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Wednesday 27 March 2019

Remarkable whale hunt captured off coast for the first time

Ralph Riegel

IT is one of nature's most remarkable ocean hunts – and few are ever fortunate enough to glimpse it.

A group of astounded Irish sailors and fishermen watched in awe as a pod of humpback whales conducted a so-called 'bubble-netting' hunt off the west Cork coast for a herring shoal.

The group managed to photograph, for the first time ever in coastal Irish waters, the whales using bubbles blown from their lungs to trap and then swallow the fish.

Two humpback whales were first caught on camera last Saturday – but yesterday they were joined by four more whales who were escorted by a group of dolphins eager to muscle in on the good fishing.

The remarkable fishing technique has been filmed in deep Atlantic waters but this is believed to be the first time it was ever photographed off the Irish coast.

West Cork RNLI volunteer and sailing champion, Youen Jacob, managed to photograph the two humpbacks as they hunted off Baltimore last Saturday.

The whales were spotted in the distance by Mr Youen and his companions.

"We went a bit close to see what they were up to and were amazed to get such great photographs as they hunted the herring," he said.

The humpbacks, which can grow to 16 metres, carefully worked in tandem to create a giant circular wall of bubbles around the shoal. The confused fish congregate tightly together, frightened to risk breaking through the wall of bubbles. As the herring pack tightly together, the whales then dive underneath them and surge to the surface with their mouths gaping to swallow most of the trapped shoal.

The word quickly spread of another bubble-netting hunt yesterday and hundreds gathered in west Cork to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.

Irish Independent

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