THE latest annual visitor to Ireland is young, male and loves to bathe in the wintry chill of the Irish sea.
Bachelor humpback whales are returning year after year and sightings of them will become increasingly common, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) said yesterday.
As the second humpback whale in a week was sighted off the Wexford coast, IWDG spokesman Simon Berrow said these regular visitors offered a huge opportunity for the tourist market.
"What is really interesting here is not that we have a rare sighting of a humpback but that we know they will return at this time of year, every year," he said.
Mr Berrow said he was "staggered" that no tourist operator had yet sought to cash in on the public interest in whale watching.
The whale spotted off Curracloe, dubbed HBIRL14, did not 'fluke' -- where they dive and show the underside of their tailfin -- and, as a result, the IWDG could not definitively identify him.
But Mr Berrow said he had a ragged dorsal fin which distinguished him from HBIRL13 or 'Hookie' -- the first humpback to be sighted off Hook Head.
There were about 10,000 gulls associated with the whale off Curracloe, which the IWDG considers "exceptional". One group got up close and personal with the whale yesterday on the 'Rebecca C' skippered by Martin Colfer.
This is the 14th humpback whale the IWDG has recorded in Irish waters in 13 years.