This summer I was lucky to join the fisheries protection team for a day on their vessel ‘Barrule’. During this time, I came across a wide variety of marine species. The calm sea state gave the water surface a glass-like quality and spotting individuals became suddenly extremely easy. It became very clear that the Irish sea is evidentially full of life. The spotting involved a completely joint effort between me and the very skilled crew.
A small group of 4 short beaked common dolphins marked the first encounter as we approached the 6-mile mark west from Peel. These dolphins are a very acrobatic and curious species that display behaviours such as porpoising (jumping fully out of the water) and bow riding.
A few miles further unearthed the sighting of a minke whale (and another individual later on during the survey). Minke’s are the most common whale in the Irish sea and typically travel alone or sometimes in very small groups of 2-3. The boat engines were quickly turned off upon its presence and the whale stuck around for a few minutes, surfacing every now and then before deep diving.
The biggest surprise of the day was the sudden breach of a common thresher shark. Common thresher sharks are UK visitors in the summer when the waters are the warmest. They usually stay far offshore in deep water where they hunt for mackerel and herring, using their long whip-like tails to stun prey. It is rare to witness them breach let alone spot them from a boat at all so this was a very special moment.
I feel very privileged to have witnessed this vast array of species and hope another calm day will arise once again. Surveys like this are important in understanding the health of the waters which surround an area and are crucial for conservation efforts.