While several different groups of orca have been spotted off Ireland and Scotland over the years, it is thought that members of this pod — who have been given nicknames such as John Coe, Floppy Fin, and Nicola — are the only resident population.
However, there is real concern among experts that contamination through pollution in their food has made the pod infertile.
“It is down to about seven animals now,” said Dr Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. “They have They have never had a calf. It’s thought that maybe they are infertile because of the high pollution levels”.
A large male orca nicknamed John Coe — who is thought to have his dorsal fin bitten by a shark — is the most distinctive member of the dwindling pod.
“If you’re moving all around Europe and living a long time, you get a lot of contaminants from fish over time.” Said Dr. Berrow
An autopsy on an Irish killer whale which washed up on the Waterford coast earlier is still awaiting results but previous orcas found dead around Ireland’s coast have proved to have had high rates of pollution.
“They are regular visitors to Ireland and they are under pressure from contaminants all over Europe,” said Dr Berrow. “We did analysis of the killer whale washed up in Waterford earlier this year but we are awaiting the results.”
Orca are “Data Deficient” according to the IUCN as surprisingly little is know about them.