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published a review - Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

published a review - Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

Milestones 2008 IWDG, in

Milestones 2008 IWDG, in collaboration with GMIT, commences PReCAST (Policy and Recommendations for Cetacean Acoustics, Surveying and Tracking) project (2008-2011). A personal reflection of a journey Emer Rogan Emer Rogan is a lecturer in UCC, specialising in the conservation biology, ecology and management of marine mammals. She is a longstanding member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. She acted as the main contact for strandings, but was also treasurer (1991-1995), co-ordinator (1995-2000) and director (2000-2010). May 2008 IWDG delivers its first Cetacean Post-Mortem Workshop, held at GMIT. May 2008 IWDG delivers Ireland’s first Marine Wildlife Tour Operators Course on Cape Clear Island, Co Cork. Marine Wildlife Tour Operators certificate. It doesn’t seem like 21 years ago that we were sitting in a room in Dublin discussing whether to establish the IWDG. It was a smallish group of people with some big ideas – the biggest being Brendan Price’s sanctuary for whales and dolphins in Irish waters – but the fundamental idea was to raise awareness of the importance of these waters for whales and dolphins – not just Fungi! From these original ideas came a small committee of volunteers, a logo and a newsletter. There were public meetings which alternated between Dublin and other venues around the country, including Cork, Sligo, Belfast and Dingle. We attended Connemara Sea Week, our membership grew, we developed a more organised strandings programme, then sightings forms, and then a whale and dolphin sanctuary was declared under the last of Charles J Haughey’s governments – a very good start! From there came exhibitions at the ENFO centre, applications for funding to support public events, and the publication of our cetaceans ID poster, with and without the “half-way” mistake (what???). We published the Face to face with a beached whale handbook on dealing with live-strandings, and we issued Irish whale & dolphin sanctuary tee-shirts and a sanctuary discussion document. Then, with the help of other organisations, including SeaWatch Foundation and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a more structured sightings programme was developed. This even included a dedicated survey on board IFAW’s Song of the Whale yacht in the Mayo offshore. Ireland hosted the International Whaling Commission’s 1995 annual meeting in Dublin. The IWDG marked this event with a performance by Macnas of Moby Dick in St Stephen’s Green, in front of a large audience. All this against a background of low, but increasing, public awareness of cetaceans and the marine environment in Ireland. Nowadays, thanks to huge changes in technology, communication is much faster and easier. We use mobile phones instead of looking for phone boxes to try to get directions to dead marine animals on beaches. We use digital cameras instead of printing photos to validate strandings. We use GPS instead of maps to get ‘lat-long’ positions. And, of course, we have the enormous advances in computer and wireless broadband technology. IWDG has whole-heartedly embraced all these new technologies. The IWDG website is the “front-of-house” for all information and communications on matters whale and Harbour porpoise, River Bann, Coleraine. © Geoff Campbell. 24 Irish Whale & Dolphin Group 1990-2011

dolphin in Ireland. It provides a wealth of up-to-date information on strandings and sightings, news and events. Of course, behind the website are many people whose energy and enthusiasm continue to drive the IWDG forward. The committee members and directors. The people who run the sightings courses to improve our identification skills. People who inform us of areas where cetaceans can be seen from cliff-tops. People who run observers programmes on ‘ships of opportunity.’ People who run strandings courses, who teach rescue skills, who pull together the magazine. People who highlight issues and deal with the media, and who write funding applications to sustain the work of the IWDG. Despite the changing technology, these are the people who continue to push forward, probably working harder than ever raising awareness, making Brendan’s sanctuary a reality as opposed to a paper exercise. Did we achieve our aims of increasing awareness of whales and dolphin in Irish waters? I think the answer is undoubtedly ‘Yes!’ Through persistence, adaptation, engagement with the media and continued success with funding, the general public is now more aware of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and know there are more dolphins than Fungi in Irish waters! The organisation is bigger, with more members, which presents its own challenges. But it has still at its core people who believe in the principal objectives of increasing the profile of cetaceans in Irish waters, highlighting issues and gaps, and coming forward with solutions. It was a fitting tribute to all this work that the IWDG inherited CJ Haughey’s yacht, Celtic Mist. The yacht will give IWDG greater flexibility to explore the less-studied waters beyond the coastal zone, and to carry out increased dedicated sightings surveys. It will also help IWDG continue to enhance our awareness and knowledge of cetaceans in Irish waters, leading to better conservation and management. How the sanctuary was declared David Cabot David Cabot was educated at Dartington Hall School, University College Oxford, and at Trinity College, Dublin. He taught zoology in University College, Galway, and worked for 20 years for An Foras Forbartha. He has worked as a consultant in eastern Europe for 10 years, and was Special Advisor on Environmental Affairs to the Department of the Taoiseach for four years. He is a documentary film producer, lecturer and broadcaster, and author of four major books. Milestones 2008 IWDG appoints Patrick Lyne as Marine Mammal Observer Co-ordinator. September 2008 First Irish blue whale is photographed in offshore southwest waters by IWDG member Ivan O’Kelly. September 2008 IWDG hosts its second international conference, “Muc Mhara,” in Killiney, Co Dublin. © Ivan O’Kelly The declaration of Irish waters as a whale and dolphin sanctuary on 7 June 1991 was a seminal moment in the history of whale and dolphin conservation throughout Europe, and indeed the world, as well as for Ireland and the IWDG. Since the declaration, the IWDG has gone from strength to strength and has become one of the leading and inspirational organisations in Europe, and indeed globally, for all things whales and dolphins. And hopefully the whales and dolphins in our waters are also saying their special squeaky thanks. All Irish people can be extremely proud of the care and attention we are today affording our whales and dolphins. Following the inaugural meeting of the IWDG at UCC in early 1991, the IWDG proposed to government that they should introduce an Order under the Wildlife Act 1976 to create the Proceedings of “Muc Mhara,” the IWDG international conference held in Killiney, Co Dublin, in September 2008. Continued next page → Irish Whale & Dolphin Group 1990-2011 25

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