The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has urged people not to swim with or use any craft to get close to a dolphin who appears to have made his home in Carlingford Lough in Co Louth.
Known locally as Finn, the dolphin has become a popular attraction off Greenore and Carlingford, but concerns have been raised after recent pictures appeared to show cuts on his back.
The injuries were highlighted in a post on the Carlingford Lough and Cooley Peninsula Facebook page last month.
A spokesperson for NPWS said it “cannot go into too many specifics on reported incidents in Carlingford Lough pending further investigation”.
“We would urge the public not to swim with Finn or to go close in any craft,” the spokesperson added.
“We have not had a chance to fully investigate the reported injuries.
“However, we are aware, as is the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, An Garda Síochána and Louth County Council and an investigation is ongoing.
“The NPWS works closely with Louth County Council and all local authorities on matters similar to this.”
In 1992, the Irish Government declared all Irish waters a whale and dolphin sanctuary.
All dolphin species are protected in Ireland and in Irish waters under the Wildlife Act 1976, which affords specific legal protections.
The NPWS spokesperson added: “It is also an offence under regulation 51(2)(b) of the Birds and Habitats Regulations to deliberately disturb dolphins.”
The best-practice guidelines in encountering whales and dolphins offshore are contained in Marine Notice 15 of 2005, which the NPWS said includes “a raft of advice for boat operators”.
Liz Sandeman, co-founder of Marine Connection – an organisation dedicated to the conservation, protection and welfare of dolphins, whales and porpoises – said she was pleased the NPWS was “also urging the public not to interact with the dolphin in close proximity by way of an initial deterrent; however, anyone found to be deliberately harassing Finn should be subjected to a fine”.
In relation to his recent injury, Ms Sandeman said that although it was not life-threatening, “it could have led to an infection and still proved fatal”.
“We don’t know what caused the injury, but it has reinforced the need for people to watch and enjoy the dolphin only from shore,” she added.