IWDG Humpback Whale Expedition

Ireland - Iceland 2018

 

IWDG Humpback Whale Expedition

Ireland - Iceland 2018

 
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Irish Whale & Dolphin Group Ireland to Iceland Humpback Whale Research Expedition

Sponsored by Inis the Energy of the Sea,  researchers on this voyage of discovery will use photo identification to gain further insight into the growing whale population between the two island nations.

Humpback Whale Tail Seen off Ireland - Photo by Nick MassettPhoto matching the unique markings on humpback tails makes studying them more possible than ever.  Photo: Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland by Nick Massett, IWDG

Once hunted to the brink of extinction, humpback whales have been sighted in increasing numbers in the waters surrounding Ireland.

While uncertain information about past population levels make it hard to access the recovery of the humpbacks, further study of them in the summer feeding grounds between Ireland and Iceland will help scientists to better understand and protect these magnificent marine mammals.

The first expedition of its kind in the North Atlantic, the primary purpose of the expedition is to collect photo identification images.

Humpbacks can be identified by the black and white pigmentation patterns on the underside of their flukes (tails), which are unique to each whale, much like a human fingerprint. These images allow researchers to track individual whales, over long periods of time, in a non-invasive way.

Images of humpback tails now provide scientists with detailed data on reproduction, migration, social interactions and population dynamics.

For nearly 30 years, The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) have studied whales, dolphins and porpoises around Ireland. They have recently confirmed, through photo identification catalog matching, that several whales have been observed in both Icelandic and Irish waters. 

With the now established fact that Ireland and Iceland share a whale population, this expedition aims to build on these findings.

The IWDG Research vessel Celtic Mist will sail to Iceland in late May 2018.  The crew will then spend a month exploring Icelandic waters, surveying for humpbacks and other species, often in remote areas like the Artic Circle.

Celtic-Mist-IWDG-Research-Vessel.jpgScientists and crew aboard the Celtic Mist will sail and survey an area of approximately 4500 kilometers on this expedition.

Dr. Simon Berrow, Chief Science Officer with the IWDG, further describes the goals of the trip: "We will work in collaboration with colleagues in the Icelandic Marine and Freshwater Research Institute and the University of Iceland with the aim of promoting links with coastal communities, combining our knowledge and resources to more effectively carry out our shared responsibilities towards humpback whale conservation and management."

The research team will locate and identify whales through benign, non-invasive methods of visual observation, acoustic recordings of whale songs, and photo identification.

Weather permitting, the team will use aerial drones and aim to capture underwater photography and video of their findings. Filmaker Tony Whelan will be aboard throughout the expedition, with a feature length documentary production planned for release later in the year.

David Cox, Managing Director of Inis the Energy of the Sea - Fragrances of Ireland, explains the synergy between Inis and ocean conservation efforts: "It's a natural fit for us to fund this expedition and the IWDG. The full name of our signature collection is Inis the Energy of the Sea. Inis was inspired by the sea, so it's nice to give back, in our small way, to the source of that inspiration."

Kilometres to be Travelled
Species to be Spotted
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Total Days of the Journey

 

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