SAD SIGHT Machiel Oudejans, a local resident with the two re-stranded common dolphins on the Mullet Peninsula. Pic: Courtesy of Aoife Foley/Irish Whale and Dolphin Group
THE recent stranding and subsequent death of two dolphins in Erris highlights the need for localised marine mammal stranding plans, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.
Two common dolphins died at the end of July after they became stranded along the shore in Blacksod Bay. Despite several attempts over a number of days, they could not return to deeper waters and died.
The beaches along Blacksod Bay at the Mullet Peninsula have a reputation as a ‘hotspot’ for mass live strandings of common dolphins due to the tidal nature of the bay and the number of sandbars.
The first sighting of the dolphins occurred on Saturday, July 23, when five common dolphins were seen swimming in tight circles and zig-zag patterns in water less than 1.5m deep close to the shore on Mullaghroe Beach.
A team from the Broadhaven Bay Marine Mammal Monitoring Programme attended the scene and managed to channel the dolphins to deeper waters. However, the following day, two of the pod were seen stranded on sand south from Mullaghroe Beach at Cartron.
Attempts to move the two dolphins into deeper waters were unsuccessful and one of the dolphins died two days later, while the other was put down by the National Parks and Wildlife Services.
Aoife Foley, a member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and the Broadhaven Bay Marine Mammal Monitoring Programme, who attended the scene, said this latest incident underscored the need for localised mammal stranding plans.
“Unfortunately, the beach where the animals restranded is notorious for common dolphin strandings in Blacksod Bay. The bay is very tidal, with lots of sand bars, and there is no change in depth for 1.5km. The team waited for high tide and tried to move the animals one last time, back into deeper water. Unfortunately, the animals came straight back to shore.
“It was a long few days, but every effort was made to help these two animals. None of the other members of the pod have been found on any nearby beaches, so we can only guess that they made it back safely to deeper waters. The sequence of events highlights the need for localised marine mammal stranding plans and for direct lines of communication to be made readily available for further strandings in remote areas,” she said.
The pod consisted of one mother and her calf and three other adults, and according to Aoife Foley. All five of the animals had looked to be in very good condition, with no obvious signs of harm.
Following the death of the two dolphins, Mayo County Council was notified and the carcasses were buried on the beach that afternoon.