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Despite desktop research replacing field work during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group recently made a breakthrough in confirming a second Irish humpback whale at breeding grounds off Cape Verde — following last year’s confirmation of what was long suspected by researchers.

The match with HBIRL78 — first sighted off Hook Head in January 2017 — was made in collaboration with Lindsey Jones of the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue and “suggests we were right to invest our time and energy into this archipelago”, writes IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley.

Although there is little chance of any further trips this breeding season, with Cape Verde having shut down like much of the world to control the spread of the virus, the latest find will be encouraging when field work can resume in 2021.

“HBIRL78 may still be in the waters of Sal Rei Bay, Boa Vista, looking to mate or give birth, and if this is the case, it still has a long 4,250 km northbound journey ahead of it,” says Whooley. “It could of course have completed it’s reproductive mission, in which case it may be little more than a few weeks away from finding itself within scoping range of our southwest headlands.

“Whether of course we’ll be able to get out on boats to photograph it when it does return will be down to a much smaller and far less welcome organism. But given the current Covid-19 environment, I can think of nothing better for body, soul or mind, than to sit on a headland for a few hours and try to spot our returning humpbacks.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) is seeking a new sponsor for its “pioneering” WhaleTrack Ireland project.

Previously backed by Ryanair, WhaleTrack Ireland seeks to understand how the large marine wildlife — especially humpback whales — are using Irish waters, largely through citizen science.

During the last 12 months, the IWDG says it has increased its work raising awareness of humpback whales “to unprecedented levels in Ireland”.

This includes the first ever confirmation of breeding grounds in Cape Verde for whales that frequent Irish shores.

“In order to continue this important work the IWDG need a new sponsor,” the group says.

“We have significant capital equipment purchased under the Ryanair sponsorship but require funds to support fieldwork and maintain our photo ID catalogues and provide support to our citizen scientists.

“This work supports the development of marine tourism in Ireland and greatly enhances the opportunities to go and see these magnificent creatures as well as ensuring their long-term conservation.

“The IWDG estimates that this costs around €40,000 per annum to maintain our current level of activity.”

Prospective sponsors, or those who could connect the group with same, are encouraged to get in touch with the IWDG at [email protected].

Published in Marine Wildlife

The skeleton of a Wexford blue whale (82ft long) named Hope has supplanted ‘Dippy’, the much loved Diplodocus, as the main attraction at Hintz Hall in the National History Museum in London, reports The Green News.ie

“Look at the whale!” exclaim the children pointing upward, their small bodies further miniaturised as they pass beneath Hope’s colossal ribcage, comprised of 32 ribs and once housing a 500-pound beating heart.

One gets the impression their wonder and excitement is well matched by the sheer scale of Hope herself, her majesty, as well as the efforts taken by the museum staff to put her together – installing the largest living creature on Earth, bone by bone, in an act as deliberate as it was precise.

By replacing Dippy, a replica dinosaur, for something real, Hope’s keepers have inspired wonder for all wild creatures that exist today in an increasingly hostile world, with our whales all too often caught in the crosshairs.

Everything is changing

At the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s annual meeting held in Dublin last December, the phrase “everything is changing” summed up Ireland’s whale activity. While Sightings Officer Pádraig Whooley reported the huge potential for whale science in Ireland, the “flurry of sightings” in 2019 gives cause for concern. Times are changing, he said.

For much more click this link.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The traditional first day of spring in Ireland also saw the return of Nimmo, a bottlenose dolphin who’s become a regular visitor to Galway city.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says this is the sixth consecutive year for this particular dolphin, who has stayed for anywhere between four and eight months since 2016.

As reported this time last year on Afloat.ie, Nimmo’s predilection for Galway Harbour is a sign that the area has become an important feeding habitat.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for people in Galway to observe a wild dolphin close to a city centre and often within clear view of the shoreline,” says IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley.

He also calls on local citizen scientists and marine wildlife watchers to submit their own sightings over the coming months.

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 West Cork

A bottlenose dolphin was recently rescued by quick-thinking locals after live stranding on Mutton Island near Galway city.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports the story related to it by friend of the group Jason, who was alerted to the marine mammal in the shallow water near the Galway Bay lighthouse by an Australian couple with whom he had previously been discussing the area’s resident bottlenose Nimmo.

“I just knew it was in trouble so I ran down and the dolphin was out of the water alive,” he said.

With the tide going out, time was of the essence as Jason was joined by three others who offered their scarves to form a brace to lift the dolphin into deeper water.

“I just went the rest of the way as it was getting dark at that point. With one final push it just started to swim away.

“I can’t explain how I felt and we did it as a team. An incredible thank you so so much to those who helped,” he added.

The incident came just days after the IWDG called on the Government to join forces with NGOs like itself to develop a stranding response protocol, especially for large whales.

The IWDG said “fresh attention” has been drawn to the issue following the death of a fin whale seen swimming in Dublin Port earlier this month.

More recently, an endangered sei whale was found floating in the River Thames at Gravesend in the UK last Friday (18 October), nearly two weeks after a humpback whale died in the same stretch of water.

IWDG chief executive Dr Simon Berrow said: “Strandings, both live and dead, of large whales are not common in Ireland but do occur and we need a protocol, signed off by relevant partners, including Government agencies, so we can respond quickly and efficiently in such cases without having to phone around looking for resources and support.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

Concerns remain for the health of a rare beaked whale refloated from a Co Waterford beach at the weekend, as The Irish Times reports.

The Sowerby’s beaked whale stranded near Helvick Head on Friday (30 August) and was twice returned to the open sea by the local RNLI lifeboat crew.

The incident marks the fourth stranding this year around the coast — and the only live stranding — of a deep water marine wildlife species that’s historically been rare in Irish inshore waters, with only 25 confirmed since records began.

Its fate is currently unknown, but Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) strandings officer Mick O’Connell suggests the situation doesn’t look good.

“Sowerbys usually live in much deeper water 300kms off the west coast — that makes me think it’s unlikely it will survive — it may be sick, but it’s got as good a chance to survive as it could because everything was done locally to get it back out to sea,” he said.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) sets sail this weekend for Cape Verde next month on its eighth humpback whale expedition.

Funded by the Island Foundation, this two-week mission comes just months after the IWDG finally confirmed the breeding grounds for Ireland’s regular humpback whale visitors near the west African island chain.

Cape Verde also appears to be a chosen spot for these marine wildlife giants from both ends of the earth, as a previous mission in September 2014 recorded humpbacks that usually feed in the southern hemisphere.

Next month’s mission, while building on this research, will also involve training local marine biologists in cetacean survey and research techniques “to empower them to take ownership of whale and dolphin conservation”.

Spanish research group Edmaktub will be providing its 47ft Lipari catamaran as a research platform for their work, updates from which will be posted to a dedicated Facebook page.

Published in Marine Wildlife

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
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Every Year Ireland's Search & Rescue Services deliver emergency life saving work on our seas, lakes and rivers.

Ireland's Water Safety Agencies work hard to provide us with the information we need to keep safe, while enjoying all manner of water based activities.

There's no better fun than getting out on the water but being afloat is a responsibility we all need to take seriously.

These pages detail the work of the rescue agencies. We also aim to promote safety standards among pleasure boaters, and by doing so, prevent, as far as possible, the loss of life at sea and on inland waters. If you have ideas for our pages we'd love to hear from you. Please email us at [email protected]

Think Before You Sink - Wear a Lifejacket

Accidents can happen fast on water and there may not be time to reach for a lifejacket in an emergency therefore don't just carry a lifejacket - wear it; if it's not on you, it can't save your life.

Irish Water Safety's Safe Boating Alert:

Check condition of boat and equipment, hull, engine, fuel, tools, torch.

Check the weather forecast for the area.

Check locally concerning dangerous currents and strong tides.

Do not drink alcohol while setting out or during your trip.

Carry an alternative means of propulsion e.g. sails and oars or motor and oars.

Carry a first aid kit on board and distress signals (at least two parachute distress rockets, two red hand flares).

Carry a fire extinguisher, a hand bailer or bucket with lanyard and an anchor with rope attached.

Carry marine radio or some means of communication with shore.

Do not overload the boat - this will make it unstable.

Do not set out unless accompanied by an experienced person.

Leave details of your planned trip with someone ashore - including departure and arrival times, description of boat, names of persons on board, etc.

Wear a Lifejacket at all times.

Keep an eye on the weather - seek shelter in good time.

In Marine Emergencies, call 999 or 112 and ask for Marine Rescue.

Lifejackets Checklist

Ensure Cartridges have not been punctured and are secured firmly.

Ensure all zips, buckles, fasteners and webbing straps are functioning correctly and adjusted to fit the user.

Check that fitted lights are operating correctly.

Ensure that Automatic Inflation devices are fully serviced and in date.

Check that the valve or lifejacket is not leaking.