Saturday, 7 September 2013

West coast orca spotted off Scotland's east coast

Orca seen off Peterhead normally live off west coast of Scotland
September 2013. There has been a confirmed sighting of the West Coast Community of killer whales off Peterhead - the first time members of this small and highly unique population have been reported off the east coast of Scotland. 

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) have been monitoring the movements of this group since the early 1990's, with sightings recorded predominantly in the Hebrides but also off Ireland and Wales. However, HWDT can now expand the range of these apex predators with a confirmed sighting of at least three individuals off eastern Scotland.

John Coe - Well known Orca
The video footage, captured by local man Ian Nash, clearly shows the male John Coe - who has a very distinctive notch in his dorsal fin - along with one other male and at least one female present. This distinctive notch allowed Sanna Kuningas, of the Sea Mammal Research Unit, to recognise the male as part of the West Coast Community and alerted HWDT and Dr Andy Foote, who has extensively studied orca populations in the north east Atlantic as part of the North Atlantic Killer Whale ID (NAKID) project.

Just 9 whales
The West Coast Community are a unique group of orca in the north east Atlantic. The entire population is comprised of just 5 males and 4 females and no calves have ever been recorded in the two decades HWDT have been monitoring the group. Following research conducted by Dr Andy Foote, it was confirmed that the West Coast Community never interact with other populations of the north east Atlantic and are actually morphologically different; having different eye patch orientation to other populations found in the north east Atlantic.

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