale enthusiasts and especially to those of you who have adopted one of the humpback whales on the Irish catalogue.

20 years of confirmed sightings of #HBIRL03 aka “Boomerang” 2001-2020, Courtesy IWDG

By way of a wee summary, we’ve enjoyed another great humpback year and the catalogue which started the season with 97 individuals has grown by 12% to 109 animals during 2020. During our Covid induced shorter field season (April-October 2020) we photo identified 42 individuals, of whom 30 were inter-annual re-sightings from previous years (71%) and the remaining 12 were new animals previously undetected, which have been added to the All Irish catalogue. The season’s big achievements were:

  • A 4th Icelandic match (HBIRL35)
  • Our 1st Scotland match, from east Shetland,on November 7th (HBIRL38)
  • the 3rd confirmed Irish link to the Cabo Verde (HBIRL73)
  • reaching the symbolic 100th addition to the Irish catalogue, on July 20th
  • Our HBIRL109 was photographed on Dec. 24th off the Scilly Isles on the English South coast

Confirmed sightings in recent weeks in Galway bay and West Cork suggest It’s quite possible that we still have some humpbacks at our higher latitudes, getting in some late season feeding before heading towards warmer climes on their southbound migration to the breeding grounds. It’s also entirely possible that there are cohorts of younger and also older “post productive” animals for whom the rewards of such an arduous undertaking are less obvious, and some of these may stay much closer to Irish waters over the coming months…..these may well be among the “early arrivers” we see showing up off the Southwest headlands in places like West Cork and Kerry as early as late March/early April in recent years.

So as January draws to a close and with most of the winter thankfully now behind us, we are busy writing up our findings and updating the catalogue and associated data etc. We are delighted to be able to say that our gallery of all 109 individual humpback whales recorded to date in Irish waters is viewable on this link

We extend a big míle buíochas to all our partners, supporters and you the Citizen Scientists who have provided your wonderful images to IWDG for inclusion on this important All-Island resource which tracks the movements of this most iconic species in and out of Irish waters.  We look forward to the season ahead and hope you’ll have many more humpback whale images for us to catalogue and match on this long term resource, which IWDG started to build back in 1999.

Pádraig Whooley,

IWDG Sightings Officer