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Conservation - Protect the Shannon Dolphins

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Dolphin Discovery

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Dolphin Discovery

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We are dedicated to the protection of the Shannon Dolphins and their habitat and work closely with Dr. Simon Berrow, Project Manager for the Shannon Dolphin & Wildlife Foundation to ensure our trips are carried out in a dolphin friendly manner.

The attraction of dolphins to people is unquestionable; the presence of a resident group of bottlenose dolphins provides the opportunity for long term planning in a sustainable dolphin watching industry. There is a fine balance between providing the opportunity for people to observe whales and dolphins in their natural environment, with the increased understanding and respect that this nurtures, and avoiding excessive and debilitating disturbance to the animals.

In August '99 Dủchas-the Irish Heritage Service took the first concrete steps to ensure the conservation and protection of the local population of dolphins by nominating the Shannon estuary as Ireland's first marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC) making dolphin watching a notifiable activity.

On Friday 2nd June 2000 Minister Sile de Valera TD launched "Saoirse na Sionna" (Freedom of the Shannon). This is a tour boat accreditation scheme for dolphin-watching boats in the Shannon estuary and a very important event in the conservation of bottlenose dolphins in the Shannon estuary and for the development of sustainable dolphin watching. It marked the first contribution by the newly formed Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation and was the culmination of hard work by a number of committed people and organizations including dolphin-watching operators, Duchas, regional authorities and local people. All vessels that are approved under the scheme fly the dolphin friendly flag and abide by the following codes of conduct.

Codes of Conduct

  1. A maximum speed restriction of 7 knots applies to an area south of a line joining the cardinal buoys Beal Bar – Tail of Beal to Kilconnelly Point, as this is an important habitat for dolphins.
  2. When vessels first see dolphins they should maintain a steady course, reduce speed (<7knts) and monitor the dolphins heading. Attempts should be made to steer a parallel course to the dolphins
  3. DO NOT PURSUE DOLPHINS, allow the dolphins to come to the vessel not you to them. 3. Maintain a minimum distance between vessels of 200 m.
  4. No more that 3 tour boats in the vicinity (<500m) of the same group of dolphins at any one time.
  5. Vessels on the same group of dolphins should maintain a serial course to each other if at all possible. DO NOT CORRAL BETWEEN VESSELS.
  6. Successive boats should follow the same course and come astern.
  7. Maximum time in the proximity of any one group of dolphins is 30 minutes per vessel, per trip.
  8. New vessels into dolphin encounter zones should make VHF contact with existing vessels on Channel 8.
  9. There is to be no swimming with dolphins from commercial tour boats.

These codes of conduct also apply to recreational craft, such as yachts, RIBs and jet skis when they are on the Shannon estuary.

We were the first operator in the Shannon to fly the dolphin friendly flag and the “Dolphin Discovery” will carry on this proud tradition.

Failte Ireland
National Parks and Wildlife Service Accredited Operator
Dolphin Gateway Committee Member
SDWF Committee Member

Clare Live The Life
Dolphin Gateway
Committee Member
Dolphin Discovery, Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland.
Tel: +353 65 9051327 Email:info@discoverdolphins.ie