A postmortem investigation has revealed that 13 dolphins died by being caught up in fishing trawler nets of the west coast of Ireland. The corpses of the 13 protected species washed up on a the coast of County Mayo in January
After the grim discovery, mostly on Keel Strand, Dookinella and Keem Bay, the Irish government’s Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht commissioned the postmortem examination of five of the dolphins.
The examinations found that fishing trawlers caused the endangered mammals deaths. A cetacean veterinarian found net marks on the dolphins’ fins, tails and bodies, bleeding in the lungs and stomachs with recently ingested prey, reports the Irish Examiner.
Ireland’s Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said he has called a meeting with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to prevent the risks to dolphins in Irish waters.
He told the Irish Times, “I am concerned by any killing of these species, even where accidental.”
“A meeting has been agreed between my officials and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to examine what further actions may be taken to miniseries the risks to dolphins.”
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Agriculture Minister said, “In addition to our own boats, many other European fleets operate in Irish waters, an area that is intensely fished.
“On the basis of these examinations, it is not possible to determine which of these fleets might have been involved in this incident.”
According to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) there are 24 species of cetacean and dolphins are one of the more common. They are subject to strict protection under national and international legislation.
Dr Simon Berrow head of the IWDG told the Examiner he believes incidents and deaths such as this are under recorded.
Berrow said, “We are concerned that significant bycatch of dolphins is occurring in Irish waters by foreign fleets with no observers monitoring and quantifying these events to ensure they are not having significant impact on dolphin populations, which are all protected.
“IWDG will be taking this bycatch issue up with relevant national and EU authorities.”
The death of these dolphins is not an isolated incident. In 2010 33 whales were discovered dead on the coast of Rutland Island, in County Donegal. It is believed that their death was caused by the underwater sonar activity of from naval vessels in the North Atlantic Ocean. In other cases the whales and dolphins are merely washed ashore and trapped by tides or strong winds.