Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Feeding Frenzy of Dolphins as Warm Water Anchovies Shoal off South Coast

4th December 2020
A feeding frenzy of dolphins off Fountainstown, Co Cork A feeding frenzy of dolphins off Fountainstown, Co Cork Credit: courtesy Derek McGreevy

Warm water anchovies and sprat are tempting pods of dolphins, fin whales and seabirds close to the south coast this week, with feeding frenzies reported in outer Cork harbour.

An estimated 50 to 60 dolphins have been sighted by several eyewitnesses off Myrtleville and Fountainstown and Roche’s Point over the past week.

The marine mammals have been joined by kayakers who have filmed the marine mammals flipping and jumping as they tuck into the “bait balls”.

“We’ve never seen dolphins in such large numbers before at this time of year,” Donal Kissane of Myrtleville said.

“They are particularly close at high tide, and it has been wonderful to watch,” Mr Kissane said.

Carrigaline resident Derek McGreevy photographed the pods from outer Cork harbour and said he estimated there were 50 to 60 common dolphins at times, with gannets competing for the fish.

The shoals of tiny fish are also drawing in fin whales off the south-east coast, with almost daily sightings of the second largest creature on the planet, according to Padraig Whooley of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The abundance of anchovies – a warm water species with higher value now, used in pizza toppings and pasta dishes – has been described as “astonishing” by Dr Kevin Flannery of Dingles’s Mara Beo aquarium.

Small numbers of anchovies have been identified in Irish waters before, with the first record being off Ventry, Co Kerry, in 1870. The fish also appeared off west Cork last January.

“We thought of them as vagrants, whereas this past week has seen astonishing numbers,” Flannery said.

The Marine Institute said that it was aware of anchovies appearing in these waters in small quantities since 2003, and has identified them up as part of its periodic groundfish surveys.

Mr Whooley said that the IWDG had received sighting reports of marine mammals this week extending from Kinsale to Roche’s Point to Myrtleville and up the river Suir estuary.

“It’s not unusual for this time of year, but it is still wonderful that people can see them so close to the coast, and from their houses in Dunmore East,” he said.

At least 1,000 tonnes of anchovies landed into Dingle last week were sent to fish meal, as there are no markets for anchovies in Ireland.

The IWDG has criticised this, stating that there is “no excuse for removing the base of our inshore food chains”, which could have long term catastrophic impacts on entire ecosystems.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue is currently appealing a recent High Court judicial review which overturned a ban on trawling by vessels over 18 metres inside the six-mile limit.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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!

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating