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Displaying items by tag: IWDG

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) won the tender to provide a marine mammal observer on three fisheries acoustic surveys with the Marine Institute this year.

These include a survey for blue whiting this month, the Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic (WESPAS) survey during June and July and the Celtic Sea Herring Acoustic Survey in October.

The aforementioned missions are annual stock assessment surveys and cover a huge area of the Irish EEZ.

Data on higher trophic predators such as marine mammals and seabirds are essential to provide the data to support the development of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

Experienced offshore surveyor Dr Justin Judge will be joining each cruise to record all sightings of whales and dolphins and other interesting endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species, as well as recording the vessels’ track and environmental conditions.

He follows in the footsteps of Dave Wall, who used data collected from these annual surveys in 2014 to built the dataset to publish the first Offshore Atlas of Marine Mammal Distribution.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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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
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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it welcomes the new public consultation on expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Government is aiming to have 30% of Ireland’s maritime area designated as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2030.

Current coverage is just 2.13%, the IWDG says, adding that there is at present no definition of an MPA in Irish law.

“We wish to see Ireland achieve their international commitments and legal obligations, and create a truly ecologically coherent network of well-managed and well resourced MPAs, that is representative and connected,” says Sibéal Regan, the IWDG’s Education and Outreach Officer.

“In that case, it must be defined and underpinned by the appropriate legislation.”

It’s also hoped that expanding Ireland’s designated conservation areas for marine wildlife will protect core habitats from encroachment by human activity such as fishing.

Research commissioned by the IWDG has identified a number of hotspots for dolphins, porpoise and whales within Ireland’s 12-nautical-mile limit.

These have informed the group’s recommendations for potential MPA sites around the coast, available on the IWDG website here.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) is seeking to recruit a Science Officer to join its core team based in the Shannon Dolphin Centre in Kilrush, Co Clare.

The Science Officer will be expected to work closely with the team in Kilrush and other officers in the IWDG; manage all IWDG archived data; identify relevant opportunities to collect and interpret data; contribute to conservation actions and policies; identify gaps in IWDG scientific knowledge and priorities for scientific research; and identify roles for the IWDG research vessel Celtic Mist.

Whoever assumes this role will also be encouraged to seek funding for research projects, and will contribute heavily to IWDG consulting, including desktop assessments and site fieldwork.

The successful applicant will have a strong scientific background and a track record of marine wildlife reseach, specifically cetacean research. The Science Officer will have practical experience of database management, good communication skills and knowledge of cetaceans in Ireland. Commercial fishing experience would be an asset, as would be knowledge of Marine Protected Areas.

Environmental consultancy experience is important as the successful candidate will also be contributing to consultancy outputs.

The contract will be for a maximum of three years, pending a successful annual review and the availability of funds. Salary will be commensurate with experience and qualifications and will align with recommendations for graduates in Ireland and is likely to be in the region of €30-40,000 per annum.

Applications including full CV should be sent to [email protected] with the subject line ‘Science Officer Position’ before 5pm on Friday 26 March.

Further details can be found on the IWDG website and interested candidates should contact [email protected] if they require more information.

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The carcass of a juvenile humpback whale washed ashore in West Cork is only the ninth such stranding of the species in Ireland, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Sightings officer Pádraig Whooley confirmed from images of the marine wildlife specimen captured in Roaringwater Bay yesterday (Wednesday 24 February) that it was a juvenile male not previously recorded in Irish waters.

Such young whales are not unexpected close to our shores at this time of year, when adults of breeding age are either en route to or already at lower-latitude breeding sites such as Cabo Verde off West Africa.

“This is something that some young humpbacks can opt out of, as it’s a long track south to places like the Cabo Verde and with no hope of successfully breeding there is nothing much in it for them,” Whooley explains.

“So a cohort of young, independent humpbacks seem content to over winter at higher latitudes, where there is, or should be, plenty of food for them.”

In this case, however, Whooley says: “The images we’ve received so far suggest it is in rather thin condition and so it may not have fed for some time.

“There are no obvious signs of rope marks or net damage that may suggest entanglement in fishing gear, something that slow-swimming humpbacks that remain inshore are prone to. And there are no large traumas to suggest ship-strike. So as is so often the case, the circumstances underpinning this stranding are unclear.

“IWDG hope in the coming days to visit the site to take detailed measurements and get skin and blubber samples which can be used for genetics, contaminants and stable isotope analyses.”

Whooley adds that the IWDG is in liaison with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) regarding examination of the carcass and its disposal, but suggests that because of its remote location “there is no strong case for removal”.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has announced a new educational resource for young and aspiring marine science experts.

Ireland’s Blubber Book: Flukes Junior Vol 1 is a comprehensive workbook on cetaceans – the marine wildlife family comprising whales, dolphins and porpoise – found in Irish waters for primary school children aged between 9-12.

The new resource was created to support support the aims of the National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development by IWDG education and outreach officer Sibéal Regan and illustrated by the talented John Joyce and Jim Wilson.⁠

“We believe that the first step in becoming an ocean literate and informed society, starts with our youngest citizens,” the IWDG says in its introduction to the resource.

It adds that the workbook “will motivate and empower them throughout their lives to become informed active citizens, who take action for a more sustainable blue future”.

Teachers can use Ireland’s Blubber Book in a classroom setting, by going through the content and worksheets themselves.

But the IWDG is also offering to facilitate virtual workshops “making the experience even more interactive and engaging”.

Interested schools can contact Sibéal Regan at [email protected] to enquire about using this new book in their classroom.

It will also be available from the IWDG shop and will have its official launch online on the IWDG Facebook page next Thursday 28 January at 11am.

Published in Marine Science
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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s annual conference is moving online — and broadcasting live from West Clare next Saturday 12 December.

Whale Tales is the annual meeting of the IWDG, where members and people interested in whales, dolphins and porpoises in Ireland are invited to join in a shared appreciation and admiration of these charismatic examples of marine wildlife.

This year, due to coronavirus restrictions. Whale Tales 2020 will be a virtual meeting, with a panel of local speakers calling in from the IWDG head office in Kilrush as well as special guests from further afield.

Among them will be Joy Reidenberg, from the hit TV programme Inside Nature’s Giants, who will discuss the topic of large whale necropsies and what we can learn from them.

In the afternoon, Mags Daly of the Shannon Dolphin Project will tell tales of her favourite mammals and share some of her stories from the Shannon Estuary this summer.

Registration is free for all who want to join in, but donations are welcome to support the IWDG in its recording and conservation efforts.

The full programme of events, including details of how to book your virtual spot, can be found on the IWDG website HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The first Irish and Scottish Humpback 'match' has been made from images taken on the Shetland Islands at the weekend and then matched to photographs of the same whale off Ireland in 2015 and seen again off Irish coastal waters as recently as June 2020.

In an exciting development for Irish marine wildlife fans, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) confirmed on social media this morning (see below) that the Irish Humpback whale named #HBIRL38 was photographed on 7 November off Whalsay, Shetland. This whale has been recorded 16 times by the IWDG over four years since July 2015 and was last seen off West Cork on 2 June 2020.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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“It’s better this way, rather than Fungie wash up dead on the shores of Dingle Bay, [that he] just disappear.”

That’s the message from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s (IWDG) chief executive as nearly two weeks have passed since Dingle’s longtime resident dolphin was last seen in the Co Kerry village.

Writing on the IWDG website, Dr Simon Berrow reminisces about his own encounters with the friendly bottlenose since his own arrival in the West of Ireland in 1988.

And he believes that Fungie has been an inspiration some of the millions who have witnessed him over the years to pursue further interests in marine matters.

But Dr Berrow is also brutally honest about the region’s over-reliance on the marine wildlife singleton as a draw for visitors.

“Building an international tourism product on a single dolphin was never going to last,” he says. “It was unsustainable.”

The IWDG website has more HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it has recently documented evidence of a humpback whale scarred by entanglement in fishing gear in Irish waters.

Humpback IRL#HB43 was photographed in Dingle Bay on Sunday 11 October by IWDG member Nick Massett, who noted in his images some significant scarring on its tail fluke that was not present when the same whale was spotted off West Kerry two months prior.

The charity says this scarring is consistent with entanglement — and it’s believed, based on the marine wildlife giant’s known movements between August and this month, that the lesions were sustained off West Kerry.

Humpback whales regularly feed in Ireland’s inshore waters during the summer and autumn. But this activity also brings the whales into close proximity with active fisheries.

“It’s likely this animal got caught in the rising rope of a marker buoy to a string of lobster pots, or gill net,” Massett says.

Entanglement in fishing gear is an issue of emerging concern to the IWDG, which is working with Dr Charla Basran at the University of Iceland’s Husavik Research Centre to quantify the rate of entanglement of humpback whales in Irish waters.

Dr Basran recently published work showing that 24.8% of 379 individual humpback whales photographed in Iceland presented wrapping injuries and notches known to be indicative of entanglement.

Ireland shares a whale population with Iceland, and the IWDG says will be interesting to quantify the rate of these lesions on whales photographed in Ireland — and potentially reveal where along their journey to the North Atlantic from their southern breeding grounds they pick up their wounds.

The IWDG is planning a workshop on the issue supported by knife-maker Spyderco, which has provided knives customised for cutting ropes from live whales.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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