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#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has expressed its dismay at another record year for cetacean standings around the Irish coast.

The first eight months of 2017 alone have seen 201 recorded strandings - up 30% compared to the same period in the last two years.

“As in recent years, the numbers of dead common dolphins recorded are very high, with 78 records for this species to the end of August 2017 accounting for 39% of all strandings,” says IWDG strandings officer Mick O’Connell, who notes that the numbers of dead dolphins washing ashore in late winter and spring has grown unusually high.

“Even in a series of years with particularly high numbers of this species stranding since 2011, 2017 is well ahead of the previous two ‘record’ years by the end of August — 66 in 2016 and 53 in 2013.

“These are, of course, minimum numbers as we don't know how many dead animals go unrecorded and also many unidentified dolphins which aren't identifiable to species level are likely to be common dolphins,” he adds.

The IWDG is currently working with the Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture and National Parks and Wildlife service on a post-mortem scheme for common dolphins, striped dolphins and harbour porpoises which is hoped will shed new light on what might be causing this alarming rise in cetacean deaths.

Meanwhile, there was more positive news from the recent all-Ireland whale watch at the end of August, where three-quarters of the 20 sites around the island recorded sightings.

Around 1,300 whale watchers and wildlife enthusiasts spotted eight species of cetacean between them — with the busiest site at Loop Head in Co Kerry, where 120 lucky visitors got to see two humpback whales, five minke whales, six bottlenose and a whopping 50 common dolphins.

Other marine wildlife species spotted around the coast included Risso’s dolphins, blue fin tuna, ocean sunfish and grey seals.

More recently, the IWDG’s Celtic Mist embarked on a week-long survey of the waters around North and West Kerry, and its crew shared a video of some of their sightings.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - 2017’s All–Ireland Whale Watch Day is scheduled for Saturday 26 August between 2pm and 5pm as part of Heritage Week.

Join the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) at any of 20 land-based whale watches across Ireland to celebrate the 26th Anniversary of Irish waters being declared a sanctuary for whales and dolphins and find out about the 25 species of cetaceans – porpoises, dolphins and whales – recorded to date around the coast.

All watches are land-based and will be led by experienced IWDG researchers, enthusiasts and whale watchers who will show you how to observe and identify some of the more commonly-recorded cetacean species seen in Irish waters.

The event also provides IWDG researchers with a unique snapshot of whale and dolphin activity around the Irish coast on the same day.

Please bring binoculars or a spotting scope if you have them and dress appropriately for outdoor conditions. There are no boat trips involved and there is, of course, no guarantee that you will see whales or dolphins at your chosen site – but at last year’s event, whales or dolphins were recorded at 15 of 20 sites.

So if the weather is suitable on the day, you’ve quite a good chance of seeing some really interesting marine wildlife. And in the process, you’ll be supporting whale and dolphin conservation in Ireland.

The full list of watching locations, with watch leader contacts, is as follows:

  • Clogherhead, Co Louth - Port Oriel Upper Car Park - Breffni Martin 087 9145363
  • Howth Head, North Dublin - Balscadden Car Park - Conal O’Flanagan 086 3537900
  • Killiney Bay, South Dublin - Vico Road - Isabel Baker 086 4057633
  • Bray Head, Co Wicklow - Pitch & Putt Car Park - Justin Ivory 087 6833898
  • Wicklow Town - Black Castle Car Park - Brian Glanville 087 1390665
  • Hook Head, Co Wexford - Hook Head Lighthouse - Harm Deenen 086 3485013
  • Ardmore Head, Co Waterford - Ram Head Signal Tower - Andrew Malcolm 087 7952061
  • Galley Head, Co Cork - Lighthouse - Pádraig Whooley 086 3850568
  • Lehanemore, Beara, Co Cork - Lehanemore Community Centre - Patrick Lyne 027 71930
  • Valentia Island, Co Kerry - Bray Head Signal Tower - Sean O’Callaghan 085 7764918
  • Clogher Head, Co Kerry - Layby - Nick Massett 087 6736341
  • Loop Head, Co Clare - Loop Head Lighthouse - Simon Berrow 086 8545450
  • Black Head, Co Clare - Black Head Lighthouse - Sandra O’Donovan 086 6061869
  • Downpatrick Head, Co Mayo - Car Park - Aoife Foley 085 8276984
  • Mullaghmore Head, Co Sligo - Mullaghmore Layby - Miriam Crowley 087 6171377
  • Bloody Foreland, Co Donegal - Foreland Heights Car Park - Gareth Doherty 086 2223328
  • Inishowen Head, Co Donegal - Tower - Trish Murphy 087 6748183)
  • Portstewart Head, Co Derry - Car Park - Jim Allen 078 76516032
  • Portmuck, Co Antrim - Car Park - Ian Enlander 028 93372724
  • Bloody Bridge, Co Down - Car Park - Dave Wall 077 71762355
Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Once was exciting enough — but a Kerry trawler had landed a second giant squid in as many months, as RTÉ News reports.

Local fisherman Pete Flannery landed what was the first giant squid recorded in Irish waters for 22 years in mid May, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

But amazingly, he had repeated the feat this month while trawling in the same area, on the Porcupine Bank west of Dingle.

Before this year, only five of the enormous cephalopods had been found in Irish waters since records began in 1673.

What’s more, two of those squid were landed by Flannery’s own father Michael back in 1995.

“I'll probably have to catch a third now so that I can have bragging rights,” Flannery told RTÉ News, which has more on the story HERE.

Elsewhere, a Galway man recorded video of a killer whale carcass washed up on the shore near Roundstone in Connemara.

Independent.ie reports that the orca sighting was confirmed by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, whose Mick O’Connell said the species is “neither common nor very rare [but] you wouldn’t see then very often.”

Ireland’s North Coast is a regular haunt for an “evolutionary significant” pod of killer whales that has been under threat for years due to its lack of young.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Pádraig Whooley says he has “lost count” of the number of minke whales seen off West Cork in recent days, as The Irish Times reports.

Whales of various cetacean species are now arriving in Ireland in larger numbers much earlier in the year than their usual appearance in autumn, according to the IWDG’s sightings co-ordinator.

Minke whale numbers between Union Hall and Galley Head have been “exceptional” since last week, says Whooley — who also notes that a pod of humpbacks familiar to West Kerry coastal residents has been feeding off Cork over the past fortnight, while the whale known as Boomerang has been spotted off Waterford.

Elsewhere, the Air Corps Maritime Squadron recently captured some astonishing images of sharks feeding on a whale carcass some 200km northwest of Donegal.

“It's not often that we get sent such clear images of a dead cetacean being scavenged on by several sharks,” said IWDG standings officer Mick O'Connell, “but it does give an indication of the importance of dead animals in the food chain.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Dusty the dolphin earned a measure of infamy in previous years after attacking a number of bathers at her former home in Doolin.

But the Wild Atlantic Way’s other resident bottlenose – after Dingle's celebrated Fungie – was in a much more agreeable mood in recent days, as a new video captured by visitor Elaine Farrell shows her adorable encounter with a snorkeller at Inis Oírr.

Dusty appears perfectly calm as she rolls over in the water for a belly rub from the diver, who was perched at the stern of a boat moored in the Aran Islands harbour.

However, as cute as that encounter might be, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Dr Simon Berrow warns that Dusty and other dolphins like her are still wild animals — and getting close to them can be dangerous.

“Our advice would be: don’t swim with the dolphins,” he said, adding: “Respect their distance and don’t do anything stupid. It’s hard to know what will set off aggressive behaviour.”

Elsewhere, video from the Copeland Islands off Donagahdee show a lazy seal taking it easy on a dinghy moored off the Irish coast recently.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Whether you’re cruising around the coast or staying put on dry land, there’s much to see and explore during National Biodiversity Week, which kicked off yesterday (Friday 19 May) and continues till next weekend.

Among the 50 free events nationwide are two whale watches hosted by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), today (Saturday 20 May) at Cloghna Head in Co Cork and next Sunday (28 May) at Loop Head in Co Clare.

The IWDG is also holding talks on Ireland’s cetaceans — no doubt with reports from the latest Celtic Mist cruise — in Fenit, Co Kerry (on Sunday 21 May) and Kilrush, Co Clare (Saturday 27 May), the latter of which will discuss the unique population of Shannon dolphins.

Next Saturday also sees Galway Bay seashore walks at Grattan Shore in Salthill, in association with Galway Atlantaquaria, to explore the area’s marine wildlife.

Coast Monkey lists its top picks from the week’s activities, including a nature walk on Inch Beach tomorrow (Sunday 21 May), rock pool exploration at Hook Head Lighthouse (Sunday 28 May) and a biodiversity walk at the Wicklow Murrough (Friday 26 May) led by marine biologist Karin Dubsky.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The carcass of an 11-tonne sperm whale has washed up at Carnsore Point in Co Wexford, as the Gorey Guardian reports.

The 8.5m whale — discovered by local man Davie Rea on the rocky shore at the end of last week — was identified as an adult female by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Kevin MacCormick of the IWDG added that the giant marine mammal appeared to be emaciated “so most likely it was not in good health”.

It’s been five years since the last sperm whale stranding on the Wexford coast, as the species is more often found in western waters.

The Gorey Guardian has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Not even two months in and 2017 is already the worst year on record for whale and dolphin strandings, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

As of Friday 17 February, a whopping 56 cetacean standings had been recorded — more than half of them identified as common dolphins.

Prior to 2010, the average numbers of standings were around 22, of which five would have been common dolphins, says the IWDG’s strandings officer Mick O’Connell.

The question of what is happening to cause such a spike in strandings throughout this decade prompted a meeting between the IWDG, Government agencies and representatives from Irish and European fishing fleets earlier this week.

“There is a disconnect somewhere,” says O’Connell, “as internationally accepted visual evidence of bycatch is seen in some strandings, and post-mortem reports on five common dolphins in Mayo in 2013 reported that their deaths were likely to be due to bycatch in a pelagic trawl net, yet Irish and EU observer schemes involving pelagic trawlers reported no bycatch in commercial pelagic hauls.”

The latest stranding was recorded in Fenit, Co Kerry on Wednesday (15 February) — a dolphin alleged by locals to have been caught in the nets of a large trawler offshore before being dumped overboard, as the Irish Mirror reports.

The Irish Examiner adds that another common dolphin with blood marks was found at Ballyconneely Beach in Connemara on the same day, while two days previous the emaciated carcass of a sperm whale was found on Nethertown Beach at the most south-easterly point of Co Wexford.

Last month, a spate of marine wildlife standings on the Waterford coast was blamed on pair trawling activity in the area.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Ireland’s whales and dolphins feature in a new atlas of the country’s wildlife, as The Irish Times reports.

The Atlas of Mammals in Ireland 2010-2015, published by the National Biodiversity Data Centre, maps the distribution of 77 mammal species both on the island and in its territorial waters.

Cetaceans account for almost a third of this number, among a whopping 68 species of whales and dolphins that frequent Irish waters.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Dr Simon Berrow relates his long-term study of the Shannon Estuary’s thriving population of bottlenose dolphins in a book that celebrates an encouraging national habitat for species that struggle not so far from our shores.

Afloat.ie readers might remember a previous atlas concentrating on Ireland’s abundance of marine mammals that was published in 2013, and for which this new book makes a useful comparison.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports the good news of the rescue of two live common dolphins that stranded on a Co Kerry beach at the weekend.

IWDG volunteers found three dolphins at Tarbert on Sunday morning (8 January), one of which was already dead while the others were in shallow water, with one of them swimming into even lower waters upriver towards Tarbert village.

“We knew we had to come up with a plan as the area is surrounded with mudflats, and once the tide started to recede we would not be able to get access to or re-float the dolphin if it stranded again,” reported Joanne O’Brien.

That’s when Tarbert Rowing Club came to their aid with a small inflatable that allowed the volunteers to retrieve the bewildered dolphin and steer it in the right direction.

The IWDG has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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