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Dolphin Post Mortems Raise Concern Over Trawler Bycatch

25th April 2013
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Dolphin Post Mortems Raise Concern Over Trawler Bycatch

At the end of January 2013, over a one week period, 13 common dolphins were found dead along the Mayo coast. The situation was considered sufficiently unusual to warrant further investigation. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht commissioned a specialist cetacean veterinarian team to carry out post-mortem examinations on five of the animals. This work was undertaken in Athlone at the Regional Veterinary Laboratories of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

There was evidence consistent with entanglement in fishing gear apparent in each animal and the post-mortem findings in all five animals are thought to be most consistent with accidental bycatch in trawl type fishery gear. Common dolphins are plentiful in Irish waters and the Celtic Sea, but are at risk of accidental bycatch by trawling, as they may feed on fish shoals very close to boats.

They are one of twenty four species of cetacean that occur in Ireland and are subject to strict protection under national and international legislation. Minister Deenihan said "I am concerned by any killing of these species, even where accidental. A meeting has been agreed between my officials and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to examine what further actions may be taken to minimise the risks to dolphins". Minister Coveney shared the concerns of Minister Deenihan and acknowledged "In addition to our own boats, many other European fleets operate in Irish waters, an area that is intensely fished. On the basis of these examinations, it is not possible to determine which of these fleets might have been involved in this incident. The results of these post mortems certainly remind us of the need to further our efforts to reduce incidental by-catch to the lowest possible level across all EU and third country fleets fishing in waters around Ireland".

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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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