Donegal Bay has seen an active summer for some spectacular marine wildlife and last week onlookers were treated to the spectacular sight of a rare Minke Whale.
It was spotted last week by South Donegal Wildlife Ranger, Lee McDaid, and the sighting follows reports of up to 100 bottlenose dolphins in the Rosnowlagh area the week before.
Lee said that a large number of harbour porpoise were also spotted feeding in the area of St. John’s Point where whale watchers were treated to the much rarer sighting of the minke whale near Doorin Point. The Minke was observed feeding amongst a large flock of sea birds and stayed in the area for nearly two hours.
Minke whales can grow up to ten metres in length and weigh up to 15 tonnes. This is the same weight as a double-decker bus. These whales are largely solitary animals and feed on large schools of small fish such as herring and pollack or small shrimp-like creatures called krill. This is the third sighting of a Minke Whale in Donegal Bay this year.
The presence of large whales in the Donegal Bay area has long been noted and even gave rise to a whale fishery being established in Inver in 1759. This whaling station was established by Thomas Nesbit from Inver who had five new boats commissioned in London for the enterprise. The function of the station was to produce whale bone and blubber to be rendered down to oil. These were important commodities at the time for export to England. Thomas Nesbit is also credited as inventing the harpoon gun, which was used all over the world in whale fishing. The remains of his whaling station can still be seen in Inver today.
Whaling has long since ceased in Ireland and all whales and dolphins are now protected. Irish waters were declared a whale and dolphin sanctuary by the Irish Government in 1991, the first of its kind in Europe.
Anyone interested in Donegal’s whales and dolphins should check out the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website www.iwdg.ie which holds records of all sightings reported to the group.