Monday 24 November 2014

Concerns for dolphin as work begins on €6m pier

JOY ORPEN

Published 15/06/2014 | 02:30

Fungi the dolphin
Fungi the dolphin
ATTRACTION: ‘Dusty’ the dolphin has been living along the Clare coast since 2000

SERIOUS concerns about the future of a bottlenose dolphin are being raised as contractors prepare to build a new pier.

'Dusty' has lived along the Co Clare coast since 2000. She is something of a celebrity in certain circles but she has also been vilified following several attacks on swimmers in recent times.

In 2012, Dusty moved to Doolin and became an attraction for tourists taking the ferries to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.

A couple of months ago, she suddenly left Doolin and settled in Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands. She remains in the general area hunting for food or following boats.

But concerns over the dolphin's welfare have been raised after Clare County Council successfully applied to An Bord Pleanala for permission to build a €6m pier at Doolin – about 70 metres from the existing pier.

A group of loyal supporters are deeply concerned by the effects the blasting of bedrock may have on Dusty's sensitive sonar system. Jan Ploeg, who has been swimming with Dusty since 2002, told the Sunday Independent: "I'm sure the technology is good but it's the sound waves I'm worried about.

"Sound travels much faster under water than on land. It could hit her ears and damage her sonar. That is our main concern.

"She has very good eyesight but the waters around Ireland are often murky so she uses sonar to find her food. If her sonar were damaged she wouldn't be able to feed herself and would slowly starve to death."

Sean Killeen, project manager for L&M Keating, the construction company awarded the Doolin contract, said last Wednesday's blasting was being postponed due to "unexpected issues".

He said all necessary precautions would be taken to ensure the safety of all marine life. "We have to follow the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement)," he said.

However, according to Mr Ploeg, since the exclusion zone is only 500m, it will not be any guarantee that marine animals such as Dusty will be spared damage from the sound waves.

Dr Simon Berrow, CEO of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said his organisation have now been tasked with implementing a 500 metre exclusion zone during the blasting process.

"This would involve patrolling the area in a rib during a 60-minute pre-watch period to ensure no marine mammals were in the vicinity of the blasts," he said.

Councillor Johnny Flynn, who is himself a civil engineer said he had had some serious concerns when this development was first proposed but having seen the EIS he had been reassured.

Sunday Independent

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