South Scotland

Fisherman spots sperm whale in waters near Portpatrick

A 50ft sperm whale found its way in Kirkwall Bay in Orkney in 2011
Image caption A 50ft sperm whale found its way into Kirkwall Bay in Orkney in 2011

A sperm whale has been spotted off the coast of Dumfries and Galloway.

The 10m (32ft) long mammal was seen milling on the surface of the sea, just north of Portpatrick on Wednesday.

Experts from the Sea Watch Foundation claim this may be one of the most southerly sightings of a sperm whale on the west coast of the UK.

They are more commonly spotted in waters off the north-west coast of Scotland and two were seen near Skye last year.

Fisherman Simon Olley, who has seen otters, porpoises, seals and jellyfish, reported the rare sighting to the foundation.

He said: "What struck me about this sighting was the whale was just sort of sitting on the top, at first it wasn't obvious it was a whale until it moved slightly and I saw it's very noticeable large and square head and then I heard it take a couple of breaths.

"There was no obvious dorsal fin either. I watched it for a minute or so before it very gently just disappeared again."

Image copyright Catherine Atkins/Sea Watch Foundation
Image caption Two sperm whales were spotted off the coast of Skye in 2014

The foundation's sighting officer Kathy James said they have been unable to fully verify Mr Olley's account as he did not take a photograph.

She added: "Simon has seen various cetaceans around the coast before, and with his experience and the description of the animal it is highly likely that he was watching a sperm whale."

Sea Watch director Peter Evans said lone adult male sperm whales have been spotted around the Northern Isles and the Hebrides over recent decades.

He added: "Increasingly, however, adolescent males have occurred in our waters, sometimes in groups of five to 10 individuals.

"The increased occurrence of winter and spring sightings in Scottish waters could be a reflection of climate change, if their main prey, squid, have become more abundant locally in recent years, resulting in animals staying through the winter to feed rather than travelling into lower warmer latitudes."

The foundation received a report of a stranded sperm whale in County Donegal in 1990 and a sighting of one in March 1996, north-west of the Isle of Man.

Get live news updates from the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway throughout the day on our South of Scotland live page service.

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