Posted by: The ocean update | May 4, 2015

Irish killer whales feared to be in danger of dying out due to pollution

Photo : Killer whale pair, Slea Hd., Kerry 12/06/13. Photo Nick Massett

Photo : Killer whale pair, Slea Hd., Kerry 12/06/13. Photo Nick Massett

May 4th, 2015 (Lynne Kelleher). The huge mammals – nicknamed John Coe, Floppy Fin and Nicola – are believed to be the only resident population of Orcas around Ireland and Britain

A pod of killer whales who regularly swim in Irish waters are feared to be in danger of dying out due to pollution.

The huge mammals – nicknamed John Coe, Floppy Fin and Nicola – are believed to be the only resident population of Orcas around Ireland and Britain.

But while they are the only known residents, marine biologist Dr Simon Berrow from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, revealed Irish waters are a regular playground for passing families of Orcas.

He said: “People should know one of nature’s top predators is regularly seen in Ireland close to shore and off shore. Everyone loves killer whales.

“Every year we have sightings. We have them on the east coast, the west coast and probably mostly up around Donegal and Northern Ireland but they are around the Irish Sea as well.

“They can be very close to shore and you can literally see them from shore.” A large male orca nicknamed John Coe – thought to have had his dorsal fin bitten by a shark – is the most distinctive member of the dwindling pod of seven orcas which mainly live between Scotland and Ireland.

Dr Berrow added: “The whales sighted every year are part of what we call the Scottish West Coast Community but we joke they should be called the Irish West Coast Community as sometimes we see them more in Ireland than in Scotland.

The expert said there are concerns about the survival of the only pod of orcas who regularly visit Irish waters.

He explained : “It’s down to about seven animals now. They have been followed for about 30 years.

“The big male is called John Coe and there is a big notch in his dorsal fin. Other ones are called Nicola and Floppy Fin.

“They move down through Irish waters and go back to Scotland.”

The fear is contamination of their food may men the pod can’t reproduce.

Dr Berrow said “They have never had a calf. It’s thought that maybe they are infertile because of the high pollution levels.

“If you’re moving all around Europe and living a long time, you get a lot of contaminants from fish over time.”

Results of a post mortem on an Irish killer whale which washed up on the Waterford coast earlier this year are still to be released but previous Orcas found dead around Ireland’s coast have proved to have had high rates of pollution.

The much-loved mammals have hit the headlines thanks to the movie Free Willy and the continuing controversy over the cruelty of the captivity of performing killer whales but Dr Berrow said Orcas are also under pressure in the wild.

He said: “They are regular visitors here but are under pressure from all over Europe.

“Killer whales that strand in Ireland tend to have high contamination levels so Ireland is not excluded from the concern about them.

“There is a concern they are very, very highly polluted as they are top predators and long-living so they pick up pollution in the sea through food and accumulate more and more every year.”

And Dr Berrow explained how the orcas which visit Irish shores may differ from the public’s perception of a ruthless hunter.

He said : “There are two different types of killer whales and we tend to think the Irish killer whales are fish eating rather than mammal eating.”

IWDG

IWDG

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