If you spot a 7ft fin slicing through the water this summer, don't be alarmed.

If you see a 7ft fin slicing through the water this summer, don’t be alarmed. Killer whales have been spotted off the County Down coast, where they’ve gathered to hunt salmon and seals. The giant mammals, which can grow as long as 9m, are a deadly predator to fish, turtles, birds and even sharks, but are harmless to humans.

According to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, inshore sightings tend to be brief encounters of groups of no larger than three. However, pods of up to 20 have been spotted. ‘They’re spectacular to see,’ said the group’s sighting co-ordinator, Pádraig Whooley. ‘They’re the ocean’s top predator, and you don’t get to see them very often. However, they are well within range.’

Killer whales, which are actually dolphins, are highly intelligent and inquisitive. They’re confident in inshore waters, and in 2001 three spent a summer in Cork Harbour, feeding in the River Lee before swimming right into the city centre.

Find out more about whale and dolphin sightings in Ireland at www.iwdg.ie