Live-Stranding of a Common Dolphin in Ventry, Co. Kerry

26th Jul 2010 Friday 23 July


A stranded dolphin on Ventry strand was reported to Nick Massett IWDG by Aíne Long, a local woman. Nick attended the scene and found a common dolphin grounded in shallow water with three others milling around just 20 metres away. People on the scene had already refloated the stranded animal a number of times but it persistently restranded. It showed no signs of emaciation however it appeared there was some sort of trauma injury just in front of the dorsal fin.

Taking into account this animal had been refloated a number of times, and that the other attendant dolphins did not appear to have a problem navigating the shallow waters, it was decided to leave this animal. Leave it strand and nature take it's course.

The other three commons stayed in close attendance for well over an hour before heading out to deeper water. With binoculars they could be seen porpoising at speed in the middle of the bay and exhibiting normal behavioural traits.


The stranded dolphin was back out in a few feet of water 20 metres off the beach swimming erratically, occasionally lifting it's head out of the water.


Conor Ryan IWDG and Vivi Bolin found the dolphin further south along the beach and grounded by the ebbing tide. The breathing rate was high at 7 or 8 breaths per minute (five being normal) and the blows sounded laboured. Given the animal's history of repeatedly stranding and the shallow nature of the bay, the decision was made not to re-float the animal as this would just prolong its suffering and likely result in another re-stranding. Conor attempted to call local vets to explore the possibility of euthanasia.

Saturday 24


Having kept the animal cool and some way comfortable for over three hours, we left it to it's own devices expecting to find it dead by first light.


A single common dolphin was seen swimming 30 metres off the beach in the vicinity of yesterdays stranding. This dolphin appeared to be feeding, possibly on the shoals of sandeel prevalent, showing bursts of speed and quick changes of direction. All signs of a healthy animal and surely not the same one that was stranded for over six hours the previous night. A photo ID shot was now crucial to clarify this situation. A naomhóg (Kerry currach) was launched, a craft with a shallow draft, with Nick Massett at the oars, Conor Ryan on camera and Vivi Bolin navigating.

We were able to secure the all important photo ID image showing the wounds were identical to those of the stranded animal. As if to confirm its healthy condition, the dolphin even breached twice alongside us. There was no sign of the dolphin in the bay the following day, Sunday 25 July.

Despite having plenty of stranding experience between them, no one in attendance was expecting a recovery of this nature. While it may yet restrand, this event highlights the difficult decisions that have to be made in stranding situations. Perhaps a reappraisal of some of our stranding procedure is called for, re-evaluating what constitutes a worthy candidate for a re-floating attempt.

Nick Massett and Conor Ryan, IWDG

Post script:

some of the scars on dolphin's back and sides comprised regularly spaced parallel lines, more like rake-marks from a