Minke whale drowns off the Killough coast

Minke whale drowns off the Killough coast

3 August 2022

A DEAD minke whale spotted off the Killough coast has confirmed a local ecologist’s view that the water – purported to be a sanctuary for local sea life – is in fact a death trap.

The whale is thought to have drowned after getting tangled up in lobster pots and is among a series of similar whales to have floundered because of the nets in recent years.

Chris Murphy, a freelance ecologist, recently spotted the dead whale near St John’s Point.

“Every year a few of these minke whales are seen off in the area in June and July. You can use a telescope to see them,” he said.

“It’s something we have noticed over the past ten years, the whales in the area, but in the past five years we have had a few stranded minke whales.”

Mr Murphy said he believes the whale may have been the same one filmed by fishermen somewhere between Ardglass and the Isle of Man.

“They reported that it had a big ball in its mouth, however, what that is, is the whale’s tongue which swells and inflates like a big orange ball.”

“These unfortunate whales are getting their tails, known as a fluke, tangled up in the nets, but there should be something that we can do to prevent this. 

“In places like Scotland and Newfoundland in Canada where lobster fishermen use similar nets, they have made small adjustments and this has helped save the whales from getting tangling up and dying.”

He said the best option for the whale’s disposal was to return it to sea to help feed native sea life.

He said in previous incidents vast amounts of money had been spent needlessly disposing whale carcasses in land-fill sites.

According to the Irish Whales and Dolphin Group, minke whales are Ireland’s smallest and most abundant baleen whale species. 

They are typically seen once and then may disappear for up to five minutes before reappearing in an unpredictable location, earning them the nickname ‘’slinky minke’.

The carcass of 26ft-long minke whale was washed ashore on rocks at St John’s Point in 2016.

It was thought to have been drowned after getting caught in discarded fishing gear. 

Speaking at the time, Ian Enlender of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said: “It just goes to show that the Irish sea is not a totally safe environment for them. 

“They can easily get entangled in fishing gear – and that means certain death.”