Challenge of shooting whales to be considered

Shooting stranded whales is to be considered by scientists, the Defence Forces and state wildlife officers, it has been revealed.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) wants the option discussed for fear of a repeat of the stranding death of a 50ft (15m) fin whale in the harbour in Baltimore, West Cork.

The army and navy will be asked to look at how it could shoot creatures of a similar size to end their suffering.

Dr Simon Berrow, founder of the IWDG, said it is a common practice around the world and often the quickest and cleanest option.

“We were going to request that it be euthanised but then word came through that it had died,” he said.

“But this thing will happen again as whale populations grow. Unfortunately the whale found itself in a harbour and not on a beach.”

Dr Berrow said the primary concern should be the welfare of the whale — if it can be saved and, if not, how it can be dealt with as quickly and humanely as possible.

“I don’t care about people’s insecurities, I look at it from the whale’s perspective,” he said.

“With the whale alive this morning we thought that this could drag on for days. It was being kept alive with the water in the harbour.”

The whale, which became trapped on Tuesday morning, was filmed suffering injuries up and down its body last night as it thrashed around in shallow bloodstained water in the harbour.

Cork County Council has plans in place to tow the carcass from Baltimore to Oldcourt near Skibbereen where it can be lifted out of the water. The authority also plans to incinerate it.

There have been discussions locally about the possibility of recovering the skeleton in the same way as residents of Kilbrittain, west Cork, did with a fin whale stranded in 2009.

The IWDG said that part of the discussions with the Defence Forces and wildlife officers from the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs would involve how a whale of this size could be killed, the calibre of weapon needed and whether a test could be done on the carcass of another dead whale found stranded in the future.

Shooting stranded whales is a common practice in New Zealand if refloating and rescue attempts are ruled too dangerous or ineffective.

Authorities in Australia have also blown up a huge stranded whale where it was too big to be shot or injected with drugs. It was described as unsightly but effective.

Fin whales are the second-largest species of whale and can grow up to 85ft (26m) in length.


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