It’s the Year of the Shark at Ireland’s Sea Life Centre where two Short Tail Nurse Sharks have bred for the first time. The eggs from the rare sharks, now facing a dramatic decline in the wild, can now be seen growing in their tank and the pups are expected to hatch towards the end of the year.
The female shark was born in Sea Life in 2006 from a wild caught egg and is one of the first of the species to breed in captivity. The male shark was also born in 2006, in Artis Zoo in Amsterdam and came to Sea Life on loan in 2013 as part of a European breeding programme. But they didn’t breed immediately, it took them four years to get together! This shark is only found in three locations in the wild, off the coasts of Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa and in the waters surrounding Madagascar.
The Short Tail Nurse Shark has been placed on the ‘vulnerable’ list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Its decline has resulted from commercial overfishing for food and particularly for its fins, which are regarded as a delicacy in Asia and which sell for around £140 a kilo. The fish is also caught as a bycatch in the heavily fished inshore waters of East Africa. It also suffers from the destruction of its natural habitat, the coral reefs.
It is a fascinating animal to watch. An inshore bottom dwelling species, it has a unique feeding apparatus with a small mouth but an enlarged pharynx that allows it to create a vacuum and suck up its prey. It is a nocturnal feeder, preying on sea urchins, squid and octopus. It has a habit of regularly floating upside down and can live for up to 33 years in captivity, becoming mature when it is 56 cm long.
Pat O’Suilleabhain, Director of Sea Life Bray, says it is a great achievement to have these rare sharks breed successfully in Ireland and that Bray can be proud to be part of a European wide breeding programme. ‘We became a part of this very interesting programme when Artis Zoo in the Netherlands agreed to loan us the male shark. There is little known about their breeding habits so there is great excitement throughout Europe as we wait for the pups to hatch.’
The eggs and the parents are currently on display at Sea Life in Bray.
The junior Atlantic cownose ray was born a month ago but staff at the North Co Wicklow marine wildlife centre wanted to ensure it was healthy before making the announcement.
About 30cm long, the ray is one of a ‘near threatened’ species that only reproduces once a year. It has also yet to be named, as its sex won’t be determined for a while yet, but is presumed to be female.
And she’s already making friends with the aquarium’s visitors, with National Sea Life managing director Pat Ó Súilleabháin saying: “She comes right up to the edge of the tank to say hello.”
In other marine wildlife news, the carcass of a porpoise was found on a river bank in Newry last weekend, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
Animal rescuers responding to public concerns said the harbour porpoise had likely been dead for some time but was no cause for alarm for the health of a known group of porpoise in nearby Carlingford Lough.
Harbour porpoise, like their dolphin cousins, are sometimes found swimming upriver in estuaries or coastal areas – and it’s not unheard of to see them hundreds of miles inland from the sea.
#MarineWildlife - The first humpback whale sighting for the new season in Irish waters was made last week off the Beara Peninsula.
While not the first humpback sighted this calendar year — that honour goes to a giant spotted off Wexford in early January — it’s still considered the first of the 2017/18 ‘large whale season’.
The sighting also continues a trend of earlier arrivals for Ireland’s regular humpback visitors over recent years, with 2016’s first recorded only four days later and spotted just 4km away.
Last Wednesday was a bumper day for marine wildlife sightings off Co Kerry, too, where Nick Massett spotted at least a dozen minke whales between Ventry, Slea Head and the Blaskets.
In other cetacean news, researchers believe that whale strandings may in part be caused by exhaustion when cetaceans flee human-made noise in the ocean.
According to the Irish Independent, a study by marine scientists at UC Santa Cruz found that beaked whales startled by low-frequency sonar raise their energy consumption by almost a third, increasing demands on their limited oxygen supply while below the surface.
The news will be fuel to those who suspect human activity at sea plays a major role in increased cetacean stranding rates.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, 2017 became the worst year on record for whale and dolphin strandings by mid February.
As Independent.ie reports, the two-part Éire Fhiáin has been compared to Blue Planet for its incredible footage — from the Skelligs and Blasket Islands in the first episode to the rugged charms of Connemara and Mayo this past week, among other breathtaking locations.
Director and presenter Eoin Warner and his team used some of the latest filmmaking technology, including night-vision lenses and slow-motion cameras, to capture Ireland’s marine wildlife – and their land-lubber friends – like they’ve never been seen before.
And the results saw the hashtag #EireFhiain take off on social media last week — though if you missed the Irish-language series first time out, you still have time to catch up by streaming it via the TG4 Player.
The 8.5m whale — discovered by local man Davie Rea on the rocky shore at the end of last week — was identified as an adult female by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
It’s been five years since the last sperm whale stranding on the Wexford coast, as the species is more often found in western waters.
The Gorey Guardian has more on the story HERE.
As of Friday 17 February, a whopping 56 cetacean standings had been recorded — more than half of them identified as common dolphins.
Prior to 2010, the average numbers of standings were around 22, of which five would have been common dolphins, says the IWDG’s strandings officer Mick O’Connell.
The question of what is happening to cause such a spike in strandings throughout this decade prompted a meeting between the IWDG, Government agencies and representatives from Irish and European fishing fleets earlier this week.
“There is a disconnect somewhere,” says O’Connell, “as internationally accepted visual evidence of bycatch is seen in some strandings, and post-mortem reports on five common dolphins in Mayo in 2013 reported that their deaths were likely to be due to bycatch in a pelagic trawl net, yet Irish and EU observer schemes involving pelagic trawlers reported no bycatch in commercial pelagic hauls.”
The latest stranding was recorded in Fenit, Co Kerry on Wednesday (15 February) — a dolphin alleged by locals to have been caught in the nets of a large trawler offshore before being dumped overboard, as the Irish Mirror reports.
The Irish Examiner adds that another common dolphin with blood marks was found at Ballyconneely Beach in Connemara on the same day, while two days previous the emaciated carcass of a sperm whale was found on Nethertown Beach at the most south-easterly point of Co Wexford.
The latest find was landed by skipper John Connolly of the fishing vessel Connacht Ranger from Kilronan on Inis Mór, and landed into Rossaveal, where it was later identified by Terlich Smith of the Marine Institute.
"My nieces and nephews were very excited about the slipper lobster, and named it Tréan, which is an old Irish word for hardy and brave and usually associated with warriors,” said Connolly.
“The fact it was so small, came so far north, and survived being towed up in a big net full of spurdogs, stones and prawns does make the name seem pretty apt.”
The Galway Atlantaquaria is now caring for the 72mm exotic lobster, which is progressing well after a week in quarantine.
There are photographs on marine animal welfare websites which show the awful horror and terrible suffering which balloon and lantern releases into the air have caused to marine wildlife. If you saw or see them, you would never again let a balloon blow away towards the sky. Those photographs certainly made a huge impression on me as did Niall Hatch, Development Officer with Birdwatch when he came on the programme this week with a plea to all listeners – even though it may be done with the best of intentions, please stop releasing balloons into the air, because that act is killing seabirds and marine wildlife. The country’s marine animal welfare organisations are all backing this plea.
Do listen to Niall, hearken to his words and take action…..
On THIS ISLAND NATION we bring you stories that you won’t hear on any other radio station…. There hasn’t been much reporting that it rains in Antarctica, the Continent of snow and ice where it is now Summertime… And that rain is killing penguins who are used to the cold temperatures but not to being wet….Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change… He should listen to those with first-hand experience, like Jim Wilson, the respected Irish ecologist and ornithologist, just back from a trip down there and about to return to the area… Climate change is a hard-sell, he says, but it is happening. It’s difficult to imagine perhaps, but it is a sign of climate change – rain in Antarctica.. Weather is what we experience every day, climate is the long-term change in weather. On our last programme Jim revealed that it was an Irishman, Edward Bransfield, who first set eyes on Antarctica. That story has brought a big response from listeners, so progress is being made on the plan to build a monument to honour Bransfield, even if Russia’s Vladimir Putin may try to claim territorial rights in Antarctica. He could face a tough job to beat the people of Cork Harbour!
The Government’s plans to protect and develop rural communities will, it is hoped, include the coastal communities and should include the offshore island communities which are an essential part of Ireland’s maritime history and culture. Rhoda Twombly, Secretary of the Islands’ Federation, Comhdháil Oileán na hÉireann, brings us the latest news from the islands, which include a new college on Inishmaan and developments in the arts on Inisheer. She also reveals why the people of Inishbofin Island are scouring the world for ‘yarn bombs’!
“Boating is for everybody.” I liked those words from Martin Ryan, Chairman of Meitheal Mara, Cork City’s community boatyard and maritime heritage voluntary organisation which has launched an ambitious €5m. ‘Strategic Plan’ to create “an integrated maritime hub” on Leeside. He accepts that it will take some time, maybe as much as five years to achieve, but says the organisation is determined to do this. He makes good points about how our rivers belong to everyone and how building a boat to use on them can be a life-changing experience.
Salmon anglers were not happy in the month of January when, for the first time, no Spring salmon were caught, though this changed this month. Myles Kelly of Inland Fisheries Ireland reports the story for THIS ISLAND NATION.
Enjoy the programme below.
The sanctuary recently took on its first sponsor in Gorey’s Amber Springs Hotel, which now has its name displayed over one of the 12 kennels available.
More than 60 seals are being kept at the Co Wexford centre that has a busy winter period taking in rescued seals and seal pups, the latest of them brought in from Clogherhead in Co Louth at the end of January.
But the Seal Rescue Centre is also celebrating successful releases back into the wild of seals it has treated — like Nala, an orphaned seal found in distress at Union Hall in West Cork last October, according to the Southern Star.
The scheme led by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) will see a network of buoys deployed with devices to pick up cetacean chatter – as well as potentially harmful ocean sounds from sea traffic or industry.
"Displacement from noise is a very real effect and ... if it doesn't cause them to move will change their behaviours and, at the most acute levels, can cause physical and physiological damage to the animals,” says Dr Adam Mellor of the AFBI.
BBC News has more on the story HERE.