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Shannon dolphin tour boat monitoring report 2006

Results from the Shannon dolphin tour boat monitoring carried out in 2006 on behalf of the National Parks and Wildlife Service are now available.

This was the seventh season of monitoring dolphin tour boats in the Shannon estuary. Trip records were received from 403 dolphin-watching trips, which was only 2.6% less than 2005, however if the extra 20 trips carried out by the operator in Kilbaha is included then the decrease is only 1.8%.

This follows a trend with trip numbers down each year since 2001. The recommendations from 2005 were largely been adopted which has led to nearly a full dataset from which to derive monitoring indices.

The length of trip was consistent with previous years but the time to locate dolphins from Carrigaholt increased by 20%. There was little change from Kilrush. There was also a slight change in the location in the estuary where dolphins were observed with a switch from Zone 1 to Zones 2 and 3 from Carrigaholt and a switch from Zone 3 to Zones 6 and 4 from Kilrush. Group size was down from Carrigaholt and up from Kilrush. This is supported by information from the operator in Kilrush who consistently found large groups of dolphins upriver around the Shannon ferry, which meant fewer trips were made to the west into Zone 3.

The data from the photo-identification was consistent with nearly two-thirds of dolphin observed were the same dolphins in the previous year. The total number of hours on dolphins increased during 2006 to nearly 220 hours. Some of this increase can be attributed to poor record keeping during 2005, which resulted in a lower figure than actually occurred. The figure from 2006 was more consistent with 2002 and 2003. Trips from Kilrush exceeded the recommended allowance of 30 minutes per group per trip on 60% of occasions but some of this could be explained by the difficulties in determining when an encounter starts and finishes.

The figures presented for 2006 are consistent with the trends identified in 2005 where, for the first year, there were some notable changes in the monitoring indices. Most pronounced is an apparent shift in the distribution of dolphins from the outer to the inner estuary, resulting in increasing group size and encounter rate. Clearly there are inter-annual changes in the distribution and group composition of dolphins in the estuary and only continuation of long-term monitoring will help to understand trends.

Full report is available on the Conservation page under Monitoring

 


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The SDWF is supported by the following agencies... Shannon Development Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Marine Institute Clare County Council Kilrush Urban District Counil
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