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Call to Extend Ireland's Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary Across Europe

8th June 2012
Call to Extend Ireland's Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary Across Europe

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has called for the extension of Ireland's pioneering whale and dolphin sanctuary throughout European coastal waters.

As the Clare Herald reports, the move comes on the 21st anniversary of the declaration of Irish waters as a sanctuary for cetaceans by then Taoiseach Charles Haughey - whose family gifted his yacht Celtic Mist to the IWDG to assist in its marine wildlife conservation work.

"The sanctuary declaration was unique in Europe and no EU member state had made such an unequivocal statement about the importance of their waters for cetaceans," said the IWDG's Brendan Price.

The sanctuary extends up to 200 nautical miles offshore, covering the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone, and in the two decades since its founding has prompted a greater awareness of and interest in the whales and dolphins that populate Ireland's waters.

The declaration "led to a clearer understanding of the responsibility Ireland had to cetaceans and their habitat including in offshore waters," added Price. "The sanctuary declaration was a precursor to action leading to protection in Irish waters and thus the IWDG considers the sanctuary declaration a success."

Price went on to outline the IWDG's vision for extending this sanctuary throughout European waters.

"There are a number of small marine protected areas in Europe for cetaceans, including harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphins, and some international sanctuaries such as the Pelagos Sanctuary in the Mediterranean.

"These areas all have important roles to play but cetaceans are mobile marine species and travel large distances. Also, to gain public support for cetacean conservation it may require a larger, more simple concept."

The group intends to promote its proposals within the continent "and encourage like-minded people and organisations to lobby their own government to make such a clear and unequivocal statement on cetacean conservation".

Published in Marine Wildlife
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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