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Temporal and spatial trends in stranding records of cetaceans on the Irish coast, 2002–2014

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2016

Barry McGovern
Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Merchants Quay, Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland Namibian Dolphin Project, Waterfront, Walvis Bay, Erongo, Namibia
Ross M. Culloch
Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Merchants Quay, Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland MaREI Centre, Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork, Beaufort Building, Co. Cork, Ireland
Michael O'Connell
Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Merchants Quay, Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland
Simon Berrow
Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Merchants Quay, Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland Marine and Freshwater Research Centre, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway, Ireland
E-mail address:


Using Irish strandings data collected between 2002 and 2014, seasonal and annual trends in the number of strandings for all strandings identified to species level (N = 1480), and for the five most frequently reported species: common dolphin (25.7% of records), harbour porpoise (22.2%), long-finned pilot whale (8.8%), striped dolphin (6.9%) and bottlenose dolphin (6.9%) were investigated. With the exception of bottlenose dolphins, there was a significant linear increase in the number of strandings across years for all species and for all strandings collectively, that were identified to species-level. Only common dolphins demonstrated a significant increase in the proportion of records relative to all other strandings, which may be indicative of a real rise in the number of strandings of this species. Common dolphins and harbour porpoises showed a similar significant difference in monthly strandings, with more strandings occurring during the earlier months of the year. Significant differences in the gender of stranded animals were found in common, striped, bottlenose and Atlantic white-sided dolphins and sperm and pygmy sperm whales. Live and mass stranding events were primarily comprised of pelagic species. Most strandings occurred on the south and west coasts, with two hotspots for live and mass strandings identified. The patterns and trends identified are discussed in relation to the caveats in interpreting strandings data. Specifically to Ireland, the findings highlight the urgent need to build on the current volunteer reporting network and augment this comprehensive dataset with post-mortem examinations to better understand the cause of the trends identified. The importance of strandings data in informing conservation and management guidelines of these species’ is discussed.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2016 

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Temporal and spatial trends in stranding records of cetaceans on the Irish coast, 2002–2014
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