IWDG Ferry Surveys - Dolphinmania on the Irish Sea.

22nd Jun 2003 On 21st June Nick Channon,Faith Wilson, Dave Wall, Suzanne Byrnes and Fiona Leap carried the IWDG Ferry Surveys June survey from the bridge of the MV Ulysses and MV European Diplomat, on Irish Ferries' Dublin-Holyhead route and P&O's Dublin-Cherbourg route.

Expectations were high as the calm seas, light winds and good light offered superb environmental conditions for cetacean observations. The results were to say the least impressive, and yet again prove that the south and southwest of Ireland can claim no monopoly on our marine megafauna.

Dublin-Holyhead

On the 3hour outward journey the team encountered harbour porpoises, common dolphins and a single minke whale. The highlight of this leg was a group of c30-40 common dolphins in mid Irish Sea traveling in a northeast direction.

Having docked in Holyhead the surveyors were well pleased with their findings and were confident that the return leg would produce equally impressive encounter rates. They weren't wrong.

On the homeward journey that had further encounters of the same three species, with a near continuous stream of common dolphins bow-riding the Ulysses right up to the Kish lighthouse. The highlight was two more minke whales crossing in front of the ship's path at close range.

The day's tally was 26 sightings, 4 of which were of harbour porpoises, 19 encounters were of common dolphins and 3 sightings of single minke whales. Whether this activity level reflects the seasonal abundance or merely the prevailing calm conditions are unclear and will require long-term monitoring by IWDG before trends become apparent.

Dublin-Cherbourg

Surveyors on this route are more used to large numbers of dolphins but we don't usually see them so far up the Irish Sea.

After an initial sighting of the familiar back of a harbour porpoise, the next sighting seemed larger than life. A quick double take was needed to confirm that the breaching animal infront of the ship was not a Killer Whale, but a Risso's Dolphin... 3 of them. The sighting, just past the Codling Bank, was little surprise as these Risso's seem to have been in the area for some weeks now.

Earlier than last month, and before reaching Rosslare, common dolphins started appearing on the bow. They soon passed below – only to appear in the wake, breaching and surfing. The common dolphin sightings continued until well past Rosslare.

Things quietened down after that until a lone minke made the briefest of appearances as we crossed the mouth of the Bristol Channel, this was followed a short time later by a group of 20-30 common dolphins who, unusually, ignored the ship and passed us to starboard. A great end to a great days sightings on the Irish Sea.

For Full Details & Maps check out the IWDG Ferry Surveys website: http:www.iwdg.ie/ferrysurveys

· Are you interested in Irish cetaceans or sea birds?

· Do you own binoculars and frequently find yourself sea-watching?

· Have you any relevant experience and a little spare time?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, then you might like to become involved in this project. For further details on the Irish Sea surveys contact:

Nick Channon

Survey Manager - Dublin/Holyhead

Email: nick.channon@iwdg.ie

Dave Wall

IWDG Ferry Surveys - Project Director

Survey Manager - Dublin/Cherbourg

Email: dave.wall@iwdg.ie

The IWDG Ferry project is a collaboration with Irish Ferries on the Dublin Holyhead route and P&O Irish Sea Ferries on the Dublin-Cherbourg route.