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Glad tidings over humpback whale

Published 10/07/2015

A humpback whale which was spotted in the Firth of Clyde (Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust/PA)
A humpback whale which was spotted in the Firth of Clyde (Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust/PA)

A humpback whale has been spotted in the Firth of Clyde - the fifth sighting off western Scotland in a month compared to the average of one or two a year.

The creature was seen off Tighnabruaich in the Kyles of Bute on July 6 and two days later was spotted swimming strongly in a northward direction into Loch Fyne.

The whale was observed breaching out of the water and lob-tailing - a dramatic manoeuvre in which the mammal throws its massive tail, up to five metres (16ft) across, out of the water, creating a huge splash visible for miles.

Over the past month, there have been at least five different humpback whales documented off Scotland's west coast, from the Isle of Lewis to the Firth of Clyde.

Dr Conor Ryan, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust's Sightings and Strandings Officer, said: "Usually we expect just one or two sightings of humpback whales per year, so to have five in a month is very encouraging and exciting.

"Although humpbacks can put on a spectacular show and are humbling to watch, we appeal to people not to stress the whale by approaching in boats.

"This individual is not in its typical environment and may be lost in the sea loch. Besides, there are strict laws in place to protect this species from harassment."

This week's sighting is the third confirmed humpback whale seen in the Firth of Clyde in recent years. On previous occasions, the whales apparently navigated their way out to the open sea.

However, this is the first time that the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has documented a humpback so far north in the Clyde.

The trust hopes that the creature, thought to be more than 40ft (12m) long, will find its own way out to sea, avoiding the risk of becoming entangled in ropes.

Karl Hurd, Southwest Scotland regional coordinator of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: "At the moment, the whale is swimming freely with no signs of distress or entanglement. Hopefully it will make its own way back to deeper water and come to no harm."

Humpback whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction in Scottish waters, but in recent years the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has noticed an increase in the number of sightings reported to its online sightings database.

It is not known whether this represents a genuine increase in population size, a range shift into Scottish waters, or more vigilant reporting from members of the public.

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