"Clet" now in Mull Sound, Scotland....Update5th Dec 2014
Report update 05/12/2014
Conor Ryan, HWDT reports that as of this afternoon Clet was following the Corran ferry right up Loch Linnhe near Fort William. It will be interesting to see how long he remains in this area before moving on; as this nomad is hard- wired not to remain in one area on this Celtic tour for too long.
Report update 04/12/2014
A solitary bottlenose dolphin that has appeared in Scotland’s Sound of Mull this week is an internationally famous individual known as Clet – who after becoming a celebrity in France and Ireland has now been recorded in Scotland for the first time, say researchers at Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
The rare sighting of a lone bottlenose dolphin following a ferry between Oban and the Isle of Mull on Tuesday 2 December triggered some rapid detective work at the conservation charity after consulting with colleagues in the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). Bottlenose dolphins are not unusual in the Hebrides, even during winter – but the normally social species usually occurs in small groups, with individuals rarely seen alone. By using photo identification techniques – studying the dolphin’s distinctively scarred dorsal fin – the trust’s experts identified the animal as a renowned individual that made international headlines through its unusual behaviour when last seen in September – in Galway in Ireland, some 600 kilometres away from the Sound of Mull.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time that Clet has been recorded in Scotland, and in fact this is the furthest north he has been recorded to date,” said Dr Conor Ryan, Sightings Officer at Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (and former Science Officer with IWDG). “Bottlenose dolphins are usually considered to be resident to certain areas, so long-distance international movements such as this challenge our understanding of this species, and also challenge our ability to protect them using Marine Protected Areas alone.”
The male dolphin was named by locals from Cap Sizun, Brittany in France, where he used to follow fishing boats between 2008 and 2010. He then travelled to Cornwall, Devon and Wales before appearing in West Cork in Ireland in mid May 2014, where he spent several weeks interacting with boats and swimmers. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group then recorded his movements along Ireland’s west coast to Valentia, County Kerry. The last recorded sighting of Clet was on 28 September 2014 at Inis Óirr off Galway Bay. Although not confirmed, he was thought to be responsible for a dolphin attack on a group of swimmers in Salthill, Galway in early October. The RNLI ensured that the swimmers were able to get to shore without harm, but unfortunately the incident resulted in some sensational news headlines.
Pádraig Whooley, Sightings Officer for the IWDG said: “We think it’s remarkable that Clet’s movements can be tracked to the Irish south and west coasts from France via English and Welsh waters, using images from the general public. The addition of Scotland after a two month interval brings his known tally of passport stamps to five countries and counting, and shows the need for international collaboration when trying to monitor these highly mobile marine mammals.”
Solitary dolphins such as Clet do not pose a threat to people in boats, but can be aggressive towards swimmers. The biggest danger to solitary dolphins is injury from boats, as the animals appear to seek out vessels to interact with. The deep gash on Clet’s dorsal fin may be from coming to close to boat propellers.
Wildlife photographer Nic Davies, who recorded Clet close to shore from Craignure on the Isle of Mull this week, said: “I was out photographing otters when I heard a loud blow sound just out from the shore, and then I spotted the dolphin heading at speed towards a departing ferry.”
Clet may remain in the Sound of Mull area for weeks or even months, as he has done in other areas. Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust is asking boat owners to be respectful and to give Clet the space he needs, and hopes that the dolphin will continue to enthrall onlookers from the shore and from the ferries, which he has been bow riding in the Sound of Mull.
Report update 29/09/2014
IWDG Galway member and whale watch enthusiast Sandra O' Donovan reports from Inis Oirr that both Clet and Dusty (Sandy) remained together over the weekend and the latest validated sighting of the pair was Sunday 28th Sept. There appeared to some quite tactile behaviour between the two and it is difficult to interpet this but we can't rule out that there may have been some courtship...certainly, they are both of the requisite genders. Again, we urge caution from swimmers who may be lured into the water to swim with this pair, as we've received at least one report of what may have been some aggressive swimming by "Clet".
Report update 23/09/2014.....
He started his Summer 2014 Irish tour in West Cork in May, by late summer he presumably got bored and moved on to Valentia Island, Co. Kerry, where he was reported between 6th-9th September. Then we lost the trail ...until yesterday when "Clet" showed up off Inis Oirr Island, Aran Islands, Galway Bay. The initial tip off was via Liz Sandeman Co-founder of Marine Connections,UK and shortly afterwards was followed with sightings by regular recorder Paddy Crowe. Paddy confirms that "Clet" was with Dusty (Sandy) and that the pair were still off the pier on Inis Oirr this morning 23rd Sept.
This latest move up the Western seaboard to the Aran Islands is another 100 mile hop from his last known sighting off Valentia Island. We pondered a few weeks back, what might happen when/if "Clet" met Fungie in Dingle, which never seemed to happen. But he seems to be hitting it right off with Dusty/Sandy. All the "health & safety" concerns about swimming with "sociable" bottlenose dolphins apply. We remind swimmers that both these individuals have a track record in interacting/playing "aggressively" with swimmers. Tracking the movements of this well-marked individual bottlenose dolphin is turning out to be an intriguing exercise. The two questions we're left pondering are how long will he remain at this stopover, and when he departs, as depart he will, where will his sonar take him next?
Report update 09/09/2014
Photographs from the Valentia Isl. ferry confirm that at 16:30pm, 8th Sept "Clet" was interacting with the Knightstown Kerry. This is important as it is the 2nd confirmed sighting of him now around Valentia Isl., Co. Kerry. Again, all the warnings we issued to swimmers in West Cork should apply now to the locals in West Kerry. He is best left alone and there have been a few unsavoury incidents in recents months involving swimmers. He's a very well travelled animal...enjoy him safely.
"Clet"....Report Update 08/09/2014
The lack of sightings or commentary on social networks in West Cork since early September suggested to IWDG that the Solitary adult male bottlenose dolphin known as "Clet" may have moved on. So it came as little surprise to us when we received a report of a bottlenose dolphin from Ashley Edmunds, who observed one as their tour boat returned to Portmagee after a trip out to the Skelligs in Co. Kerry. The following description "the superior part of the dorsal fin appeared injured with a portion of it missing" suggested that this could indeed be Clet, and images forwarded to us on 7th Sept indeed confirm the unique dorsal fin, which tell us that this solitary bottlenose dolphin has now moved some 100KM to the west into Co. Kerry. The report suggests that "Clet" may have been in this new area over the past few days. Initially reported to IWDG on 16th May off Rosscarbery area, by late May early June he was a regular feature in places like Glandore and Baltimore. So it looks like the Dingle Bay area now has a second adult male "solitary" bottlenose dolphins. Interesting times! We'll keep you posted on how this situation evolves and whether there is any interaction between "Clet" and Dingle's more famous Fungie.
"Clet" Report update 30/07/2014
Reports from Ray Bow on 28th July refer back to an incident on July 26th off the Sherkin Island pontoon/marina area, which suggests that the solitary bottlenose dolphin known as "Clet" may not be enjoying the attention being paid to it by swimmers in recent weeks in West Cork. .... " We are aware of a report of an adult swimmer nearby in wetsuit and mask from a yacht at anchor being aggressively pushed underwater by the dolphin. They got a bit of a shock as a result." The report goes on to say that the dolphin attacked twice and lashed out with its tail.
Although this is another anecdote, it again points to the need for people to exercise common sense and extreme caution in how best to enjoy an interaction with this very large, apex predator. As Always, IWDG's advise is not to get into the water with it, and to enjoy the animal from the safety of the shore or from one of the local whale watch boats or licenced ferries. Bottlenose dolphins are not cute and cuddly, they are not our "friends" and nor do they benefit in any meaningful or long term way from interacting with humans. The evidence from those in the UK and France who are more familiar with this individual than we are here, is that "Clet" does not seek out humans to swim with, and we feel this says enough!
Do not confuse the shape of their jawline with a smile. They can and do cause serious injury to humans and have killed in the past. So please, to those in West Cork who may find themselves in the company of this wonderful and wild mammal, enjoy it, but stay safe.
"Clet" Report update 15/06/2014
IWDG member, Paul Leech reports that "Clet" was interacting with boats all day on Sunday 15th June off Rock Island, Crookhaven, West Cork. No incidents were reported and boats seemed to be respectful of his space. He is certainly not roaming too far away from the area, and it will be interesting to see if he chooses to stay here for the Summer season.
"Clet" Report update 11/06/2014
Although not in chronological order, this latest sighting report from 4th June between Tragumna and Toe Head area of West Cork has been forwarded to IWDG by David Morton, UK. David's initial impression from the sighting was that the bottlenose dolphin was giving birth. Alas, the small size and triangular shape of the dorsal fin on the smaller cetacean confirm it to be a harbour porpoise. Such interactions between bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises are invariably aggressive and routinely result in the death of the porpoise, by blunt traumas from ramming, which can result in serious internal injuries.
These aggressive interactions have been documented by IWDG previously on several occasions in West Cork and are likely to be a common occurence in all Irish inshore waters, where the ranges of these two coastal species overlap. This is an interesting insight into "Clet" and is another good reason why people should not swim with him or any "solitary" bottlenose dolphin....they are wild animals, that should be respected as such.
"Clet" Report update 08/06/2014
The latest sightings report to IWDG confirm that "Clet" was once again off Glandore Harbour, Co. Cork on Sunday morning 8th June, just below the square area, where he was interacting with boats. Thanks to Angela Fahy for this report. Please forward any further sightings and/images to www.iwdg.ie
"Clet" Report update 06/06/2014
We can report that sightings with images (below) sent to the IWDG from Kathleen Hayes in Glandore Harbour confirm that this visiting bottlenose dolphin known as "Clet" was in Glandore harbour, Co. Cork yesterday 5th June interacting with local sail boats. The IWDG consider it important to monitor his movements over space and time, and the best way of doing this is using the existing network of dedicated recorders who are passionate about cetacean conservation and who record local observations for validation by the All-Ireland Cetacean sighting and stranding schemes.
The effective monitoring of highly mobile marine mammals can not be done locally, but requires a collaborative approach. IWDG have always promoted and encouraged local biological recording of cetaceans and would encourage local groups to continue to forward sightings data to IWDG, so that your data can contribute to a much larger regional, national and international picture.
Ireland welcomes its newest solitary dolphin – with a note of caution!
Ireland has recently become home to a new solitary bottlenose dolphin. The male dolphin named Clet, who has a history of long distance relocations, has recently moved to the scenic West Cork coast having been sighted both in Schull and Baltimore harbours.
Clet, who originated in French waters, has spent the last number of years off the South Devon, Cornish and Welsh coastlines. Recently, however, he has moved from the Tresco Channel in the Isles of Scilly to the Southwest coast of Ireland. The IWDG understand that Clet is a non-social solitary dolphin who does not seek out and engage with swimmers. This once again raises the issue of the appropriate treatment and management of these solitary dolphins, particularly dolphins which have not been habituated to human presence and contact.
So why are these dolphins solitary and why do they seek out human interaction? And if they seek out human interaction, then surely it is no harm to indulge the animal? Unfortunately, this is not so!
While we do not fully understand why some bottlenose dolphins lead solitary lives we do know that these are not unique incidents. There are a growing number of solitary cetaceans being identified around the world. Many authors have studied solitary dolphins and have documented significant changes in the behaviour of these animals over time. Much of the evidence produced suggests that these changes in behaviour are learned and develop as a result of interactions with humans. Wilke et al. (2005) identified four stages of evolution from a solitary, non-human-habituated dolphin to a highly interactive human-habituated, “solitary sociable” dolphin.
Stage 1 the dolphin first appears and remains in a new home range that is sometimes a very small (often less than 1 km2) and restricted area. The dolphin may follow boats (in most cases fishing boats) or inspect fishing gear but does not yet approach humans.
Stage 2 the dolphin may regularly follow boats. Locals become aware of the dolphin’s presence and attempt to swim alongside. The dolphin appears curious but stays some distance from the swimmers.
Stage 3 the dolphin becomes familiar with the presence of a limited number of people who may have deliberately attempted to habituate the mammal. Interactions may include swimming in close proximity or diving side by side, and the dolphin now allows touching and allows the dorsal fin to be held for swimmers to be pulled along.
Stage 4 the presence of the dolphin becomes widely known, often assisted by significant media exposure. Visitors from outside the local area come to see and swim with the dolphin, who soon becomes a major tourist attraction. Inappropriate human behaviour may provoke unwanted and even dangerous behaviour in the dolphin, including dominant, aggressive, and sexual behaviours directed at humans.
Most of the solitary social dolphins are conditioned in this way to the presence and contact of humans. Many spend long periods of time in shallow waters facilitating encounters with small groups of people who swim with them. However, as their profile builds and the number of swimmers increases many of these animals become exposed to harassment and inappropriate human contact including being chased; grabbed at; being touched on sensitive areas of the body such as the head and blowhole; with some swimmers, remarkably, even attempting to be towed along by a pectoral or dorsal fin or to ride the animal by straddling its back.
This increased interaction results in a change in the behaviour of the dolphin. Natural, normal behaviours such as diving, feeding and resting behaviours decline in frequency in the presence of humans. The animal seeks out interactions, becomes increasingly forceful in these interactions and begins to exhibit behaviour hazardous to swimmers in the water. Documented behaviours include preventing swimmers from leaving the water by repeatedly swimming in front of them to intercept their exit, increased activity levels and force of activity, tail slapping and breaching in close proximity or on top of swimmers. Dolphins have also been shown to bite or butt swimmers. People wishing to fulfil a desire to engage in an encounter with a dolphin may not consider the animal’s needs and might, either accidentally or intentionally, harass or harm the dolphin. As humans, we do not possess the power to communicate with these animals and therefore we cannot understand how our actions will be interpreted by a wild dolphin, regardless of whether that dolphin is seeking contact with humans or not. Therefore, interacting with a wild dolphin has significant potential to increase the risk to the health and safety of swimmers.
The expression of natural behaviour is one of the most important indicators of good animal welfare. The fact that the dolphin’s natural behavioural patterns of diving, feeding and resting are interrupted in the presence of humans can be interpreted as a sign of reduced welfare. Moreover, habituation and attraction to humans and human activity are considered learned behaviour and can be hugely detrimental to the health and welfare of a solitary dolphin. Two possible functions of habituation, de-sensitisation (decreasing responsiveness to a stimulus over time) and tolerance (tolerance manifests itself by the animal remaining near a stimulus regardless of its negative significance) can also be harmful to a sociable dolphin. De-sensitisation and tolerance have been associated with injuries consistent with propeller strike and entanglement in fishing gear and/or ropes. This is a direct result of habituation to humans and boats leading to desensitisation and tolerance of the risks associated with boat traffic and fishing gear. In one documented case a solitary social bottlenose dolphin died as a result of an opportunistic bacterial infection from a pathogen common in polluted near-shore waters, which may have entered the animal’s body through wounds sustained from human activities such as these. Therefore, the risks posed by habituation and attraction to humans and human activity to the health and welfare of a solitary dolphin are quite real.
It is understandable that people seeking a more intimate interaction with one of nature’s most fascinating animals may wish to enter the water, swim with and even touch a bottlenose dolphin. However, before we pursue this activity purely for personal self-gratification please stop and consider the implications for your personal safety and the welfare of the dolphin. All dolphins are wild animals and as such are not comparable to domesticated or companion animals which we are more familiar with. All dolphins deserve to exist as wild animals. If our interaction with them threatens this right then we should withdraw and leave the animal alone.
We still have a lot to learn about these solitary individuals. Our best chance of improving our understanding is through study and education and not interaction. Therefore, the IWDG ask for the help of the public in tracking and monitoring the travels of Clet while he remains in Irish waters and strongly urge people not to enter the water in a attempt to habituate him to humans.
Please log on to www.iwdg.ie and join Irelands’ growing network of conservationists by recording your sightings of "Clet", and all other cetaceans, seen around the Irish coastline.
Wilke, M., Bossley, M., & Doak, W. (2005). Managing human interactions with solitary dolphins.
Aquatic Mammals, 31, 427–433.