A POD of orcas has been discovered swimming off the coast of Northern Ireland.
The orcas, otherwise known as killer whales, were spotted after swimming alongside a marine maintenance boat in Strangford Lough in County Down.
Stunning footage of their close encounter with the vessel was posted on Twitter by Suzanne Beck, a Biologist from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute.
It was originally filmed by marine maintenance worker Jeremy Rodgers who says it is only the third time he has witnessed an orca in the lough in almost 47 years of working there.
According to Ms Beck, the pod was first spotted in the harbour of Strangford Lough, which is an inlet of the Irish Sea, this past Friday, May 15.
The killer whales are thought to be part of the west coast community of orcas, which have been spotted in various locations off the coast of Ireland and Scotland over the past year.
However, even Ms Beck acknowledges this recent visit is something of a rarity, having only witnessed orcas in Northern Ireland once previously.
Describing orcas as a “cosmopolitan species”, Ms Beck told the BBC: “They aren’t migrating at the moment. We know little about them but I would say they just have a wider range and travel round the British Isles searching for food.
“They’re just doing this circuit around us the whole time and it’s only when they come close to the coast that we’re getting these lucky sightings”.
Amazing video footage of the killer whales in #strangfordlough from Jeremy Rodgers! #orca #northernireland @IWDGnews @HWDT_org @cathyg235 @davemwall @barrabest @dunbar44 @AFBI_NI pic.twitter.com/80d01iXEtD
— Suzanne Beck (@suuz_beck) May 15, 2020
Writing on Twitter, Ms Beck offered advice for anyone who may come into contact with Orcas off the coast of Northern Ireland in the coming months.
“With amazing sightings around our coast it is important to know how to watch wildlife responsibly,” she wrote.
“Stay 100m away; avoid mothers & young; & switch engines into neutral if animals approach”.
Despite being described as killer whales, orcas actually belong to the dolphin family and are the largest breed of the sea-faring mammal on the planet.
This information will help them to track the animals’ movements and conduct further research and conservation projects.