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To: The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD
Make North Kerry a Marine Protected Area for bottlenose dolphins
We ask you to consider extending the boundary of the current Lower River Shannon SAC to include both Brandon and Tralee Bays in North Kerry as they represent significant habitats to the protected Shannon bottlenose dolphin population.
Why is this important?
The Shannon Estuary is one of the most important sites in Europe for bottlenose dolphins and was designated as a marine protected area in 2000, covering 684km2 from Limerick City, Kerry and Loop Head. Around 120 dolphins occur in the Shannon and have around 8 calves each year and are considered genetically different to other bottlenose dolphins in Ireland.This small but unique population has been studied for over 20 years by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
A recent study showed that bottlenose dolphins are regularly encountered in Tralee and Brandon Bays during the summer months. Using a technique called photo-identification, where individual dolphins are recognised by unique markings on their dorsal fins recorded from photographs, researchers recorded an extremely high number of dolphins from the Shannon population present in the bays. Nearly two-thirds of the current adult dolphin population estimate of 108 were identified in the study.
Results showed a high percentage of Shannon dolphins were identified and re-sighted within the bays providing strong evidence that these areas represent significant habitats for the Shannon dolphins. The IWDG therefore have recommended that the boundary of the Lower River Shannon SAC be extended to include both Brandon Bay and Tralee Bays in order to provide legal protection of these habitats.
The Lower River Shannon SAC was designated in order to protect the Shannon dolphin population. Therefore, its boundaries should include areas where these dolphins are known to regularly occur.
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