June 10, 2018
One of the mammals has been identified as John Coe from the West Coast Community who was last seen in Ireland in March
Experts have identified one of the two killer whales seen off the North Wales coast this weekend.
The two orcas were spotted by Holly Page, the RSPB and visitors at South Stack near Holyhead on Saturday.
They are thought to be part of a group known as the West Coast Community which are normally seen around the Hebrides in Scotland.
Ceri Wyn Morris, a marine mammal specialist for Natural Resources Wales said: “We occasionally get sightings of killer whales in Welsh waters, but it is rare to have a sighting backed up with such good photographs which enable us to identify the actual individuals.
“Two killer whales were photographed off South Stack, and we can see that one of them – a large bull killer whale, has a distinctive notch in his dorsal fin.
“We can recognise this individual as ‘W01’ also known as John Coe – one of the West Coast Community of killer whales, usually found off the west coast of Scotland.
“The identity of the second animal is less clear but it is possible that it’s another male from the same group.”
Ceri said John Coe was last seen off Dingle in Ireland in March of this year, after travelling over 600km in just seven days from Mull.
The West Coast community of killer whales are the only ‘resident’ population of killer whales in the UK. Other killer whales do visit Scottish waters from Norway and Iceland, but they are thought not to mix with the resident West Coast Community.
Ceri added: “Sadly only eight individuals remain in this group, and in the 20 years that they have been studied, they have never been observed to have produced a calf. It seems that this group is at high risk of going extinct within our lifetime.
“In 2016, one of the group, a female named Lulu was found dead on the Hebridean island of Tiree in Scotland.
“A post-mortem revealed that sadly she died after having been entangled in fishing ropes.
“Further analysis revealed a shocking story – the levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB ) pollution in her blubber were extremely high.
“PCBs are toxic chemicals banned in Europe in the 1980s, but they persist in the environment and find their way into the ocean.
“As killer whales are at the top of the food chain, PCBs accumulate in their blubber. The PCB levels found in Lulu were shockingly high – 20 times higher than the ‘safe’ level that we would expect whales and dolphins to be able to manage with.
“She was deemed one of the most contaminated animals on the planet – raising questions about the future of this small and diminishing group of resident killer whales.”
Ceri explained that while it is incredibly exciting to see killer whales in Wales, they are not the only marine mammals to inhabit our waters .
Bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, grey seals and Harbour porpoises are frequently seen off our coasts.
Anyone who sees marine mammals in Wales is encouraged to report their sightings to www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk experts understand how marine mammals are using our seas.
The information help Natural Resources Wales improve our evidence on the diversity of Welsh marine wildlife to conserve it now and in the future.
Source: Daily Post.co.uk