IWDG embark on Whale Sanctuary tour of Ireland on Celtic Mist

Posted on: 10th May, 2016

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

IWDG are embarking on an ambitious three-month tour of Ireland to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ireland being declared a Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary. The tour will depart Fenit, Co Kerry on May 7 and travel clockwise around the island of Ireland recording whales, dolphins and porpoises to celebrate Ireland’s’ rich marine biodiversity. The 25th Anniversary Sanctuary Cruise will be onboard the IWDG vessel Celtic Mist, which was donated to the IWDG by the Haughey family in 2012.

whaleOn June 7, 2016 it will be 25 years since the Irish government declared all Irish waters a Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary. Dr David Cabot, Special Advisor on Environmental Affairs to the Department of the Taoiseach at the time described the declaration as “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”.

At first the immediate reaction to this declaration was criticism and hilarity, questioning what would it mean to establish a sanctuary and where was the legislation for such a move. However, as time passed, support grew both nationally and internationally and the sanctuary became a rare positive and strong statement about whale conservation from a sovereign government. Following the announcement of the Irish whale sanctuary, the Irish government supported attempts to create a Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 1993 and claim to have increased its area by hundreds of thousands of km. Following this engagement with international whale conservation, Ireland hosted the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Dublin in 1995 and the Irish Commissioner was voted Chair of the IWC in 1997. Ireland was centre-stage in international whale politics, as well as whale conservation.

Prior to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary Declaration few people in Ireland knew there were whales in Irish waters. Many are still not aware. The Sanctuary Declaration helped enormously to raise awareness and subsequent government action including provision of funding, has helped to further our knowledge and better understanding of the ecology and conservation status of whales and dolphins in Ireland. This momentum has continued to this very day, although overtaken by obligations to Europe. However, every government conservation initiative on whales and dolphins, and there have been many, states in the preamble that Ireland declared its waters a whale and dolphin sanctuary in 1991. Political will is a necessary precursor to government action and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary Declaration certainly paved the way, nationally, internationally and locally. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary Declaration came only three months after the newly formed Irish Whale and Dolphin Group proposed this ambitious statement.

Dr Simon Berrow, Chief Science Officer with the IWDG said “it’s ironic that 25 years after this ambitious declaration the IWDG are sailing on Charles Haughey’s old yacht to celebrate the Irish Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary”. Ireland is fortunate is so many ways to have such rich marine life and we want to engage with all those interested from coastal and fishing communities to government departments and agencies to ensure we protect this wonderful resource”.

The IWDG will be celebrating this declaration during the 25th Anniversary Sanctuary Cruise, which departs Fenit on May 7 and is due to finish back in Fenit at the end of July. Onboard will be marine biologists and IWDG members to talk knowledgeably about whales and dolphins and the IWDG and welcome members of the public (and members) onboard.

The tour intends to take in as many festivals and maritime events as possible and visit schools and coastal communities along the way. We hope to sail up the Liffey in the heart of Dublin on June 7, 2016 to mark the anniversary of the declaration. Members and the public will be able to track the position of the vessel in real time on www.iwdg.ie and we will be posting blogs, images and video of our tour of Ireland as we go.  While in port, we will be calling into schools and coastal communities to deliver talks and carry out education and outreach events.

If you would like to learn more, or find out how to get involved please email celticmist@iwdg.ie for more information.

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