Marine mammals summer in Irish waters

A YOUNG whale has died possibly after being a casualty of inshore nets off the south-west coast.

But, in another coastal community, marine mammals have brought joy this summer to residents and visitors.

Home to six bottlenose dolphins for the past five weeks, Dunmore East yesterday played host to a new pod of up to 30 dolphins that feasted in the Co Waterford bay.

Six adults have been based in the area since mid-July.

But the new group of 30 is believed to contain adults and young dolphins, attracted to Dunmore East by the wide array of sprat in the bay all summer.

“There’s an awful lot of little baby ones out there now as well. It’s lovely to see,” said Brendan Gloady of local firm Deep Sea Charters. The boat company has been taking tourists out to see the original group of six.

“The boats fishing out of Dunmore East saw them last week and then, last night, they came right into the pier. They stayed for about an hour or an hour and a half and went off west again. They don’t hang around.”

But locals remain optimistic they will become a permanent fixture.

“Hopefully they’ll stay here for the foreseeable future,” said Mr Gloady.

“We have groups going out to see them regularly now and they just love it. We just go up close to them but not too near— we wouldn’t want to disturb or frighten them.”

Dolphins appearing off our coasts during the summer months is not a rare occurrence but — with the exception of Dingle’s Fungi — it is thought to be unusual for them to stay so long in one area of shoreline.

Meanwhile, a 27-foot Minke whale, spotted floating a few miles off the west Cork coastline yesterday, may have drowned after becoming trapped in pot lines for prawn creels or lobster.

The dead animal, believed to be a young male with fresh wounds to the underside of its tail, was discovered a few miles off Union Hall harbour by Dr Nic Slocum of Whale Watch Ireland.

“The wounds may indicate that it has been caught up in ropes such as pot lines — however we don’t know for sure. What I do believe is that this is symptomatic of the dangers faced by larger marine mammals in the waters of west Cork, dangers posed by increased boat traffic, increased coastal pollution and fishing practices,” said Dr Slocum.

“We think this is a young male. It would not have been part of a pod because these are usually animals which travel singly or in pairs,” he said.

The whales, which come in to Irish waters venture quite close to shore to feed on small shoaling fish. He added: “These bring them close to man. In this case, it looks as if a healthy young male was possibly caught up in ropes and drowned, although there are no signs of rope on the animal.

“These are air-breathing mammals just like us. The more these animals come into contact with man, the more likely they are to fall foul of us.”

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