Seven dolphins, whale washed up on Cork coast in a week

Schull, West Cork, Ireland. A dead dolphin was found on Schull beach with fishing line around its beak. Helen Tilson of Schull Sea Safari measured the animal, which was a mature adult and 2 metres long. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has been called and will perform a post mortem to find out the cause of death. Picture: Andy Gibson.

Seven dolphins and a sperm whale have been found dead in the past week along the Cork coastline.

Mick O’Connell, stranding officer with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), said that is an unusually high number of strandings in a short space of time.

“We normally get the same thing every year. It is usually more in the southwest and west, but this year, I suppose we have had more southeast winds, which probably explains it.”

The eight mammals that washed up on Cork beaches were a sperm whale on Long Strand in West Cork, a bottleneck dolphin, a striped dolphin, four common dolphins and another unknown species of dolphin.

Mr O’Connell said it was a lot of dolphins to be found dead in a week.

Schull, West Cork, Ireland. A dead dolphin was found on Schull beach with fishing line around its beak. Picture: Andy Gibson.

“That is only a percentage of what is actually dead at sea,” Mr O’Connell said. “Some 90% of strandings are dead when they come ashore, 10% would be live strandings.”

The stranding officer, who has been working with the IWDG charity for the past 18 years, said he is not sure why it is happening.

“Three of the dolphins will go for postmortem at the Cork Regional Vet Lab which will shed some light on their deaths.”

Mr O’Connell added: “There is talk of bycatch, which is when fish and other marine creatures, not intended to be caught, get tangled in a fishing net, but that is an issue up to a point, definitely in France and places like that.”

He said that the postmortem scheme being run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Marine Institute is only for striped dolphins, common dolphins and harbour porpoises and if the mammal is in really bad condition there is no postmortem.

Schull, West Cork, Ireland. A dead dolphin was found on Schull beach with fishing line around its beak. Picture: Andy Gibson.

He said that it was not unusual to find the occasional sperm whale washed up on the coastline but the number of dolphins, especially common dolphins, that are being washed up in the last few years is highly unusual.

“Since 2011, it has increased. Last year there were 110, compared to 10 to 15 years ago when there would have been 20 dolphins.”

Mr O’Connell said he hoped the postmortem scheme will hopefully help figure out what is going on. “They have been collecting postmortems for about a year and a half now, so there should be results soon.”

In terms of what happens to the dead mammals, Mr O’Connell said it is up to the council to decide.

“If it is a quiet beach, it will be left there, and will just get washed out again, food for other critters. If it is a busy beach, they might remove it.”

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