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Dolphin Stranding Numbers Spark Renewed Supertrawler Concerns

3rd March 2016
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A stranded common dolphin caught in a fishing net A stranded common dolphin caught in a fishing net Photo: IWDG

#MarineWildlife - Strandings of common dolphins for the first two months of the year are at their second highest since records began in 2002, says the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

A total of 28 confirmed standings were recorded in the IWDG's strandings database in January and February of this year, just below 2013's worst figures so far when 31 were reported.

That compares to an average of fewer than six reports for the same period each year between 2002 and 2010.

The current decade has seen a significant jump in recorded figures, with 18 reports of dolphin standings in 2011 compared to just two in the same months in 2010.

Many of the dolphins found this year were recorded in the North West, a great number of them drowned according to post-mortem results, while others showed signs of being tangled in fishing gear, which suggests they were bycatch in the nets of supertrawlers that ply the seas off Donegal, Sligo and Mayo.

"While there is no conclusive proof of what vessels are involved, the evidence points to the presence of large (c.100m) foreign registered freezer trawlers fishing in Irish offshore waters."

That's according to the IWDG's strandings officer Mick O'Connell, who warns that "the number of bycaught dolphins that actually get washed ashore and recorded as stranded may be only a small percentage of the actual number of dead animals."

The IWDG reiterates the call for independent observers to be placed on supertrawlers in Irish waters, following controversy over the visit of one of the world's largest fishing boats last November.

In other news, Scotland's Press and Journal reports that a humpback whale was killed after getting trapped in fishing ropes in the Outer Hebrides.

The juvenile whale was found dead on the Isle of Barra this week with the "classic signs of having suffered entanglement."

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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