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Record Numbers Of Beaked Whale Deaths Cause Alarm

28th August 2018
Photos of some of the 16 strandings sent to the IWDG by members of the public Photos of some of the 16 strandings sent to the IWDG by members of the public

#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has expressed concern in the wake of at least 16 Cuvier’s beaked whales washing up on the Irish coast this month.

Following the discovery of five beaked whales in a single day at the start of August, the IWDG says a minimum of 16 — a new Irish record — were recorded along the North West coast from Galway to Donegal between 3 and 22 August.

“During the same period, at least 13 were found in Scotland and two in Iceland,” said IWDG strandings officer Mick O’Connell.

“Previous studies have suggested that only a small number of dead animals actually get washed ashore and recorded, so the number of dead animals may be significantly higher.”

While no cause of death has been established, due to the poor condition of the carcasses, it appears that the animals all died around the same time, which “makes causes such as disease, plastic ingestion etc seem unlikely as these would tend to be spread out over a longer time period and perhaps geographical range,” O’Connell said.

“The behaviour and distribution of this species makes large-scale fisheries interaction also seem unlikely.”

Sonar use has been suspected as a cause in previous similar strandings. “Mass strandings of beaked whales coincidental with naval exercises have been recorded in Greece, the Canaries and the Bahamas,” O’Connell said.

According to TheJournal.ie, the Royal Navy denies its use of sonar in training exercises causes any harm to marine wildlife.

The Naval Service in Ireland does not use sonar on its vessels.

In more positive marine mammal news, Nuala Moore writes for Independent.ie about her experiences swimming in Dingle harbour with its longtime resident dolphin Fungie.

The open sea swimming enthusiast made headlines earlier this year for becoming the first Irish woman to swim off Cape Horn.

But in Dingle, she’s just another acquaintance for Fungie in his daily adventures.

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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