Marine Institute host whale and dolphin research seminar

14th Jun 2006 The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), together with the Marine Institute and National Parks and Wildlife Service are proud to be hosting the first Irish Cetacean Research Seminar entitled “Towards a Joint Cetacean Sightings Database for Ireland” at the new Marine Institute building at Oranmore, Galway.

This is the first public scientific conference to held at the Institute's facilities in Oranmore, since these were opened by Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern TD on 9 June

Irish waters are some of the best areas in Europe for observing whales, dolphins and porpoise (cetaceans) and with the recent good weather, the IWDG have received over 70 sightings of a range of species including harbour porpoise, common, bottlenose and Risso's dolphins and minke and humpback whales from all round the Irish coast in the first two weeks of June alone. “It is always a memorable experience when you see a whale or dolphin in its natural environment but by recording these sightings, you can also contribute to their conservation” said Dr Simon Berrow, IWDG Co-ordinator and organiser of the seminar. “We have many different schemes that people can contribute to and have produced a wide range of resources to help people locate, identify and record what they have seen. These include, posters, an identification DVD and now an identification guide. There has never been a better time to get involved in whale and dolphin watching in Ireland and contribute to their conservation”.

The seminar will present data and results on the distribution of whales and dolphins in Irish waters carried out under an initiative called ISCOPE. The seminar will also provide an opportunity to obtain feedback on the IWDG recording schemes from partners in Ireland and to unite the cetacean research community in Ireland to discuss future research requirements and the creation of a Joint Irish Cetacean Sightings Database.

One key partner who has been recording whale and dolphin sightings since 1991 is the Naval Services. The IWDG have provided all Naval vessels with recording forms and training and now cetacean recording is a regular aspect of Naval patrols. To formalise this relationship the IWDG and the Naval Services have agreed a Service Level Agreement, which includes appointing cetacean watch officers on each vessel to regularise cetacean recording. Commander Hugh Tully said “the extent of wildlife activity in our waters is a good indicator of the state of health of our seas. The Naval Service is pleased to be associated with cetacean research and to assist the IWDG in monitoring whale and dolphin migration patterns off our coast.”

Micheal Ó Cinnéide, Director of the Marine Environment and Health Service Division, said “We are delighted to welcome our colleagues from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group to Oranmore. This is an important event in bringing researchers and wildlife experts on whales and dolphins together. It will also be part of the outreach work of the Institute”.

Guest speakers at the research seminar include Dr. Arliss Winship from the Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scotland; Dr. Peter Evans from the Seawatch Foundation, England and Dr. Emer Rogan from University College, Cork. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group will present talks on the IWDG Cetacean stranding and sighting schemes, ship based surveys and on the IWDG cetacean database and website. There will also be an opportunity to contribute to a review of cetaceans in Irish waters including identifying priority research areas in the future.

During the seminar Dr Ciaran O'Keeffe, Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service will launch the new IWDG book entitled “A Guide to the Identification of the Whales and Dolphin of Ireland”.

At the Irish Cetacean Research Seminar there will be representatives from Department and State agencies from both Northern Ireland and the Republic as well as from England. Many attendees are active IWDG cetacean recorders, who will get the opportun