The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) have put up posters around Doolin slip and harbour warning about the hazards of swimming with Dusty, the bottlenose dolphin.
After another swimmer was badly hurt by Dusty in Doolin Harbour last Thursday, Clare County Council contacted Simon Berrow of the IWDG to ask if they would prepare signage to erect around the pier warning people about the dangers of swimming with Dusty.
Apparently the woman, who was visiting the area from Westport, Co Mayo was rammed in the abdomen by the dolphin and was transported to A&E in Galway Hospital. At least three or four other people have been rammed so hard by Dusty, resulting in their being admitted to hospital. One woman was medivaced back to Germany after she was rammed by Dusty in Fanore. This may only be the tip of the iceberg.
It is IWDG policy to discourage people swimming with whales and dolphins in Ireland. The risk is not only to humans but also to the dolphin as habituation to humans increases risk of injury or death to the dolphin. Around 80% of such interactions worldwide end up in the death or severe injury of the dolphins involved.
IWDG drafted a poster recommending people do not swim with Dusty, but if they must then they should respect her as a wild dolphin and do not grab, lunge or chase after her. If she shows agressive behaviour or is boisterous they should leave the water. This poster was approved by Clare County Council and 20 posters were distributed locally on Thursday morning. The local lifeguards were consulted and posters tied to the railings on the pier. The ferry boat operators working out of Doolin were especially grateful that somebody was addressing this issue and an additional 10 posters have been sent to Doolin so every vessel can display them.
IWDG acknowledges that many people have had a fantastic encounter with Dusty and have built up a personal relationship with the dolphin. However IWDG is very concerned that many visitors, especially in the summer, do not recognise the signals that Dusty sends out when she is not happy with their behaviour. Ignoring such signs or behaving inappropriately has led on a number of occasions to aggressive interactions with some people being severly injured.
If this continues, it may lead to a fatality and there will be strong pressure to remove or destroy the dolphin. If you really are concerned about Dusty you will not swim with her, or at least if you do, you should show her the respect a wild dolphin is entitled to. Dusty has been in North Clare at least since 2000, where she was first seen around “the jump” near Doolin. The IWDG held a public meeting in 2000 to discuss with the local community what might be the implications and consequences of her long-term presence in the area. That winter she moved to Fanore and also spent extended periods in Miltown Malbay but has now returned to Doolin.
IWDG, together with the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation will continue to monitor the sitauation and work with the local community and authorities to ensure the dolphin, and people, do not come to harm.
Credit to Irish Whale and Dolphin Group for bringing this to our attention.
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