Dusty, or Sandy as the dolphin is sometimes called, has taken up residence along the sandy beach at Inis Oírr.
Dusty, who has frequented the beaches of North Clare since 2000, was in the news during 2013 after injuring four people in separate incidents, that have since been blamed on members of the public antagonising the bottlenose dolphin
The most serious of four recent incidents occurred on July 28th last in which a swimmer sustained a compressed vertebrae, broken rib and injuries to her lungs after she was ‘rammed’ by the dolphin. She was later airlifted to the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick for treatment.
Last year’;s incidents has led the Irish Whale and Dolphin Foundation (iwdg) to hold discussions with Galway County Council and Comhar Caomhán Teo to allay public fears about the dolphin’s presence in the waters off Inis Óirr.
An IWDG spokesperson said: “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, other are reporting aggressive encounters and are being hit by the dolphins tail or less occasionally rammed.”
“There is great concern on the island that Sandy might cause serious injury. The sandy beach at Inis Oírr is really the only place people swim and during the summer up to 120 students attend the summer school and swim at the beach. In July, swimming lessons for children are also held on the beach and again real concerns are being expressed that Sandy might injury swimmers.”
“The IWDG recently attended a meeting on the island with representatives of Galway County Council and Comhar Caomhán Teo, Inis Oírr. 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. IWDG agreed to prepare posters and leaflets for distribution on the island advising about these concerns. It was agreed that the option of excluding a part of the beach so swimmers can swim without being exposed to Sandy needs to be explored. There are lifeguards on the beach only at weekends so the beach is generally unsupervised. A proposal for a “Dolphin Warden” has been received by Galway County Council under Agenda 21 funding but it is unlikely this can be processed in time for the remaining summer season.”
“IWDG along with Galway County Council and Comhar Caomhán Teo, Inis Oírr ar etrying to make the Sandy experience positive and encourage everyone visiting or living on the island to not swim with sandy but admire her from the pier, shore or boats. The island welcomes all visitors, including Sandy, but does not want any harm to come to anybody, ” the spokesperson added.