Three rare whales stranded on the Sligo coast last week.
it was first found at Trawalua Strand near Cliffony on August 7; then a second was spotted on the sand near Coney Island on the 8th which was moved a day later to Cummeen Strand and the third was seen floating ashore at Lislary on the 9th.
They were examined by Dr Don Cotton, a retired “lecturer emeritus” from the Sligo Institute of Technology, who said it was an exceptional event that needed explanation.
Dr Cotton told the Sligo Champion that seven other similar whales have been found in recent days along the coasts of Donegal, Mayo and Galway and that there may be even more whales not yet found or reported.
All of these animals are “beaked whales” that normally live in the deeper waters beyond the continental shelf.
Due to their poor state of preservation they must have died about a month ago and probably 100-200 km off the Irish coast before being washed ashore by ocean currents, he said.
Very little is known about these rare whales other than what we learn when they are stranded dead.
In a normal year, only two or three are found along the entire Irish coastline.
Dr Cotton has identified the species involved, including a very rare True’s Beaked Whale, also known as the Miraculous Beaked Whale, which has only been seen alive by very few people.
He also took measurements, photographs and tissue samples for DNA analysis.
Whales and dolphins are important indicators of the health of our oceans, so the sudden and unexplained deaths of so many of these rare mammals is a major cause for concern, Dr Cotton said.
In 1990, Don Cotton was one of the founders of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, a charity that was formed to collect data and monitor these animals as issues were identified at the time with their conservation. Irish waters are now a sanctuary for whales and dolphins, but we don’t appear to be doing more than documenting their disappearance, Mr Cotton said.
The most likely cause of this incident may be related to military activity beyond our territorial waters, he said.
“In other parts of the world, similar deaths have been linked to the use of powerful sonar used to detect submarines, or explosions that send shock waves through the water, which damage organs. sensitive hearing of these whales and effectively destroy their ability to find food.
“It is unlikely that a navy will ever admit to having carried out such exercises in this case,” said the retired scientist.