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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 Wildlife
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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.

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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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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has conformed the first validated sighting of a fin whale off Co Donegal.

Liz Morrow captured images of the solo large whale in Donegal Bay off Slieve League earlier this month, estimating it to be around 18 metres in length.

Fin whales are a common occurrence in Ireland’s South West and the Celtic Sea, but have never before been spotted in the inshore waters of the colder North West.

However, with the later sighting of a humpback whale breaching off Malin Beg, it could be a sign that larger marine wildlife are exploring new territory north of Sligo.

“Any large whales that simply look too large to be a minke or humpback and produce a powerful columnar ‘blow’ on surfacing, should be considered as likely candidates,” the IWDG suggests.

“They will often be accompanied by common dolphins who hunt the same sprat and herring shoals and they never lift their tails before diving.”

Suspected fin whales are best approached from the right side and photographed at the head and rostrum “which should reveal the diagnostic lower white right jaw”.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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It has emerged that the deadly mass stranding of bottlenose whales in Donegal was preceded by two live strandings in the Faroe Islands two days prior.

And it’s led experts at the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) to suggest the marine wildlife incidents might be linked and “part of a much wider event”.

The group adds that images of two Northern bottlenose whales — of the same species that died in Donegal — were captured the next day in Scotland as far inshore as Greenock Harbour, on the Clyde west of Glasgow.

More recently, two of the deep water cetaceans have been seen in the North Sea off Norfolk, and two others were spotted at the Netherlands’ Eastern Scheldt.

“Clearly something is happening to this group of whales we know so little about,” the IWDG says, adding that the situation also “demonstrates the need for a response protocol” for similar strandings in Ireland.

Published in Marine Wildlife

One of the victims of a deadly mass stranding of bottlenose whales in Donegal last week has not reappeared, according to Highland Radio.

Seven of the marine mammals died in the biggest mass stranding of its kind on record in Ireland, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

The eighth whale was refloated in the shallows when the tide came in, and hopes were that it would make to back to deeper waters on its own. However it was confirmed to have died the following morning, Thursdasy 20 August.

Local volunteers with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) have appealed for the public to report any possible sightings, as they are keen to get samples which might reveal more details about the whale pod and its sudden demise.

Elsewhere, rare video has been captured of the humpback whale known as ‘Boomerang’ off West Cork, as RTÉ News reports.

The whale is the third humpback in the IWDG’s records. It was first identified in 2001 thanks to its unique dorsal fin, and has returned to feed in Irish waters regularly over the last two decades.

This story was updated on Monday 31 August to correct details about the refloated bottlenose whale, which was not presumed to have survived as the previous version stated.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Army could be employed to euthanise beached whales and other marine wildlife that have no prospect of being refloated, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group suggests in its draft protocol.

As the Irish Independent reports, the proposal is part of the charity’s push towards a more humane approach to whale strandings — a subject in focus since last week’s mass deaths of bottlenose whales in Co Donegal, the largest of its kind on record in Ireland.

Concerns were raised over crowds gathered on Rossnowlagh Beach last Wednesday (19 August) to take selfies or demand further rescue efforts, causing the animals additional distress in their final moments.

The IWDG’s chief Dr Simon Berrow said: “People are naturally curious and very well-meaning, but there was no possibility of refloating the whales, and we were trying to minimise their distress.”

Dr Berrow ruled out the use of drugs to euthanise stranded marine wildlife, but suggested that the Army could be trained for ‘humane shooting’ and called for inter-agency discussion of the matter.

The Irish Independent has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Seven northern bottlenose whales have died in what’s been described as the largest mass stranding of its kind in Ireland.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) confirmed the deaths to RTÉ News after the incident was reported on Rossnowlagh beach yesterday, Wednesday 19 August.

However, it was hoped that the eighth whale, which refloated in the shallows after the tide came in, would make it back to deeper waters of its own accord.

The IWDG urged the public to keep their distance from the whales after “upsetting news” that crowds had formed to take selfies next to the distressed marine wildlife.

“We know very little about them, but they are prone to mass strandings,” IWDG chief executive Simon Berrow told TheJournal.ie. “This is the largest mass stranding of this species ever in Ireland.”

Published in Marine Wildlife
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