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.
The scheme led by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) will see a network of buoys deployed with devices to pick up cetacean chatter – as well as potentially harmful ocean sounds from sea traffic or industry.
"Displacement from noise is a very real effect and ... if it doesn't cause them to move will change their behaviours and, at the most acute levels, can cause physical and physiological damage to the animals,” says Dr Adam Mellor of the AFBI.
BBC News has more on the story HERE.
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.
Two of the three dolphins were still alive when found on Friday (13 January), though they were in “poor condition”, and one was later confirmed dead. The other was last seen in the area on Saturday and its current status is unconfirmed.
The news comes just days after two common dolphins were refloated after stranding in Tarbert, Co Kerry, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
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.
As the West Cork Times reports, Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune MEP has submitted a parliamentary question that makes reference to the unusually high rate of standings recorded by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) in the first three months of 2016.
“The allegation is that the spike in dolphin deaths is as a direct result of a busy and sustained period of supertrawler activity in our waters,” says Clune, who adds that the Commission “now has a duty of care under the Habitats Directive to investigate this matter to establish the facts.”
Last week the vessel, one of the largest of its kind on the seas, was boarded for inspection by Naval Service personnel — as the Irish Wildlife Trust reiterated its calls for a full-time inspection regime for large-scale factory trawlers to ensure compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy and environmental protections.
A member of the public who was on scene had tried to assist the dolphin back to sea, but when they were unable to do so they alerted the Ballycotton lifeboat.
Ballycotton’s inshore lifeboat and its volunteer crew were quickly on scene, with the all-weather lifeboat on standby due to the offshore breeze and calm weather conditions.
Upon arrival, coxswain Eolan Walsh entered the water, guided the marine mammal into deeper water and shepherded it back out to sea.
Speaking after the callout, Walsh said: “Similar to a previous launch last summer, this dolphin appeared to be quite young and may have been separated from its pod.
“We would like to commend the member of the public who assisted the dolphin initially. We were happy to help and bring the dolphin into deeper waters.”
Visitors staying at Doonaha's Green Acres caravan park used buckets of water to keep the mother and calf wet and tarps to help lift them into deeper waters off the rocky shore before a team from Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation arrived.
The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.
#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has reiterated the need for localised stranding plans after the death of two common dolphins that stranded in Mayo's Blacksod Bay in late July.
Aoife Foley of the IWDG writes that the two dolphins were part of a pod of five that were spotted close to the shore at Mullaghroe Beach on Saturday 23 July.
A team from the Broadhaven Bay Marine Mammal Monitoring Programme joined local marine biologist Machiel Oudejans to move the dolphins, which did not appear to be injured or in obviously poor health, back into deeper waters and out to sea.
However, the following afternoon a member of the programme team saw that two of the marine mammals had stranded on the same stretch of beach, which Foley says is "notorious for common dolphin strandings in Blacksod Bay".
Despite best efforts, by Tuesday 26 July one of the animals had died and the other had to be put down by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The IWDG has more on the story HERE.
According to The Irish Times, former Sea Fisheries Protection Authority inspector Kevin Flannery says one of the three common dolphins found between Dingle and Smerwick Harbour since last weekend had a rope around its tail, presumably discarded from a fishing vessel.
He added that while there is no proof of precisely what became of the dolphins, it was "no coincidence" that the incidents occurred while a fleet of mainly Dutch factory fishing ships was spotted off the Blasket Islands.
The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.