Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation
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RIB near a dolphinAlthough the Shannon dolphins have been studied since 1993, still relatively little is known about their ecology and behaviour. We still do not really know how many dolphins use the Shannon estuary, whether the numbers are increasing or stable or the social structure of the dolphins.

Ongoing research is essential to increase our knowledge and share the wonders of bottlenose dolphins and the marine environment with people of all ages. You can contribute by providing photographs of dolphins (see Photo ID Catalogue).

What research has been carried out on the Shannon dolphins?

The first research project was carried out from May 1993 to September 1994 and funded by Shannon development. It was a feasibility study to assess whether commercial dolphin-watching was viable (Berrow, S.D., Holmes, B. and Kiely, O. 1996).

After this preliminary work a much larger study was funded by the Marine Institute as part of an audit of marine resources (Rogan et al, 2000 and Berrow, S.D. & Holmes, B., 1999). Part of this work was also included in a PhD thesis which is the most comprehensive study of the Shannon dolphins (Ingram 2000).

In an attempt to try and identify the main threats to bottlenose dolphins in the Shannon estuary recent studies have focused on quantifying these threats before an assessment can be made. A study in 2000
(Berrow, S.D., McHugh, B., Glynn, D., McGovern, E., Parsons, K. Baird, R.W. and Hooker, S.K., 2002; download PDF file) obtained blubber samples using biopsy darts to measure concentrations of persistent pollutants (such as DDt, PCBs, Lindane, etc).

Acoustic analysisDolphins live in an acoustic world and the main threats to them are likely to be from acoustic disturbance. In the summer of 2002 a study was carried out to try and determine the levels of ambient noise in the estuary. This could be used to assess the noise produced by point sources such as dolphin tour boats, jet skis, industry etc as well as providing a baseline for long term monitoring of noise levels in the estuary (Berrow, Holmes and Goold, 2002).

The SDWF has also carried out research and monitoring projects for environmental impact assessments including an acoustic study at the Shannon crossing of the Bord Gais pipeline and monitoring dolphin behaviour around dredge operations as part of compliance with Disposal at Sea licences.

Dolphin sightings from the Shannon Ferry

Since 1993 Shannon Ferry Ltd have been recording dolphin sightings from their ferries crossing the estuary between Tarbert, Co Kerry and Killimer, Co Clare. This dataset now spans 10 years and is a very useful contribution to our knowledge of the dolphins seasonal distribution and abundance.

Sighting rate (sightings per trip) of bottlenose dolphins from the Shannon ferry (1993-2000)

Fechín, the deformed dolphin calf

A deformed dolphin calf was filmed in the Shannon estuary in August, 2003. read more...
30 November 2003

Dolphin Acoustic Deterrants tested in Shannon estuary

The SDWF have just completed successful field trials on a new acoustic deterrant, developed by BIM to deter dolphins from trawl nets. read more...
25 July 2005

Rare whale recovered by the SDWF

A rare, pygmy sperm whale stranded in Co Kerry has been recovered by the SDWF and its skeleton will be prepared for display in the centre. read more...
3 December 2005

Shannon dolphin Photo-ID catalogue upgraded

The Shannon dolphin ID catalogue, which contains dorsal fin images of 175 dolphins, has been upgraded with the 2005 field data read more...
10 February 2006

SDWF on RTEs "The Estuary"

The work of the SDWF will feature on RTE 1 on 11 May at 19:30 as part of the programme "The Estuary: Secret of the Shannon" read more...
8 May 2007

Do the Shannon dolphins have a local dialect ?

Recent research by the SDWF suggests the Shannon dolphins may have some distinct whistles types similar to a local dialect. read more...
14 May 2007

Shannon Dolphin ID catalogue updated

The Shannon dolphin photo-identification catalogue has been updated with new and recent images of 200 individual dolphins. read more...
18 July 2007

New Study shows dolphins as abundant in winter as summer

A new study published by the SDWF shows that botlenose dolphins are as abundant in the inner Shannon Estuary during the winter as the summer. read more...
4 January 2010

New study published on Shannon Dolphin social structure

A new study has recently been published on the social structure of the Shannon dolphins. read more...
23 November 2010

Shannon dolphins under threat from Persistent Pollutants

The bottlenose dolphins living in the Shannon Estuary are the least contaminated in Europe, a new study has shown, but levels are still above the toxic threshold thought to impact on their health and reproduction. read more...
28 January 2016

Research Assistants Required for 2019

The Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation is seeking research assistants to conduct boat- and office-based bottlenose dolphin research and education May-September 2016 in Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland. read more...
19 November 2018

Foley et al (2010) Social structure of Shannon Dolphins
Download PDF file (546 KB)


Note on PDF files: These files can be read using Abode Acrobat Reader, which you can download for free. To save a PDF file to your hard drive right-click the link and select Save Target As...


Photo ID catalogue
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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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