Orcas sighted in West Cornwall

Orca named 'Aquarius' photographed off the coast of West Cornwall, Image by Will McEnery

Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s marine team are amazed by a rare sighting of two killer whales seen off the coast of West Cornwall. This may possibly be the first record of the UK’s only resident population of orcas in England.

On Wednesday 5th May at 4.30pm, two orcas named ‘John Coe’ and ‘Aquarius’ were seen in the waters surrounding the Minack Theatre. They were identified by the shape and notches of their dorsal fins and patches of colouration near their eyes and on their backs which makes them easily recognisable and which can be used to track these individuals around the UK’s coastline. Cornwall Wildlife Trust occasionally receives reports of orcas in Cornwall but has not been able to confirm many previous sightings due to their similarity to risso’s dolphins and a lack of photographic evidence.  

Abby Crosby, Marine Conservation Officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said:

“The Trust’s Seaquest Southwest team were incredibly excited to hear about this orca report, and even more delighted when the photos received then validated the record and identified these rare and beautiful individuals as John Coe and Aquarius. This is the first official orca record in our databases with associated photos in over a decade, and further proof of the value of our coastal seas in supporting these magnificent creatures.”

This is the first official orca record in our databases with associated photos in over a decade
Abby Crosby
Marine Conservation Officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust
Orca named 'John Coe' - recognisable by the large notch on his dorsal fin

Orca named 'John Coe' - recognisable by the large notch on his dorsal fin, Image by Will McEnery

The two orcas form part of the ‘West Coast Community’, a specialised pod of eight individuals that can be distinguished from other groups of killer whales by their unusual sloping eye patch and larger size. Although they are regularly monitored, some individuals have not been seen in recent years and there have been no calves observed since monitoring began in the 1990s. According to the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust’s website, the pod faces the risk of extinction as a direct result of human impacts. This includes exposure to high levels of now-banned PCB chemicals which have caused poor health and infertility within the pod.

This pod, and the issues it faces with infertility and future extinction, should be a huge wake up call to the public that we must protect these creatures better in our waters. Now is the time to take action by supporting our 2021 Appeal.
Abby Crosby
Marine Conservation Officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust

As the largest member of the dolphin family, orcas are a keystone species that play an important role in the balance of our marine ecosystem. A fundraising appeal has recently been launched by Cornwall Wildlife Trust to tackle the issues affecting Cornwall’s dolphins and porpoises, several of which are caused by human behaviours. The Trust hopes to raise £30,000 to limit the effects of disturbance, bycatch and noise pollution to protect the presence of these marine mammals in Cornish waters.  

To help Cornwall Wildlife Trust protect Cornwall’s dolphins and porpoises, please go to www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/dolphinappeal

Appeal

Cornwall’s dolphins and porpoises need your help

Our dolphins and porpoises face numerous threats, and unless we act now, they could be lost from our waters. A donation to our appeal could help us to stop their suffering and protect their presence in our Cornish seas. 

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