Mystery surrounds dolphin deaths

MYSTERY surrounds why a record number of common dolphins have washed up dead on the southern shores of the country.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) said that in the first two months of this year 19 common dolphins washed up on the shores of Cork, Waterford and Wexford.

That represented 60% of all dolphin and whales species stranded in Ireland during that period.

In comparison, just two common dolphin strandings were reported the first two months of last year and there were three strandings in the comparable period for 2009.

The IWDG said that as a registered charity it doesn’t have the money to carry out the necessary number of postmortem exams on the mammals to determine what they died of.

IWDG spokesman, Padraig Whooley, described the large number of strandings as “inexplicable”.

“It’s really important that we know why these animals are dying because if something is wrong we might be able to correct it,” Mr Whooley said.

He said there was no obvious sign of injury or trauma to the dolphins.

“It’s a mystery which can’t be solved without under-taking sample postmortems. We are a charitable organisation which can’t afford that and the Government isn’t providing any money to do it,” Mr Whooley said.

He said the National Parks & Wildlife Service provided limited support for stranding investigations, but the funding only extends to confirming the species, determining sex and size and taking a small tissue sample.

“Getting the cause of death is more complicated and you would need a pathologist to do that, which would require significant funding,” Mr Whooley said.

He said UCC did have funding some years ago to carry out a limited number of postmortem exams, but that funding had dried up.

Mr Whooley said it would be nearly impossible to speculate on the cause of the deaths, but he ruled out sonar as being responsible.

“It could be a virus or something man is responsible for. We just don’t know,” he said.

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