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Displaying items by tag: IWDG

Marine wildlife miracle Spirtle appears to have taken up residence off the Kerry coast if the many sightings over recent weeks are anything to go by.

Last month the young dolphin was spotted in the area some weeks after she was seen off the East Coast, headed south from her usual haunt off the west of Scotland.

Indeed, it was there where she live stranded in 2016 and suffered severe sunburn, which left her with her distinctive markings.

Despite fears that she wouldn’t survive her ordeal, Spirtle returned to fine health and is now part of a small pod regularly feeding off Feit in Tralee Bay, and which includes a juvenile, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Researchers are now trying to establish if Spirtle became part of this group after her long travels, or whether they swam with her from Scotland.

Initial evidence suggests at least two of her pod are Scottish regulars, including Spirtle’s own mother Porridge.

“We have documented movements of individual bottlenose dolphins between Ireland and Scotland before, but we do not know how often this occurs or whether it is typical behaviour,” the IWDG said.

“We hope to continue to monitor the presence of this famous ‘Scottish’ dolphin and see if she stays or travels further,” the group added.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Minke and humpback whales arriving and other species of whales and dolphins along the Irish coast is a good omen for this years All Island Whale Watch day.

Organiser of the event, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) invite you to join them for a land-based whale watch at a local headland between 2:00-5:00 pm on next Saturday, 24th August.

The purpose of whale watch day is to raise awareness of the 25 species of cetaceans (porpoises, dolphins and whales) recorded to date in all Irish waters, by giving the public an opportunity to look for and observe some of these wonderful marine mammals in their natural environment. This event also provides IWDG researchers with a unique snapshot of whale and dolphin activity around the Irish coast.

This annual, all-island event, organized by the IWDG and sponsored by Inis the Energy of the Sea www.seathebeauty.net is free and open to all.

All watches are land-based and will be led by experienced IWDG researchers, enthusiasts and whale watchers, who will show you how to observe and identify some of the more commonly recorded cetacean species in Irish waters.

You should bring binoculars or a spotting scope and dress appropriately and dress appropriately for outdoor weather conditions. There are no boat trips involved, and there is of course no guarantee that you will see whales or dolphins at your chosen site; but at last year’s event whales or dolphins were recorded at 14 of 19 sites (73.6%). So if the weather issuitable on the day, you’ve quite a good chance of seeing some really interesting marine wildlife, and in the process you’ll be supporting whale and dolphin conservation in Ireland by becoming actively involved in Citizen Science.

Please click and scroll down page to contact your local organizer for further details as listed from the IWDG website www.iwdg.ie and for the latest information on whale and dolphin sightings and strandings in Irish waters.

Whale Watch Ireland, will once again be part of Heritage Week, co-ordinated by the Heritage Council www.heritagecouncil.ie

Published in Marine Wildlife

The RV Celtic Voyager departed early this morning (Thursday 1 August) from the Port of Cork on a multidisciplinary marine wildlife survey investigating the biological and oceanographic features of the 100m contour line between Cork to Galway.

The survey team comprises scientists and students from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology’s Marine and Freshwater Research Centre and NUI Galway’s Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

And they are hoping to learn more about what’s an apparent biodiversity hotspot, attracting the top marine predators in Irish waters from large predatory fish to seabirds and cetaceans.

Inspiration for the survey came from the regular occurrence of humpback whales observed near the 100m depth contour line, especially off West Kerry, and the team hopes to learn if this is consistent along the whole contour.

During the survey, which can be followed at the [email protected] blog, visual survey teams will record marine mammals and seabirds from the deck, and a hydrophone will be towed to record any vocalising whales and dolphins.

Physical oceanography will be recorded through CTD casts along six east-west transects during the night. If fish marks coincide with concentrations of marine predators, it’s hoped they will reveal what species are feeding and what they’re feeding on.

This survey also contributes to the IWDG’s WhaleTrack Ireland project, funded by Ryanair through its Carbon Carbon Offset Programme.

Published in Marine Wildlife

O’Sullivan’s Marine have shared with us a photo of the surprise moment when a dolphin landed on the bow of one of their boats.

The sudden encounter was all the more startling as the marine mammal almost knocked a child out of the boat — but the youngster still managed to capture the cetacean on camera.

Elsewhere, BreakingNews.ie reports that a striped dolphin was found dead in a river near Lahinch despite the best efforts of local surfers after the animal live-stranded on the popular North Clare beach.

Dr Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, who also joined the rescue effort, said: “We found a striped dolphin, quite a large animal, obviously in distress. We tried to push it out again [to sea] but it was very weak.”

The IWDG chief added: “The surfers did their best and we thank them for trying but sometimes a dolphin will live strand themselves … there’s very little you can do.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

Sixteen years after the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s (IWDG) first attempt to find the origins of Ireland’s humpback whales, a chance excursion on the latest expedition to Cape Verde has finally revealed the breeding grounds for these threatened marine wildlife visitors.

It was long suspected that the waters around the island chain off West Africa were the most likely breeding area for humpbacks that have been sighted nearly 1,000 times and photographed ever 100 times in Irish waters over the last two decades.

But that wasn’t confirmed until this April during a two-week expedition, when on a trip to a known breeding spot in Santa Monica off Boavista, IWDG chief Simon Berrow photographed two humpbacks that surfaced near his boat.

One of these whales was identified by the group’s international network of experts as an individual sighted by Nick Massett off Kerry four years ago. It was just the match they’d been searching for.

“What a fantastic outcome for the IWDG,” said Massett at the news. “It was born out of the belief that the Cape Verde islands was the breeding ground for the humpbacks we have documented here off Ireland. But it is down to the dogged persistence of the expedition teams that have returned there over the years to prove the theory.

“I am delighted for Simon Berrow that he finally got the definitive proof of this connection, and pleased to have played my part in documenting the animal here off Co Kerry.”

Also celebrating the achievement was IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley, who had been beginning to doubt whether they had been looking in the right place all these years.

“We’ve finally found a really important missing piece of the jigsaw,” said Whooley, “but it’s a very large puzzle, which still has lots of missing pieces.”

The next steps for the IWDG are to determine how to use this information to enhance conservation for the endangered species, perhaps involving a greater level of co-operation between the Irish and Cape Verdean governments.

Meanwhile, the group will follow-up this find with another expedition to Cape Verde this coming September.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Sightings of an unusual looking bottlenose dolphin off the East Coast in recent weeks have turned out to be a Scottish scrapper named Spirtle.

Images of the dolphin seen off South Dublin and North Wicklow earlier this month showed what appeared to be heavy scarring and discolouration on its right flank.

That was enough for Dr Joanne O’Brien of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) to identify the animal as the daughter of a dolphin well known in the Moray Firth.

Spirtle’s story is one of survival as almost three years ago to this day, she was found live stranded with significant injuries and suffering severe dehydration.

Since then she’s bounced right back from the brink of death, and it appears she’s now even at the lead of a group of bottlenose dolphins that’s made its way south along the Irish Sea beyond Dublin Bay.

A rare sighting of a different kind was made in West Cork this past week, where a charter boat operator witnessed what he believed was an attack on a pod of common dolphins by a killer whale.

David Edwards was 15 miles south of Galley Head last Tuesday (21 May) when he saw the orca chase after its fellow cetaceans for its lunch — and his images of the event have been confirmed by IWDG sightings officer Padraig Whooley.

Echo Live has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

A group of Ireland’s environmental NGOs are teaming up this spring for a rather unique education project lead by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. The exciting Floating Classroom initiative is combining ocean exploration with an educational schools programme which aims to raise awareness of Ireland’s marine biodiversity. Taking to the seas in the IWDG’s research vessel Celtic Mist, the team of marine biologists and ocean literacy experts will be making their way down Ireland’s south-east coast from Arklow to Cork, calling into coastal communities providing engaging workshops to schools along the way.

After an extensive refit during the winter in Grand Canal Docks, Dublin, the 56-foot ketch yacht will also be open to the public when docked at local marinas and harbours, giving the public an opportunity to see the workings of a dedicated whale and dolphin research vessel and how researchers live and work at sea.

Apart from raising awareness for Ireland’s rich marine wildlife, the team will be emphasising the importance of taking care of our seas and oceans. With challenges such as plastics pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss now frequently in the news, there is a pressing need for communities to work together to tackle environmental issues.

While pupils will be introduced to the wealth of marine and coastal wildlife on their doorstep, each school will be asked to come up with three ways in which they feel they can make a difference for their local blue environment.

The team of biologists will also be proposing ways in which the public can get involved, including citizen science projects that encourage people to report their sightings of whales, dolphins, seabirds and even shark eggs! Schools will be encouraged to get involved in other community-based initiatives too, such as beach cleans being run by organisations in their area.

Environmental NGOs involved in the Floating Classroom include the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Marine Dimensions, the Irish Wildlife Trust and the Irish Ocean Literacy Network. Funding for the Floating Classroom has been kindly received by the Irish Environmental Network through their Capacity Building Grant.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Whale watchers have captured spectacular aerial video of a group of humpback whales spotted “socialising” off West Cork.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s science officer Seán O’Callaghan filmed the remarkable scene last month just days after the first humpback whale sighing of the year was made in the same region, sailing out of Reen Pier.

“We had perfect sea conditions to search for cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) but our efforts to spot distant large whale blows were hampered by Saharan sand that caused a thick haze at sea,” the IWDG said.

“However, we did connect with up to six humpback whales feeding and socialising in offshore waters which allowed us to collect the first set of aerial images and video that will be used to estimate the length and body condition of these iconic giants.”

The video shows four of the humpback whales interacting with each other while common dolphins swim just ahead and among them.

And it marks the first significant contribution to WhaleTrack Ireland — the IWDG’s new drone-based citizen science project, supported by Ryanair, which aims to find out what these and other marine wildlife giants are doing within and beyond Irish waters.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A team from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) was on site at Streedagh Strand in Sligo yesterday (Thursday 4 April) to investigate the third sperm whale stranding in a matter of days along Ireland’s West Coast.

As reported yesterday on Afloat.ie, the discovery of a third such whale carcass made for an “increasingly unusual stranding pattern”.

While sperm whales are relatively abundant in Ireland’s deep ocean waters, they are rarely found above 300 metres — and male specimens are far more common than the female whale found in Sligo.

The IWDG confirmed that samples were taken from the 10.4m carcass, which showed “no obvious signs of ship collision [or] entanglement, nor was the whale emaciated”.

Examination of stomach contents found no plastic debris and few food remains.

“So as is so often the case with strandings, we know more about what didn’t kill the whale than what did kill it,” the IWDG stated — adding that it is liaising with Scottish colleges after a decomposed sperm whale was found on Uist in the Outer Hebrides, due north of Ireland, in recent days.

The group also notes that multiple warships and submarines are involved in Nato’s annual Joint Warrior exercise ongoing west of the Hebrides.

Sonar activity from military vessels has been suggested as a cause of whale strandings throughout Europe in recent years, including a major event across Scottish and Irish waters last year.

“However, these whales have been dead for one to two weeks so this can’t explain these strandings, unless some active equipment was tested offshore prior to the start of this exercise,” the IWDG says.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

#MarineWildlife - A third sperm whale stranding on Ireland’s west coast within just a few days is now a cause for concern, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says.

Following the discovery of two sperm whale carcasses on the same day last week — in Donegal and west of the Aran Islands, the latter believed to have beached in Connemara — a third was found washed up on Streedagh beach in Sligo at the weekend.

Images of the latest stranding suggest it is an adult female, which the IWDG describes as “a little unusual” as “generally we get adult male sperm whales off the Irish coast”.

The close proximity of the strandings is also “now a concern”, though no cause of death has yet been determined, and plastic pollution is unlikely to be the culprit.

The IWDG added it “will explore some potential options regarding this increasingly unusual stranding pattern”.

Meanwhile, RTÉ News reports that the Galway council officials hope the sperm whale carcass washed ashore in Connemara will be taken out by high tides in the coming days.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under
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Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's 4th Blue Light service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

Introduction

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions around 2000 times (40 times to assist mountain rescues and 200 times to carry out aeromedical HEMS missions on behalf of the HSE), Coast Guard volunteer units will respond 1000 times and RNLI and community lifeboats will be tasked by our Coordination Centres about 950 times
  • evacuate medical patients off our Islands to hospital on 100 occasions
  • assist other nations' Coast Guards about 200 times
  • make around 6,000 maritime safety broadcasts to shipping, fishing and leisure craft users
  • carry out a safety on the water campaign that targets primary schools and leisure craft users, including at sea and beach patrols
  • investigate approximately 50 maritime pollution reports

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

List of Coast Guard Units in Ireland

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin
  • Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

The roles of the Irish Coast Guard

The main roles of the Irish Coast Guard are to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction.

Each year the Irish Coast Guard co-ordinates the response to thousands of incidents at sea and on the cliffs and beaches of Ireland. It does this through its Marine Rescue Centres which are currently based in:

  • Dublin
  • Malin Head (Co Donegal)
  • Valentia Island (Co Kerry).

Each centre is responsible for search and rescue operations.

The Dublin National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC) provides marine search and rescue response services and co-ordinates the response to marine casualty incidents within the Irish Pollution Responsibility Zone/EEZ.

The Marine Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC) Valentia and MRSC Malin Head are 24/7 centres co-ordinating search and rescue response in their areas of responsibility.

The Marine Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for routine operational matters in the area between Ballycotton and Clifden.

MRSC Malin Head is the contact point for routine operational matters in the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle.

MRCC Dublin is the contact point for routine operational matters in the area between Carlingford Lough and Ballycotton.

Each MRCC/MRSC broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and, in some cases, MF radio in accordance with published schedules.

Maritime safety information that is broadcast by the three Marine Rescue Sub-centres includes:

  • navigational warnings as issued by the UK Hydrographic Office
  • gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings as issued by the Irish Meteorological Office.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

The Coast Guard can contract specialised aerial surveillance or dispersant spraying aircraft at short notice internationally.

Helicopter tasks include:

  • the location of marine and aviation incident survivors by homing onto aviation and marine radio distress transmissions, by guidance from other agencies, and by visual, electronic and electro-optical search
  • the evacuation of survivors from the sea, and medical evacuees from all manner of vessels including high-sided passenger and cargo vessels and from the islands
  • the evacuation of personnel from ships facing potential disaster
  • search and or rescue in mountainous areas, caves, rivers, lakes and waterways
  • the transport of offshore fire-fighters (MFRTs) or ambulance teams (MARTs) and their equipment following a request for assistance
  • the provision of safety cover for other search and rescue units including other Marine Emergency Service helicopters
  • pollution, casualty and salvage inspections and surveillance and the transport of associated personnel and equipment
  • inter-agency training in all relevant aspects of the primary role
  • onshore emergency medical service, including evacuation and air ambulance tasks
  • relief of the islands and of areas suffering from flooding or deep snow

The secondary roles of the helicopter are:

  • the exercise of the primary search, rescue and evacuation roles in adjacent search and rescue regions
  • assistance to onshore emergency services, such as in the evacuation of high-rise buildings
  • public safety awareness displays and demonstrations
  • providing helicopter expertise for seminars and training courses

The Irish Coast Guard provides aeronautical assets for search and rescue in the mountains of Ireland. Requests for Irish Coast Guard assets are made to the Marine Rescue Centres.

Requests are accepted from An Garda Síochána and nominated persons in Mountain Rescue Teams.

Information courtesy of Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (July 2019)

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