A dolphin that had enthralled crowds on the banks of the River Lee in Cork has died after it was caught in a fisherman’s net.
Distraught angler Anthony Quilligan explained how the dolphin died in his arms on Tuesday after it became entangled in his salmon net.
The dolphin was one of three who swam into the heart of Cork city on Monday and had drawn huge crowds to the banks of the Lee.
Anthony and his father Simon were legally fishing for salmon on the river when they realized the dolphin had become caught up in their draft net near the Ferry Boat Inn on the city’s lower Glanmire Road.
“It’s a terrible thing to happen. It’s the saddest day’s fishing I’ve ever had,” Anthony told the Irish Examiner.
“We were hauling the nets when I saw the dolphin jump out of the water about seven feet behind the net.
“He went back under the water and we started to haul the nets faster to get them out of the way, but I saw the net’s floats go under and I knew he was caught.”
The Quilligans waded into the river and pulled the distressed dolphin ashore within 20 seconds of the incident.
“He was alive when we got him ashore. We were just getting the last bit of net off his tail, and I was holding his head up out of the water. We wanted to save the creature, but he died in my arms,” added Anthony.
“We’ve been fishing there all our lives and this never happened. We’re just shocked. It will take a while to get over it.”
A post-mortem on the remains will be carried out by marine experts from University College Cork.
Dr Emer Rogan, a lecturer at UCC’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, told the paper it was a male sub-adult common dolphin.
“It most likely dry-drowned after going into a state of shock but we can’t rule out whether it was sick beforehand,” said the lecturer.
Here's some footage of the dolphins in the River Lee this week: