Northern Ireland news

New humpback whale spotted for the first time off Co Donegal coast

The tail of humpback whale named Orion. Picture by Dr Justin Judge/ IWDG

A NEW humpback whale has been spotted for the first time off the coast of Co Donegal.

The animal was seen in the water close to Malin Head earlier this month.

Nicknamed 'Orion', the whale was spotted by Dr Justin Judge, a marine mammal observer who was on board the Marine Institute's Celtic Explorer.

He was taking part in the annual Western European shelf pelagic acoustic (WESPAS) survey, on behalf of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Humpback whales can be seen in Irish waters throughout the year, usually between spring to early winter.

But the IWDG has confirmed that the sighting near Malin Head on July 9 was a new individual, previously unrecorded humpback whale in Irish waters.

"This is a dream sighting for a marine mammal observer," said Dr Judge.

"The individual humpback whale ‘Orion’ has been named after the Greek mythological hunter, since the whale was moving with the fish stocks for food.

"It is also my son’s middle name so fitting on both fronts.

"There was a lot of feeding action from a multitude of cetacean species that day, including bottlenose, common, risso’s and white-sided dolphins, grey seals and minke whales."

The IWDG has recorded 112 individual humpback whales in Irish waters since 1999.

The news comes after a pod of dolphins was spotted close to the shore at Portstewart Strand on Sunday.

It is believed the six mammals had been chasing a shoal of herring into shallow water and were feeding on the fish.

Several people were in the water at the time and described the "amazing" experience.

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