Displaying items by tag: Irish Whale and Dolphin Group
#MARINE WILDLIFE - The carcass of the fin whale that died after being trapped in Baltimore Harbour two months ago has been towed out to sea after its presence in a conservation area attracted complaints.
According to the Irish Examiner, disappointment has been expressed by a local group in Baltimore who hoped to salvage the skeleton of the 65ft female fin whale, the remains of which have now been towed out beyond Fastnet Rock for disposal.
Last week Afloat.ie reported on claims from local resident Tom McCarthy, among others from the Schull area, that the whale carcass was creating a "rancid oil slick" with a "horrendous smell" in Roaringwater Bay, a Special Area of Conservation for marine wildlife that houses a grey seal breeding ground.
However, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) - which was working with Baltimore residents on their plan to retrieve the bones with a view to displaying the skeleton in the town - criticised the decision by Cork County Council to dump the remains.
IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley pointed the finger at "vested interests" exaggerating claims about health hazards, arguing that "towing it out to sea raises the very real possibility that [it] could simply wash up on the coast again."
The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - The board of directors of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has announced the appointment of three new officers to cover the roles of conservation, Northern Ireland and the Irish language.
The new IWDG conservation officer is Dr Joanne O’Brien, a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).
Dr O'Brien lectures on the Applied Freshwater and Marine Biology degree. She has been working on cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoise) since 2004 and completed a PhD on small cetaceans off the west coast of Ireland in 2009.
She is particularly interested in acoustic monitoring and is currently principal investigator on an EPA-funded project exploring ocean noise and its impact on marine wildlife.
Padraic de Bhaldraithe is the new IWDG Irish language officer, following stints in postgraduate research in biological oceanography in Galway and in the Centre Nationale de l’Exploration des Océans in Brest, France.
After teaching in a second-level school for 10 years, he joined the inspectorate of the Department of Education and subsequently seconded to the State Examinations Commission where he was the chief examiner for Biology.
The third appointee is Zoë Stevenson, the new Northern Ireland officer. She recently graduated from Swansea University and her passion for whales and dolphins have taken her all over the world. She’s seen humpback whales in Costa Rica, Hector’s dolphins in New Zealand and fin whales in Italy, just to name a few.
The IWDG will soon be appointing three more officers to the areas of welfare, education and science.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - Members of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) encountered the world's largest animals off the southwest coast of Ireland last Thursday.
Two blue whales were witnessed by the team on board the Celtic Mist near the edge of the continental shelf on the Porcupine Blight, west of Dursey Island in Co Kerry.
The marine giants - last recorded in Irish waters back in 2008 - reportedly surfaced within 500 metres of the boat.
Mission co-ordinator Patrick Lyne told The Irish Times that there may even have been three whales in the pod, as three blows of seawater were witnessed in a short space of time.
He also noted that the sighting was very significant as there are estimated to be fewer than 4,000 blue whales in the entire northern hemisphere - their numbers reduced drastically by whaling over the past hundred years.
At an average of 30 metres in lengh and an incredible 180 metric tins in weight, the blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived on earth.
The Celtic Mist was on its maiden voyage as a research vessel for the IWDG, following its gifting to the group for marine wildlife conservation work by the Haughey family last year, and subsequent major refitting works.
The vessel set sail on Monday 3 Septmeber on a marine mammal observation and passive acoustic monitoring week, carrying a towed hydrophone array for acoustic detections below the surface.
During the weeklong mission the team on board enountered 11 different cetacean species including harbour porpoises, common dolphins, minke whales and a humpback whale.
According to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), which organised the national event in conjunction with National Heritage Week to promote consevation of Ireland's marine wildlife, some 80 whale watchers and curious beginners spotted 11 bottlenose dolphins, a minke whale and a large baleen whale species - the only whales seen on the day among the 16 organised coastal watches.
Overall sightings were good, even with the unfavourable conditions experienced at half the viewing sites, and which saw the event at Baginbun Head on the Hook Peninsula in Co Wexford sadly cancelled.
In total, cetateans were seen at 10 of the 16 sites, which is up on the 54% viewing rate recorded at last year's national whale watch.
The biggest attended sites this year were Killiney Bay in Dublin, where three harbour porpoises were seen by 100 viewers; Galley Head in Cork, where six porpoises were witnessed in adverse weather that still brought out 120 eager cetation spotters.
Dolphins and porpoise together entertained the modest crowds at Howth head in north Dublin, St John's Point in Donegal and Bloody Bridge in Co Down, while the biggest count of bottlenose dolphins apart from Loop Head was the 10 recorded at Portmuck in Antrim.
Samples of skin and blubber will be tested by marine science experts at the Irish Cetacean Tissue Bank in the Natural History Museum as well as at the Marine Institute, while a student studying for a PhD on the feeding ecology of fin whales will also examine the remains.
As reported yesterday on Afloat.ie, the whale carcass has been towed out of the inner harbour as preparations are made to sink it to the seabed, where marine life such as fish and crabs will quickly strip it down to a skeleton that locals hope to put on display in the West Cork town.
A post-mortem will not be carried out by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) due to lack of funding for the specialised procedure. A previous necropsy of a fin whale stranded at Courtmacsherry was funded by the US-based magazine National Geographic.
It is being proposed that the whale's body can be wrapped in netting and sunk using old train wheels as weights.
"We're looking at putting it in the water and letting it sink to the seabed where the fish and crabs can do their work and strip the flesh from the carcass," said local diver Jerry Smith. "The end scenario would be to retrieve the skeleton from the sea bed."
It's hoped that the skeleton of the 65ft female juvenile fin whale could eventually be put on display as an educational aid and a tourist attraction for the West Cork town.
Cork County Council has taken responsibility for the disposal, as the Cork Independent reports, and the 30-tonne marine giant has already been towed to Oldcourt in the Ilen esturary.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) defended itself from criticism over the handing of the "unprecedented" incident, arguing that allowing the whale to die was the best option available under the circumstances.
The Irish Independent has more on the story HERE.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Cork News reports that a new protocol will be introduced to deal with large marine wildlife strandings following the public backlash over the handling of the injured and malnourished fin whale in Baltimore Harbour this week.
The 30-tonne whale died on Thursday morning after being trapped in the harbour on Tuesday. As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the whale was left to die as it was found to be too ill to be assisted back into deeper water and was too large to be euthanised with drugs.
Members of the public have complained about the 'do nothing' approach taken by experts. But Dr Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) defended his organisation's handling of the affair, citing the lack of protocol for such an unforseen incident.
"We are recognised as the most confident group in Ireand in dealing with dolphins and whales but as a charity, it should not be our responsibility," he said. "I don't have the authority to tell someone to shoot a whale."
Dr Berrow said he had been in talks with the Defence Forces about arranging for the distressed whale to be shot before it died, most likely from wounds sustained on sharp rocks in the harbour.
Speaking with The Irish Times, the IWDG's Padraig Whooley said: "As humans, we always think we have to intervene but wildlife rarely does better when we do. In this particular case the ‘do nothing’ approach was the only option open to us."
Whooley also criticised the "fairly shocking" level of ignorance over the incident that saw crowds continue to gather at the harbour in Baltimore even after it became clear that the whale was in significant disgress.
It's being reported that the fin whale, which was injured on sharp rocks and beached off the pier in the West Cork harbour yesterday, is being left to die as it is too ill to be helped back to deeper water and too large to be euthanised.
It had been hoped that the whale would return to the sea under its own power by high tide but that sadly did not happen.
"Nothing can be done," Dr Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) told the Independent. "It can't be refloated or drigged. All you can do is let nature take its course."
The 40-foot whale became something of an instant attraction in Baltimore as crowds gathered in the harbour, as TheJournal.ie reports.
However, marine wildlife experts believe that the young whale must have been sick or malnourished to have made it so far from the open sea into the sheltered harbour.
The IWDG's Padraig Whooley also reiterated that most whale strandings end in death, and Brendan Cottrell of the Baltimore RNLI said the best thing was to do their best not to stress the animal further.
Elsewhere, a female fin whale stranded on a beach in Cornwall has died despite efforts to save her, according to the Daily Mail.
The 65-foot whale was put down by vets from British Divers Marine Life Rescue after she was found beached at Carylon Bay on the south coast on Monday morning. The whale was was described as "incredibly undernourised".
Tomorrow 12 August will see the ketch formerly sailed by late Taoiseach Charles Haughey officially begin its new life as a research vessel for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
Apart from extensive work to the interior of the vessel to transform crew accommodation and make space for scientific instruments, the hull of the Celtic Mist has been beautifully repainted in different shades of blue, with details such as a dolphin on its bow and a fun whale along the beam contributed by Kerry artist Michael O'Leary.
Conor Haughey, whose family gifted the yacht to the IWDG for its marine wildlife conservation work, is expected to attend the relaunch ceremony at Kilrush marina at 2pm, hosted by Afloat.ie's own Tom MacSweeney with a blessing by Fr Michael Sheedy of Kilrush.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - A stranded dolphin has been successfully refloated for the first time ever in Ireland thanks to the efforts of volunteers with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
Volunteers on the scene discovered the female dolphin's skin was still moist, which indicated it had only recently stranded.
After checking for injuries, the team decided not to wait for special whale pontoons to arrive from Kilrush and instead used a local farmer's tractor and low loader to lift the dolphin out of the sand.
The dolphin was slowly moved back to the water, where she was stabilised before she regained composure and was able to swim away.
Images of the dolphin's dorsal fin were captured by the volunteers for the IWDG's records, which enabled researchers to confirm subsequent sightings among a pod of some 140 dolphins swimming in the estuary - with the latest spotting on 27 June on a dolphin-watching boat trip, where she appeared to be in good health.
In a statement, the IWDG said: "The loss of one dolphin, especially an adult female, could have a significant impact on this population, thus highlighting the importance of the prompt action on the shore at Béal."