THE wild rugged coast of West Cork has become a worldwide renowned location for visitors to experience the majesty of whales and dolphins.
However, the Green Party says this natural, environmentally and economically important resource is under threat unless more government funding and a co-ordinated effort is put in place to research and protect them.
‘As we begin the process of creating marine protected areas, we need also to create an intelligent response to dealing with and learning from marine fatalities washing up on our shores,’ Rory Jackson, of the Cork South West Green Party, told The Southern Star.
He noted that in recent weeks there have been many reports of marine mammals turning up dead along the coast. ‘We sadly saw a young humpback whale come ashore near Lowertown in Schull, and then a young beaked whale washed up on Tragumna beach near Skibbereen,’ said Mr Jackson.
Indeed, an ongoing survey carried out by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reveals a year-on-year increase in the numbers of dead and dying whales and dolphins washing up around the coast.
‘In most cases samples are taken for the IWDG and the whale is either left where it is or it is removed by the Council who have no expertise other than to dispose of the carcass by incineration,’ Rory said.
‘If we are serious about becoming guardians of our seas, we must provide more resources and funding to all the government agencies and to coastal NGOs. In most cases, the deaths of these cetaceans are caused by being caught and drowned in fishing gear. This is not difficult to establish when an autopsy is carried out but this requires expertise, a dedicated service, and funded skills.’
While welcoming the call for more funding to protect whales and dolphins, Patrick Murphy of the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) said fishermen should not be solely blamed for the dead whales and dolphins.
‘We support the call for more funding for research and we are participating in working groups within the North West Advisory Council to address this issue,’ Patrick said.
‘We want to make it abundantly clear, no vessel wishes to harm these creatures. We know they play an important part in the biodiversity of our marine environment. It has been recorded that mammals swim into fishing gear and this can lead to drowning, but the industry is responding to this and has introduced technology that is attached to the gear that sends out a frequency to ward off these beautiful mammals.’