Cetacean Strandings in Ireland Reach Record High

15th Oct 2013

Following on from our recent website article concerning the high number of cetacean strandings in 2013, the IWDG strandings database has logged a new record high. Those of you with an interest in cetacean strandings may be aware that in 2012, IWDG received a total of 175 cetacean stranding records of 179 individual animals (live and dead) from around the entire coast of Ireland – by far the highest annual figure on the strandings database. As one year ended and a new one began, the question was whether the numbers for 2012 were just a temporary ‘blip’ in the trend and would the figures for Ireland return to a more ‘normal’ 145 or so for 2013. Well, as we head towards the start of winter, we can see that the answer is a most definite ‘no’.

By the end of the first week of October 2013, IWDG had received validated reports for 175 cetacean stranding incidents in Ireland – the same as for the entire ‘record’ year of 2012. As a more direct comparison, there were 143 records received by the 8th October last year, 32 less than this year, and bear in mind that 2012 was a year for unusually high numbers already. With a good few weeks left until the years end, it’s likely that for the first time ever, the strandings database will receive 200+ cetacean stranding records.

There are many different reasons for cetacean strandings and as yet we have no explanation as to the cause or causes for the significant increase in figures recently. While numbers for most species remain fairly constant, there is no doubt that the biggest increase in strandings are those of common dolphins Delphinus delphis. 36% of all stranding records received by IWDG between 1 January and 8 October 2013 were common dolphins with a remarkable 63 reports compared to 38 in 2012. Numbers of live strandings are also up for the time of year with 25 reports so far compared to 18 in 2012 for the same period.

Mick O'Connell,

IWDG Strandings Officer