Waterford News

Pod of 20 pilot whales in a 'distressed state' seen in the Waterford Estuary

Pod of 20 pilot whales in a 'distressed state' seen in the Waterford Estuary
Pilot Whales off the Irish Coast. Stock, source: Wikicommons

Up to 20 pilot whales have been observed making their way up the Waterford Estuary in what is understood to be a "mass live-stranding event."

In upsetting footage taken by Damien Burke, which can be viewed below, the highly-social mammals can be seen making their way up the Waterford Estuary across from Ballyhack.

Long-finned pilot whales are native to Irish waters but are usually found in a much-deeper environment off the continental shelf at depths of up to 1,000 metres below sea level.


The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) are aware of the potentially fatal event and along with the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre have requested the assistance of the Dunmore East branch of the RNLI to help turn the pod around toward deeper waters.

Taking to social media this morning, Dunmore East RNLI stated that their all-weather lifeboat was launched at 9 pm last night (June 19) in an attempt to coax the pod back to see.

Despite an extensive patrol of the Waterford Estuary, the whales could not be located, meaning the pod has either made its way further upstream or (hopefully) back out to sea.

The situation is still being monitored by the IWDG.


While scientists don't fully understand why pilot whales strand themselves, it's suspected that loud sonic events such as underwater noise pollution from cargo and navy ships damage the mammals' inner ear, causing disorientation.

Dolphin pod spotted in the River Suir

The presence of pilot whales in the Waterford Estuary follows the sighting of a small pod of dolphins along a stretch of the River Suir opposite Waterford city back in May. 

The below footage captures what appears to be two dolphins breaking the river's surface directly opposite Waterford's North Quays development.

Though not yet confirmed by experts, the species appears to be a common dolphin.


There are further reports of the pod and seals being spotted slightly further downstream at Waterford Castle.

According to local fishermen at the time, it is highly unusual for dolphins to be spotted so far upstream - in fact, this is the first time Beat has reported such an occurrence in the South East.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin group say that the common dolphin is the "most regularly sighted and stranded Irish dolphin species. Since 2011 a sixfold increase in the number of strandings has occurred from typically 20 – 40 strandings per year to the latest record set in 2018 at 118. The cause of this increased mortality is currently unknown."

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