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Friday Flora and Fauna

January 16, 2009
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Well bloggers, there is a lot of chat about the unfortunate Fin whale stranded in Courtmacsherry Bay, Co Cork yesterday.  Before you all go rushing to comment with the adolescent (‘I suppose his parents didn’t understand him!’) teenage suicide off the coast of Cork not Portugal puns, here’s a thought.  Why would a whale intentionally beach itself?

Well, intentionally, is the key word here.  All animals are born with an innate common intention, to survive.  This is done by choosing an appropriate habitat (or being fortunate enough to be born into one), foraging or hunting a plentiful food source and avoiding predators and dangerous situations.  It is unlikely that the whale intentionally beached itself unless it was ill and disorientated.

The Irish Times report quotes Michael Hurley, of the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat, “He may have been injured at sea. There is a score mark along one of his sides, as if he was in collision with a ship or a trawler which may have contributed to him getting into difficulty.”

This possibility was later confirmed by the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group (IWDG).

On closer examination the whale appeared to be in poor condition with bones showing through the blubber.

Dr. Simon Berrow reports from Courtmacsherry Bay, Co Cork…

This was to be expected as there have been many fin whales documented along the Irish south coast since Sept 2008 and if one strands alive, the assumption is that it is sick and in poor body condition. In a weakened state the whale is more likely to be drawn inshore into a very alien environment, where it realistically has little or no chance of survival.

The occurrence of whales and dolphins around the coast of Ireland is more frequent than most realize.  In June 1991 the Irish Government declared all Irish waters to be a whale and dolphin sanctuary… the first of its kind in Europe.

The website of the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group is an excellent resource in terms of species descriptions, numbers of sightings and numbers and locations of strandings around the coast, see their link on fin whales here

Members of the public are encouraged to report sightings and strandings from around the country.

Eddie O'Hare

Beached fin whale near Courtmacsherry today Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Photo from breakingnews.ie

Declan adds January 20th: In a Father Ted type frenzy locals in Courtmacsherry are  now arguing over who owns the whale carcass. According to the Irish Independent:

…the whale’s giant jaw bones have already been removed by locals and are being stored in “a secret location”  in Kilbrittain after the row over who had the rights to the whale carcass.

It is understood the jaw bones were removed over the weekend by a number of men using a chain saw.

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