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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Excitement over whale sightings
Humpback Whale off Pembrokeshire (Pic supplied by the Sea Watch Foundation)
The two humpback whales were seen in the Irish Sea
Sightings of two different species of whales not usually seen off the Welsh coast have excited marine scientists.

A research team from the Sea Watch Foundation recorded a pair of humpback whales off the Pembrokeshire coast.

The marine conservation charity also recorded a minke whale close to land at Llangrannog in Cardigan Bay.

Experts said fishing restrictions and the warm weather could explain the sightings as both species were more commonly seen in Atlantic waters.

The two humpback whales, which were between 12 and 15m long, were spotted in the middle of the Celtic Deep, between Pembrokeshire and Ireland.

The research team said one repeatedly surfaced close to their boat for about 40 minutes.

Shortly afterwards another humpback was reported closer to land near Strumble Head.

Scientific director at Sea Watch, Dr Peter Evans, said: "Humpback sightings are always unusual in British waters.

Minke Whale in Cardigan Bay (Pic supplied by the Sea Watch Foundation)
Minke whales are really uncommon in Cardigan Bay
Hanna Nuuttila

"In a typical year, no more than 12 of them are recorded, although the numbers have increased steadily since the late 1980s.

"This could be because fishing restrictions have led to higher stocks of herring and mackerel - two important food sources for them.

"The recent warm sunny weather has also probably been good for plankton, due to the long hours of daylight and high surface temperatures."

Cardigan Bay's minke whale was seen by the Sea Watch team and scientists from the Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science on 8 June.

Sighting's officer Hanna Nuuttila said: "Minke whales are really uncommon in Cardigan Bay.

"It was so close to land that it could have been seen by anybody who happened to be walking along the coastal path at the time.

"The animal was just under five metres long and was a juvenile, as adults grow to around 8.5 metres."

Members of the public will be encouraged to record their own sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises during Sea Watch's annual watch which takes place between August 12 and 20.



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