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Whale & Dolphin Strandings Reach New Peak With 93 Recorded in First Two Months of 2021

8th March 2021
A common dolphin carcass classed as ‘very fresh’ recorded at Castlegregory, Co Kerry on 6 February A common dolphin carcass classed as ‘very fresh’ recorded at Castlegregory, Co Kerry on 6 February Credit: Liz Fitzgerald/IWDG

Whale and dolphin strandings in Ireland for the first two months of 2021 have reached their highest peak yet with 93 records, as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports.

The bulk of these marine wildlife findings were common dolphins, with 64 in total discovered around the Irish coast since the beginning of the year.

“Although historically the IWDG have identified January to March as a peak stranding period for common dolphins, 2021 figures are already proving to be quite high compared to the same period in previous years,” says IWDG sightings officer Stephanie Levesque.

“This time last year, IWDG had received 70 records in total, of which 40 were common dolphins.”

The total figure comprises eight species: common, bottlenose, striped and Risso’s dolphins, harbour porpoise, long-finned pilot whale, minke whale and one rare record of a humpback whale, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Levesque adds: “There are most likely several factors affecting this increase in reported strandings, and although we are not sure exactly what is causing it, a number of factors must be taken into account.

“As the entire country found itself in lockdown, and was spending significantly more time walking the local shores during the peak stranding period, there was bound to be more reporting taking place.”

In addition, Levesque reports that the IWDG has had a high social media reach in recent months “and perhaps more people are inclined to report these strandings”.

There is also “increasing evidence of a broad-scale movement of common dolphins from deep offshore waters into shelf edge waters” within the North-East Atlantic.

“IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley has noted more common dolphin sightings reported off the coast of Ireland this winter, and where you have more dolphins, it likely leads to more strandings,” Levesque adds.

Nearly one in 10 (9%) of recorded strandings between 1 January and 28 February have “gross signs of bycatch in rising gear” such as broken jaws, cut-off tails and dorsal fin tips, and being entangled in fishing gear.

“This is likely to be a minimum as diagnosing bycatch can be quite difficult if the lesions are more subtle, or drowning has taken place with no external lesions,” Levesque says.

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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