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  • The Whale-Fishery in IrelandAuthor(s): R. F. ScharffSource: The Irish Naturalist, Vol. 22, No. 8 (Aug., 1913), pp. 145-147Published by: Irish Naturalists' Journal Ltd.Stable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 13:34

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  • August, 1913. The Irish Naturalist 145


    BY R. F. SCHARFF, PH.D., F.L.S.

    in the Report of the eighty-second meeting of the British

    Association, held at Dundee last year, appears a very

    interesting series of notes on the Belmullet whaling station in the west of Ireland. These notes form the report fur

    nished by Mr. Burfield to the Committee appointed by tlie Association to investigate the biological problems incidental to the Belmullet whaling station.1

    In a, short article published two years ago,2 I indicated the number and kind of whales captured in 1910 by the two Irish Whaling Companies. This was all the informa tion I could obtain at the time. The Blacksod Whaling

    Company in 1910 caught 55 whales. In 1911, no less than

    63 individuals were procured. But Mr. Burfield supplies us with many other noteworthy particulars.


    The sixty-three whales yielded 2,200 barrels of oil, or

    about 366 tons, the market price being about ?23 per ton.

    We note that most of the oil goes to Glasgow, where it is

    apparently sold to manufacturers of explosives, who extract

    glycerine from it. Between six and seven tons of whale

    bone were gathered from these whales. The price obtained

    was ?45 per ton. Much of the whalebone is sent to Paris, where a considerable quantity appears to be used in the

    manufacture of silk fabrics in the form of fine threads.

    The residue from the meat and bones is dried and ground down, the mixture being sold as guano.. The ground nieat

    alone is exported to Norway for eattle food. Still further

    by-products, such as glue, may be obtained in future from

    this industry.

    1 Report Brit. Assoc. (Dundee, 1912), pp. 145-186, 1913. Irish Naturalist, vol. xx., 1911, p. 141.


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  • 146 TheIrishNaturalist* August;

    Breeding of Whales.

    Only one young whale is born at a time, twins being

    very rare. The young are born in the winter or early

    spring, and are said, to be from a quarter to a third the

    length of the mother.

    Size and Colour of Whales.

    In a brief review of the whales, porpoises and dolphins observed in Irish waters,1 I endeavoured to give the sizes

    of the specimens so far as they were known to me. But

    the measurements, which were mostly extracted from

    newspaper reports, were frequently doubtfully accurate, while in many cases none were obtained at all. Hence, we knew very little from actual observation of the size of

    these creatures frequenting the Irish seas. Mr. Burfield

    paid special attention to this subject. The largest Irish whale is the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera

    Sibbaldi). It was reported to me that in 1908 a specimen was captured at Inishkea, measuring 88 feet, while Mr.

    Burfield records one of 84 feet. All the Blue Whales seen

    by Mr. Burfield were females.

    Of the Common "

    Finner," as it is often called (Balaen

    optera musculus)* a skeleton of which is suspended from

    the ceiling in our Natural History Museum, few exact

    measurements had been recorded* Mr. Burfield gives no

    less than fifty-three. The largest specimen measured, which was a female, was 75 feet long, the largest male being 68 feet.

    . As it has been suggested by some authorities that the

    Blue Whale and Common Finner might prove to be

    varieties of the same species, Mr. Burfield's remarks on

    this point are noteworthy. In the colour and arrangement of the grooves there is no great difference between the two, but the dorsal fin of the Blue Whale is relatively much

    smaller than that of the other. The whalebone of the

    Blue Whale is thicker than that of the Finner, and of a

    1 Scharff, R. F. : A list of the Irish Cetacea. Irish Naturalist, vol. ix.,

    pp. 83-91, 1900.

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  • tc>i3. ScHARFF.^The Whale Fisher}* in Ireland. l^f

    uniform blue-blaMc colour. Itf the Finrler the coloto1 is

    variable; but the bristles art never black as in the^BIiie

    Whale, being generally of a yellowish colour.

    Food! -

    As a rule, the two kinds of whale referred to liveiex^

    clusively on minute surface-forms of animal life* Occasion

    ally/however* the "

    Finner," at any rate, seems to prefer

    larger morsels. Mr. Burfield found that the stomachs of

    three of the "

    Finners "

    contained the remains of small

    fish?apparently young herrings. All the other whales

    examined were full of a small red crustacean, which is

    known as "

    krill" among whale fishers.

    Parasites, "

    The parasitic Copepod Penella balaenoptera was found on the body of some of the Finners, while Balaenophilus unisetus was noticed on the baleen of both whales. The

    internal parasites Monostomum plicatum and Echino

    rhynchus brevicollis were identified.

    There are also valuable observations in Mr. Burfield's

    report on the eye, on some problematic organs and on the

    foetuses of Balaenoptera musculus arid B. Sibbaldi.

    National Museum, Dublin.


    : Ih addition to the notoriously destructive species Tylen chut demiiairix JtuKn, the following five species of Nema^ to&es Were found in Narcissus bulbs, &rown at Glasheviii,

    during'; the past winter :^-Cephal6bus striatum Bastian;

    Cephalobus idngicaudatur Biitschii; Mortohysterd bulbifera De Mail ;-: Doryluimus hri^ta^dMus,>jfeu??eKli; kh&

    Rhabdites aspera* Biitschii. A 2

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    Article Contentsp. 145p. 146p. 147

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Irish Naturalist, Vol. 22, No. 8 (Aug., 1913), pp. 145-164The Whale-Fishery in Ireland [pp. 145-147]A Few Species of Nematoda from Co. Dublin [pp. 147-151]Some Notes on the Migration of Richardson's and Pomatorhine Skuas [pp. 152-155]Irish Societies [pp. 155-160]ReviewsReview: Economic Ornithology [p. 161-161]Review: Zoological Nature Study [p. 161-161]

    NotesMosses and Hepatics of Killarney [p. 162-162]Clostera reclusa at Coolmore, Co. Donegal [p. 162-162]A Gamekeeper's List of Undesirables [pp. 162-163]Lesser White-Throat at Rockabill [p. 163-163]Tree Sparrow in Co. Donegal [p. 163-163]Recent Notes on Irish Birds [p. 164-164]Fulmars and Great Shearwater on Tory Island [p. 164-164]