A very special gift on our doorstep

May 30th, 2023 11:40 AM

By Southern Star Team

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THE arrival of quite an array of amazing sealife along our coast this week has been a lovely reminder that summer is coming.

May has traditionally been the month when the likes of dolphins, whales and even basking sharks, make their first dramatic appearances in large numbers in West Cork.

Recent years have seen a massive increase in the numbers of these graceful giants of the ocean visiting us. And it looks like this year will continue to provide onlookers with wondrous sights like breaching humpback whales, skipping dolphins and slinky sharks swimming up around the south west.

The timing was perfect for those of us who have enjoyed several weeks of top class Irish wildlife programming on a Sunday night, kicking off with our very own Bantry native Eoin Warner and his trip from Donegal to Bantry paying homage to the country’s ‘wild islands’.

And for the past fortnight, we have seen underwater cameraman Ken O’Sullivan thrilling RTÉ audiences in the same time slot, chasing minke whales and sharks all over the Atlantic ocean, in a bid to capture the perfect image of these majestic creatures. Little did he know, that on the evening Ken was seen chasing them down to the Azores, Harry the humpback was lounging happily around the island at Tragumna, where customers at the Skibbereen Eagle pub on the nearby hill, had a bird’s eye view of him, without having to leave their drinks down!

In fact, it was hard to keep up with all the sightings of dolphins and minke whales, from Courtmac down to Mizen, and everywhere in between, last weekend.

Of course, everyone has a camera in their pocket now, so the rush to share these spectacular shots and videos provides the rest of us with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to such wonderful sights.

It is worth remembering, then, the warnings given just a week ago about the potential damage we could do to both our own fish stocks and these summertime marine visitors, by our largescale plans to populate our coasts with massive windfarms.

Whether through deep-pile drilling in the construction phase, or the noise pollution from these giant turbines, there is very little doubt that there will be some disturbance created which will affect the creatures living below the ocean’s surface.

The Guardian newspaper reported recently that since the start of 2023, at least 10 whales have washed ashore on the New York and New Jersey coastlines.

Environmentalists believe that invasive ocean surveys being carried out by windfarm developers are confusing whales’ navigation systems. And while other scientists argue that current evidence does not support such a claim, both sides agree the deaths are, so far, a mystery.

And everyone does agree that, with this type of power generation being relatively recent, its effects on the eco system are yet not extensively tested, so more time and research needs to be done on these massive sea ‘factories’.

‘All of a sudden, their ocean is being turned into a giant power plant,’ Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action told The Guardian, referring to the whales, who have existed in these seas for over 50m years. This week we have been told by academics in Belfast that human industrialisation has led to the decline of almost half of all the species on the planet.

So while we watch these incredibly beautiful and docile creatures at play in their home grounds, let us make a vow to protect them, and take care not to wantonly destroy their habitats, like we have done to so many other species on this once magnificent planet.

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