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Dublin Bay Boating News and Information

Displaying items by tag: Cuvier's Beaked Whales

Visitors to a beach recently named among the 10 best in Ireland were shocked to discover the remains of three whales washed up on the strand, as the Irish Examiner reports.

The three carcasses found on Trá Mór in Donegal at the weekend are understood to be Cuvier’s beaked whales, a deep-ocean marine wildlife species that is rarely spotted in the wild and which was at the centre of a concerning mass stranding event two-and-a-half years ago.

Trá Mór is included, along with Ballymastocker Bay on the nearby Fanad Peninsula, in Lonely Planet’s list of the 10 best beaches in Ireland, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Marine Wildlife

A seal rarely sighted in Irish waters was among the first sightings of the New Year by eagle-eyed supporters of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The hooded seal was spotted by Helen Tilson of Schull Sea Safari on the mudflats at Toormore Bay in West Cork on New Year’s Day, and represents only the fourth or fifth Irish record for the Arctic marine wildlife species.

Video recorded by Tilson of the animal “removed any doubt” it was a a hooded seal “as it shows the nasal sac starting to balloon as she approached it, and it made a growling roar, the likes of which I’ve never heard from one of our grey seal bulls”, according to IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley.

It’s believed this particular seal is a sub-adult male “in rather thin condition”, which is to be expected as it is so far south of its usual range.

Cuvier’s beaked whale carcass in Clonakilty Bay on 21 December (Photo: Grace Keane O’Connor)Cuvier’s beaked whale carcass in Clonakilty Bay on 21 December | Photo: Grace Keane O’Connor

Meanwhile, reports of four stranded Cuvier’s beaked whale carcasses within 12 days and 70km of each other in December have prompted fears of a new mass stranding event for the deep water species.

The IWDG’s Mick O’Connell said all four were recorded along the Cork coast, beginning in Tragumna (16 December) and followed by Castlepoint in Roaringwater Bay (17 Dec), Lislevane in Clonakilty (21 Dec) and offshore at Galley Head (27 Dec).

“For the third time in five years we are looking at an unusual mass stranding of Cuvier’s beaked whales on the Irish coast, likely caused by a single event at sea,” he said.

But the situation as yet defies explanation. “Without specialised post-mortem of very freshly dead animals … we can’t even establish cause of death,” O’Donnell added.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The Department of Foreign Affairs will assist with an investigation into the extraordinary numbers of Cuvier’s beaked whale deaths in Irish waters over recent weeks.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has “instructed his department, in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to initiate discussions regarding these about large number of stranded Cuvier's beaked whales with the UK authorities,” according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the IWDG had expressed concern over the large numbers of dead beaked whales washed up on Ireland’s North West coast last month.

The total of whale strandings since the beginning of August has now risen to 58 across Ireland and Scotland, many of them Cuvier’s or True’s beaked whales, as BBC News reports.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#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

#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has issued a joint statement with fellow marine wildlife conservation groups on what's been labelled as "an unusual mortality event" involving Cuvier's beaked whales in Scotland and Ireland.

Last month, scientists in Scotland said they were baffled by the "unusually large number" of strandings of the deep-water whale species, rarely seen because they feed so far below the surface.

More recently, the Sunday World reported on further strandings on beaches around Ireland – leading some experts to point the finger at the suspected use of sonar in the British navy's alleged search for a rogue Russian submarine at the end of last year.

The joint statement says there are "many case studies from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and Mediterranean Sea where mass strandings of this species were linked to exercised using military sonar.

"Furthermore, a controlled exposure experiment has demonstrated prolonged reactions by some beaked whale species to navy sonar."

However, only anecdotal evidence of any naval sonar activity in the affected areas exists, and the Naval Service has told The Irish Times that it had no knowledge of any such activity over that period.

Similarly, the Department of Energy said no seismic surveys had been conducted offshore since October, and that any such surveys – a significant source of underwater noise that can be harmful to cetaceans – must comply with National Parks and Wildlife Service Guidelines.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Could the recent mass strandings of Cuvier's beaked whales in British and Irish waters be connected with the recent real-life 'Hunt for Red October'?

Last month scientists in Scotland were baffled by an "unusually large number" of strandings of the deep-water whale species, rarely seen because they feed so far below the surface.

And as the Sunday World reports, even more have been found washed up on beaches around Ireland since then, amid an alarmingly high rate of cetacean strandings for the start of this year that includes the killer whale beached in Waterford last week.

While the recent severe weather systems from the Atlantic have been suggested as a possible cause, another culprit might be the British navy's search for a rogue Russian submarine at the end of last year.

Mick O’Connell of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says that loud sonar such as that used to detect submarines can distress deep-diving whales into surfacing too fast and getting 'the bends'.

It's believed that all eight of the beaked whales washed up in Ireland died in the same incident.

Though their actual cause of death cannot be determined, decompression sickness has been suggested as reason for the earlier Scottish whale deaths.

The Sunday World has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - An "unusually large number" of Cuvier’s beaked whale strandings in western Scotland in recent weeks has baffled marine scientists, as The Scotsman reports.

Five of the rarely seen species were found washed up on Scotland's west coast in late December, a five-fold rise on the annual average.

And as Dr Conor Ryan of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust states, there are "no obvious clues as to what is causing such an obvious increase in strandings."

Recent stormy conditions may be a factor, he said, but alone they don't explain "why we are finding just one deep-diving species in such high numbers."

According to BBC Earth, Cuvier's beaked whales are the deepest diving of any large marine wildlife, plunging almost 3km into the depths in search of food, thanks to a unique physiology that allows them to withstand the crushing pressures and lack of oxygen.

It's possible that the whales may have succumbed to 'the bends' – which killed 14 beaked whales that washed up in the Canaries in 2002 – but the poor condition of the carcasses has ruled out any clues that a postmortem might provide.

The Scotsman has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore.

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

Dublin Bay FAQs

There are approximately ten beaches and bathing spots around Dublin Bay: Dollymount Strand; Forty Foot Bathing Place; Half Moon bathing spot; Merrion Strand; Bull Wall; Sandycove Beach; Sandymount Strand; Seapoint; Shelley Banks; Sutton, Burrow Beach

There are slipways on the north side of Dublin Bay at Clontarf, Sutton and on the southside at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and in Dalkey at Coliemore and Bulloch Harbours.

Dublin Bay is administered by a number of Government Departments, three local authorities and several statutory agencies. Dublin Port Company is in charge of navigation on the Bay.

Dublin Bay is approximately 70 sq kilometres or 7,000 hectares. The Bay is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and seven km in length east-west to its peak at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the southside of the Bay has an East and West Pier, each one kilometre long; this is one of the largest human-made harbours in the world. There also piers or walls at the entrance to the River Liffey at Dublin city known as the Great North and South Walls. Other harbours on the Bay include Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbours both at Dalkey.

There are two marinas on Dublin Bay. Ireland's largest marina with over 800 berths is on the southern shore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The other is at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club on the River Liffey close to Dublin City.

Car and passenger Ferries operate from Dublin Port to the UK, Isle of Man and France. A passenger ferry operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth as well as providing tourist voyages around the bay.

Dublin Bay has two Islands. Bull Island at Clontarf and Dalkey Island on the southern shore of the Bay.

The River Liffey flows through Dublin city and into the Bay. Its tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.

Dollymount, Burrow and Seapoint beaches

Approximately 1,500 boats from small dinghies to motorboats to ocean-going yachts. The vast majority, over 1,000, are moored at Dun Laoghaire Harbour which is Ireland's boating capital.

In 1981, UNESCO recognised the importance of Dublin Bay by designating North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. There have since been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300km² to include the bay, the shore and nearby residential areas.

On the Southside at Dun Laoghaire, there is the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club as well as Dublin Bay Sailing Club. In the city centre, there is Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. On the Northside of Dublin, there is Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club and Sutton Dinghy Club. While not on Dublin Bay, Howth Yacht Club is the major north Dublin Sailing centre.

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