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An alarming rise in dolphins washed up dead on beaches

March 3rd, 2020 10:10 PM

By Brian Moore

A dolphin found with a head wound on a beach near Durrus recently

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LOCALS were shocked to discover a dead dolphin, with what appears to be blue rope tied around its tail, washed up on Kilkilleen beach in Roaringwater Bay last week.

Julie Williams discovered the dolphin, while walking on the beach, which is popular with families in the area.

‘I was shocked. The dolphin had been there a few days at this point I think,’ Julie told The Southern Star.

‘To see a beautiful animal like this with a rope tied around its tail is awful and would be a terrible sight to see for any young kids.’

The dead dolphin was reported to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who confirmed to The Southern Star that the numbers of dead dolphins found stranded on beaches in West Cork and Kerry has increased alarmingly in recent times.

Referring to the photo of the dolphin washed up on Kilkilleen beach, Mick O’Connell, strandings officer with IWDG, said: ‘This is a common dolphin, and one of at least 37 common dolphins which have stranded in Ireland so far this year, mostly in the southwest, Cork and Kerry. 

‘This dolphin almost certainly drowned in a fishing net (hence the rope to remove the body from the net) and is one of several showing obvious signs of bycatch this year, ropes on tail/cut fins/broken beaks. 

‘Prior to 2011, it would have been normal to have 20–25 common dolphin strandings per year, but since then, numbers have risen rapidly and last year we recorded 104 (this excludes unidentified dolphins),’ he said. Mr O’Connell said that an examination of vessel finders  online show a lot of fishing taking place by large pelagic trawlers west of the Blasket Islands.

Dr Simon Berrow of the IWDG said: ‘While there are many causes of death, certainly fisheries bycatch is a significant cause.

‘Animals stranded with lesions consistent with bycatch, or with evidence such as in this picture, where a rope is tied around the dolphin’s tail to lift it out of a net, are not uncommon. Similar large numbers of common dolphin strandings this winter have occurred in France and on the south west coast of the UK.

‘Foreign vessels fishing within the Exclusive Economic Zone but outside Irish waters (12 nautical miles offshore) are monitored by their own member state. Irish boats are monitored by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.Evidence of bycatch from observer studies in Ireland have yet to record any incidents of bycatch of dolphins.’

Meanwhile, another dead common dolphin was discovered stranded on a rocky beach not far from Durrus pier in Dunmanus Bay recently. 

 It is not known how this dolphin died, but it was found with an injury to its head.

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