Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation
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Saoirse na Sionna

Saoirse na SionnaOne attempt at promoting sustainable dolphin-watching in the Shannon estuary was through the development of an eco-label called Saoirse na Sionna (Freedom of the Shannon). As all tour boats must obtain permission from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to dolphinwatch in the estuary the SDWF developed a scheme to promote these boats and encourage best practice. By providing potential customers with a method of easily identifying accredited operators it was hoped that dolphin-watchers will only choose to go out on these boats, thus forcing all operators to adopt good practice.

Accredited operators must:
i) Abide by the Conservation Plan: this plan developed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is still in draft form but the intention is to try and control the total number of hours dolphin tour boats are in the vicinity of dolphins.

ii) Abide by the Code of Conduct: this code attempts to influence the behaviour of boats when they are around dolphins. This includes steering a parallel course to dolphins rather than approaching head on and limiting the time with dolphins to 30 minutes per group per trip (see Code of Conduct). This Code also applies to recreational craft in the estuary and not just commercial vessels.

iii) Demonstrate competence in environmental education and species identification: The SDWF hope that after a dolphin trip people will not only have had a fabulous experience but have learnt a little about dolphins and their ecology. On a dolphin trip you may see many other species of interest including grey seals and seabirds as well as sites of historical and cultural significance. These can enhance a dolphin-trip if operators can tell their customers a little about what they are seeing.

iv) Provide monitoring data; in order to ensure that the impact of tourism is kept to a minimum and that the dolphins are not disturbed too much a monitoring programme is in place. This has been carried out by the SDWF on behalf of the National Parks and Wildlife Service since 2000 and has shown that although there is an increase in the number of trips each year their has been no significant change in the monitoring indices (see Monitoring).

Operators who are accredited for dolphin-watching by National Parks and Wildlife Service (Accreditated Operators) were to be awarded a Saoirse na Sionna flag to fly from their dolphin-watching vessel. Visitors to the Shannon estuary were asked to only go dolphin-watching with those vessels which fly the flag, thus guaranteeing that these vessels and operators are adopting good practice and minimising their impact on the dolphins.

This scheme has not been successful and the Saoirse na Sionna eco-label is not adopted, however all tour boat operators still must obtain permission from National Parks and Wildlife Service.


Saoirse na Sionna
Code of Conduct
Accredited Operators


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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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