The Oceans of the world are a continuous circulating
mass of water, joined together by the southern ocean and the unfrozen
waters around the north pole. As a result those species that can
tolerate cooler waters are found worldwide. Tropical species from the
coral reefs of the Atlantic and the Pacific are unable to live in cool
waters and maintain separate and distinct populations.
waters of the North Atlantic circulate in a clockwise motion and warm
waters from the Gulf of Mexico are sent to Cardigan Bay by the Gulf
stream. With the advent of global warming, sea temperatures have
increased and a number of tropical species have been observed in
British coastal waters.
The huge Leatherback Turtle - largest by far of the sea turtles,
has probably always been coming to Cardigan Bay in small numbers as
the Irish sea represents the northern limit of its range.
The largest Leatherback Turtle ever recorded washed up in North Wales in 1998 measuring nearly 3 metres
and weighing over 2,000 lbs.
A year later another decomposing Leatherback nearly 2 metres
long was found on Newborough island beach on the Isle of Anglesey.
A Kemp's Ridley Turtle,
one of the world's rarest sea Turtles, was stranded alive on the Welsh
coast. It was taken to St. David's Oceanarium in Wales before being returned to Mexico.
Whale partially entangled in fishing net was observed off the coast of
New Quay in 2003 . It reportedly has lacerations from the net as
deep as the blubber - a layer of insulating fat just beneath the
skin. A boat was launched by the RSPCA from Gwbert near Cardigan,
but they were unable to make contact with the whale.
The Minke whale
is another species found in seas around the world and has been observed before in the Irish
sea. Just last year in the
autumn, Mr. and Mrs. Hargrove staying at Rosemary Cottage near New
Quay saw a Minke Whale with a group of Dolphins off Llangrannog.
The Minke is the smallest
of the Baleen whales - a group which includes the planet's
largest animal, the Blue Whale. Like the Blue Whale, the Mike has a
series of bony filters or baleen inside its mouth, which filters
out plankton from the water. Its chief food is Krill - a large shrimp
and shoals of small fish such as anchovies. When it opens its mouth to
take in water, the skin over the lower jaw expands to vastly increase
the available volume. For this to happen, the 'throat' is folded or
ridged into 50 - 70 grooves. Minke whales in the northern
hemisphere also have a distinctive white band on the flippers which is
lacking in the race found in the southern hemisphere. The Minke either
travels singly or in small pods of 2 or 3 animals. There are believed
to be some 800,000 Minke Whales alive today.
The Minke Whale (Balaenopteraacutorostrata ) is also known as the Lesser Rorqual or the
Piked Whale. It is the smallest of the Rorqual Whales with a maximum
size of about nine metres and a weight of seven tonnes or more.
On Mid day on 22nd
July 2003, several people saw what they thought was a Sunfish (Molamola) in the waters off Cardigan Island. They almost certainly did see a
Sunfish. It is such an unusual shape that it could hardly be
confused with any other fish (see photo below).
The Sunfish is a
large, slow-swimming oceanic species. It is found worldwide in
warm and temperate waters and grows to a very large size
-as much as 9 feet across and weighing as much as 2,000 Kilos!
It is often seen lying on its side as in the photo. Unusually
its tail or caudal fin has been adapted into a 'clavus' or
rudder. It has a tiny mouth with a parrot like beak and a small
gill opening by the pectoral fin.
Although the occasional warm water species is seen in
Cardigan Bay, by far the majority of such visitors are seen off the
coast and on the beaches of Devon and Cornwall where there is a
much better developed fishing industry than West Wales and as a result
there are far more people reporting unusual sightings.
include Mako sharks, Trigger fish, Portuguese Man of War jellyfish,
The interest in the Cardigan Bay
Dolphins in recent years and the monitoring of Dolphin populations,
has meant that unusual marine species are not only more likely to be
seen, but also to be identified.
This photo of a
Sunfish was taken by Barry Davies on October 1st, 2011
in Cardigan Bay between Pwllheli and Criccieth to the north of New