Dusty the dolphin relocates as fears grow for swimmer safety

A bottlenose dolphin known to have attacked several swimmers in Clare last year has relocated to the Aran Islands, with fears she could do the same there.

Dusty had frequented beaches in north Clare since 2000 and, in recent years, had been a huge attraction at Doolin.

Having been teased and mistreated by some swimmers, she became aggressive in recent years, and attacked and hospitalised at least four unsuspecting people.

Since major works, including blasting, began on a new pier at Doolin in April, the dolphin moved across to Inis Oírr where she is now entertaining locals and tourists.

Renamed Sandy by islanders, she shows no fear of humans and is reported to be “actively seeking out swimmers” to interact with.

However, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) warned: “While many people claim to have had fantastic encounters with Dusty, other are reporting aggressive encounters and are being hit by the dolphins tail or, less occasionally, rammed.”

Its executive officer, Dr Simon Berrow, said: “There is great concern on the island that Sandy might cause serious injury. The sandy beach at Inis Oírr is really the only place people swim and, during the summer, up to 120 students attend the summer school and swim at the beach.

“In July, swimming lessons for children are also held on the beach and again real concerns are being expressed that Sandy might injure swimmers,” Dr Berrow said.

“The IWDG recently attended a meeting on the island with representatives of Galway County Council and Comhar Caomhán Teo Inis Oírr. It was decided at that meeting [that] doing nothing was not an option and people visiting Inis Oírr need to be warned of the potential dangers of swimming with Sandy.”

IWDG agreed to prepare posters and leaflets for distribution on the island advising about concerns. It was agreed the option of excluding a part of the beach so people can swim without being exposed to Sandy needs to be explored.

“There are lifeguards on the beach only at weekends so the beach is generally unsupervised. A proposal for a ‘dolphin warden’ has been received by Galway County Council under Agenda 21 funding but it is unlikely it would be processed in time for the remaining summer season,” Dr Berrow said.

The IWDG is now working with the county council and the island co-op in an effort to make the dolphin experience positive.

While anyone visiting or living on the island is warned not to swim with Sandy, they are being advised and encouraged to admire her from the pier, shore, or boats.


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