Meet John Coe the orca whale who visits Wales each year

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Orca called John Coe
Image caption,
For the last three years an Orca called John Coe has been spotted off Pembrokeshire

Meet John Coe. He's become something of a regular to the Pembrokeshire coast, passing through annually over the last three years.

Enthusiasts who know their whales book boat trips off St David's between May-June hoping to see the orca's return.

He's never alone, travelling with a group of up to eight females and their young.

Whale sightings are becoming common in Wales, following news of the first winter visits of giant fin whales.

Volunteers from the Sea Trust were alerted by "towering water blows" from the sea while on the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry last Thursday.

Over the past few years both fin whales and humpback whales have started wintering off the southern Irish coast.

And John Coe's small group of killer whales - that inhabit the waters off the west coast of Scotland - have also been seen off the Irish coast at Cork.

Now, daily dolphin and whale watching trips are being run in Wales.

"On most of the trips you see dolphins where as whales - pilots, fins, minke whale - they are not so obvious so you have to be looking at the right place at the right time," says Cindy Pearce who runs boat trips from Thousand Islands Expeditions, St David's.

"A lot of people still don't realise that we have whales and dolphins, but news is starting to spread."

She says a particular favourite is the orca. John Coe was first photographed by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust in 1992.

And he has been regularly seen ever since by the charity based in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, clearly recognisable due to a large "notch" in his dorsal fin.

"We normally see John Coe with about five to eight females and young but he normally passes through that one day," said Cindy Pearce.

Cardigan Bay - or the "dolphin coast" as it is becoming known - is regarded as one of the best places to see bottle-nose dolphins.

And they are proving a big draw according to Steve Hartley from Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre who is one three boat operators to run dolphin and whale watching trips from Newquay.

"Locals have always known the bottle-nose were here but it was a well kept secret," he said.

"More and more their profile is being raised. But with that comes a problem and we need to make sure we protect the animals."

Mr Hartley doesn't think dolphin and whale watching will become a big business in Wales.

"We just don't have the concentration to build up a full-on whale watching operation," he said.

Meanwhile, in Pembrokeshire, Cindy Pearce says she doesn't want the area to be "over-populated" with boats.

"But it would be nice for everybody to realise just how much wildlife we do have in the area - far more than people realise," she said.

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