Inis fear — swimmers warned to beware of dolphin

Swimmers at an Inis Oírr beach have been warned to tread carefully around a bottlenose dolphin which has been showing off the diva within, having taken exception to her personal space being invaded, with some aggressive encounters, including ramming, resulting in injuries.

The dolphin, previously known as Dusty, had frequented the beaches of north Clare since 2002, becoming a popular attraction around Doolin in particular. It is understood that the dolphin had been teased and mistreated by some swimmers and at least four people were hospitalised in recent years after she became aggressive and attacked them. In April, major works which involved blasting began at Doolin prompting Dusty to make a new home at the sandy beach at Inis Oírr where she has been well received by locals and has been dubbed Sandy.

However, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, there is great concern on the island that Sandy might cause injury as the sandy beach is very busy during the summer as it is the only place suitable to swim for locals, swimming lessons for children, and students attending the summer school.

According to IWDG: “Dusty, or Sandy, is an amazing dolphin, showing no fear of humans and actively seeking out swimmers to interact. While many people claim to have had fantastic encounters with Dusty, others are reporting agressive encounters and are being hit by the dolphin’s tail or less occasionly rammed.”

The IWDG recently attended a meeting on the island with representatives of the Galway County Council and Comhar Caomhán Teo, Inis Oírr, and it was decided that “doing nothing was not an option and people visiting Inis Oírr need to be warned of the potential dangers of swimming with Sandy”. Posters and leaflets have been distributed around the island advising people about these concerns, and other options including reserving a section of the beach for people to swim without being exposed to Sandy. As there are lifeguards on the beach only during weekends a proposal for a dolphin warden has been received by Galway County Council under Agenda 21 funding, however, it is unlikely this will be implemented in time for this year’s summer season.

Attempts are currently being made by IWDG in conjunction with Galway County Council and Comhar Caomhán Teo, Inis Oírr, to make the Sandy experience positive but visitors and locals are asked not to swim with the dolphin, and instead admire her from the pier, shore, or boats.

IWDG added: “The island welcomes all visitors, including Sandy, but does not want any harm to come to anybody.”

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