Scientists are 'not convinced' by an image of a marine mammal in Cardigan Bay that the photographer claims to be a killer whale.
Coinciding with the Sea Watch Foundation’s Orca Watch period from 27 May to June 3, Rob Creek sent the Cambrian News photographs of an animal with a prominent dorsal fin breaching the water.
He also claimed to have seen a Minke Whale and a Risso’s Dolphin from the shoreline – both species which are scarcely ever seen from beaches in Cardigan Bay.
An Orca named John Coe, who fascinates scientists and documentary makers, is known to travel by Cardigan Bay down to Pembrokeshire every year or so with a pod of mostly females. But he’s usually found in the waters off Scotland.
The Cambrian News spoke with New Quay-based Dr Sarah Perry, of the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre, who said she could not identify the animal due to the picture quality – but said it was highly unlikely to be a killer whale.
“I’ve worked in Cardigan Bay for 20 years and I’ve never seen an Orca,” she said. “I’ve never even seen a Risso’s off Cardigan Bay – I've seen them out in the Celtic Sea, but they do frequent the area every year.
“I wouldn’t put my name to confirming the sighting. I’ve seen lots of photos over the years.
“I think people hear about Orca Watch and get into their head that they’ve seen an Orca.
“A sighting of an Orca is very, very rare. John Coe is an animal we know who comes to Cardigan Bay but there hasn’t been a confirmed sighting of him for the last few years.
“We do get suspected sightings of Orca though, around this time in May or June – a similar time when John Coe comes through this area.
“I have seen lots of pictures that turn out to be a bottlenose or maybe a Risso’s - because their dorsal fins can be more upright.
“It’s a very grainy photograph from a long way away.
“White patches on the animal can be the sun glint – I'm just not convinced.
“But then I’m a skeptic. I have to see it to believe it - or have a very good photograph.
“I’m not saying no, because it could be. But I’m not convinced.
"The last known confirmed sighting I believe was in 2018 off South Stack, North Wales.
"Adult male Orcas can grow up to 10m and weigh up to 10 tons with males being larger than females. Their black and white markings are unmistakable. Male’s have dorsal fins that can grown up to 2m in height, taller than most humans! They are the largest member of the dolphin family!"
She said there was a sighting in Cardigan of a Minke Whale in the last couple of years but aside from this its is incredibly rare for them to frequent Ceredigion shores.
Strandings co-ordinator at Marine Environmental Monitoring, Matthew Westfield, also said he is 'reasonably confident' it is not an orca.
John Coe has a large notch on his dorsal fin while the animal in the image doesn’t appear to.
It is the unusually high and powerful water blows from the whales’ blowholes that can distinguish an Orca from other marine mammals like dolphins, scientists say.