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Island encounters larger than life marine sightings

Tuesday 26 October in Community

Our coastlines have been teaming with marine life over the summer and the arrival of the Minke Whales have certainly left many of us in awe. Although a regular visitor to Manx waters, we have been lucky enough to see the species close to shore and, in some cases, out of the water.

The reason behind this…?

Outreach and Education Manager Jen Adams spoke to Tia Welsh from Islandlife:

Whale activity around the Island has been quite popular recently, not only last month but earlier this summer when a woman was lucky enough to capture a photo of breaching Minke Whale. We know whales like to breach, but has anything like this happened before, especially in Manx waters?

The increased activity has just been an incredible thing to see! Minke Whales do breach but it’s rarely seen and observed, especially in Manx waters. In the 15 years of studying them, we have only had one other piece of footage of a Minke Whale breaching, so no wonder it went viral, and rightly so.

Minke Whale sightings have been on the rise as we’ve heard from the Manx public. Is it normal to see so many of these species around this time of year?

It’s not unusual to see them around the East coast during this part of the season (September – October). This is a really positive sign that our marine life is flourishing. Last weekend, it was fantastic to see so many people on Marine Drive looking out for these animals. The Minkes are here all through summer as well, feeding on Herring (on the west of the Island, in the Niarbyl area) and arrive back around May time. We often see them going South, around the back of the Calf of Man during summer, before making their way up the East coast in the autumn. It’s mainly the people travelling over on the boat from Ireland or fishermen who spot them.

So does their journey start and end in Manx waters or do they travel from elsewhere in the British Isles?

It’s really difficult to tell with Minkes as their dorsal fin is a ‘clean’ fin and doesn’t have any markings on it. We use photo identification to help track other animals such as dolphins, using their fins for any scratches or markings which may indicate their history. We’re not entirely sure where they are going to in the winter – generally they’ll travel up to higher latitudes to feed further North.

Is there a good chance Minke Whales are breeding in Manx waters and, if so, can we expect to see this?

In 2016 we were lucky enough to see a Minke Whale calf just off the Calf of Man. There was a Minke Whale being chased by a pod of Common Dolphins. Later we realised our photographs revealed this tiny dorsal fin popping up at various points behind the back and it was a calf. We think the dolphins saw this baby Minke Whale and wanted to play with it. The whales are calving here but we don’t know how often or how many -who knows what we could see in the future!

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