west coast community photo-id catalogue
Numbering just eight individuals, four males and four females, members of the West Coast Community, the only resident UK population, can be distinguished from other groups of killer whales seen around Scotland by their unusual sloping eye patch and large size. Each individual in the group is recognisable by the unique shape of their dorsal fins as well as the shape and coloration of their saddle patch. HWDT have been collating photographs and sightings of the West Coast Community since 1992.
These animals truly are a West Coast Community with sightings along the whole of the west coast of the UK from the Hebrides to the South of Ireland. One individual, John Coe, the most distinct member of the group, has also been seen on the east coast of Scotland too. Although the group is wide ranging, most sightings have been within the Hebrides. Some individuals have not been seen in recent years and there have been no calves observed since monitoring began in the 1990’s. Lulu, the ninth member of the group, died after becoming entangled and stranded on Tiree, in the Hebrides, in January 2016. Lulu’s death was tragic but it provided us with a unique insight into the threats facing this small and unique group.
Contaminant analysis of tissue taken from Lulu’s necropsy, carried out by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, showed that she had one of the highest levels of PCBs ever recorded in the species, 100 times higher than the accepted threshold for PCB toxicity in marine mammals. High levels of PCBs cause poor health and infertility. Although she was sexually mature, Lulu‘s necropsy showed she had never been pregnant. This finding linked with the fact that no calves have been recorded in the West Coast Community since monitoring began, suggests that this unique group of killer whales will die out in our lifetime.
John Coe (W01)
John Coe is the most distinct individual in the West Community, identifiable by the large notch in the bottom of his dorsal fin. He is a regular visitor to the Hebrides and has been seen as recently as August 2018.
Floppy Fin (W02)
Floppy Fin is a male killer whale with a very distinctive dorsal fin that 'flops' over to the left. In wild killer whales, this condition is thought to be genetic and is considered rare.
Nicola is a female killer whale and she was first catalogued in 1992.
Comet is a male killer whale who was first catalogued by HWDT in 1998. His dorsal fin has a distinctive shape. In 2016, HWDT helped to match Comet to a whale named "Dopey Dick" who swam up the River Foyle in 1977 making him nearly 60 years old!
Moneypenny is a female killer whale first catalogued in 2004.
Aquarius is an adult male killer whale who was first catalogued in 2004. He is frequently seen with John Coe and was last seen in August 2017.
Puffin is a female killer whale who was first catalogued by HWDT in 2000.
Occasus is a female killer whale first catalogued by HWDT in 2005. She was named as part of a competition run by BBC Wildlife in 2011.