Seven of us went up from Dingle to Fanore to see the dolphin the weekend of the 13th/14th April. We had some great swims with her and will soon post detailed reports on a new ‘Dusty Diary’ page.(see Graham's report for now..) However we were disturbed to hear rumours that some people in the area want to ‘get rid of’ the dolphin. It is not clear who exactly is behind this threat or how exactly they propose to achieve this but it is a threat we are taking seriously.
It is strange that in most parts of the world the arrival of an interactive dolphin is seen as a blessing, whether in personal or economic terms, whilst in Clare it is being seen by many local residents as a disaster. The same thing happened when ‘Dusty’ was in Doolin. For some reason the dolphin is getting the blame for all the weaknesses in our own, human, social system. If only the dolphin would go away, no-one would have to think about the conflict between public access to the seashore and the rights of private landowners. If there was no dolphin to draw the crowds, we maybe wouldn’t notice that we are addicted to motor cars and yet do not provide enough places along our roadsides to stop or park them out of the way. If the dolphin wasn’t so friendly, there would be no danger of possibly incompetent swimmers hopping in the sea with her. The absurd legal situation whereby you can sue a property owner if you trip over in his field (and win), or the council if they don’t protect you from swimming in the ocean, was not invented by the dolphin. Yet the resolution of these issues proposed by some people seems to be to blame the dolphin rather than those who govern and administer our own society!
We don’t want to see another ‘dolphin circus’ in Fanore, but nor do we think that swimming with friendly dolphins should be exclusively for those who can afford to take a cruise in the Bahamas. As more and more people hear about the opportunity to see and swim with the Fanore dolphin, inevitably the local facilities will need some improvement. Car parking is already a problem on a busy day and the issue of access has to be sorted out, preferably by agreement between the local landowners and the council. Safety of swimmers and the wellbeing of the dolphin are other issues to be considered, and with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) we have already called for the appointment of Dolphin Wardens, who could also have some of the functions of lifeguards. We have also published a Code of Conduct giving practical and coherent guidelines for people wanting to swim with Dusty. Hopefully Clare County Council will soon call a meeting with all the responsible bodies such as the IWDG, the Garda Siochana, Duchas etc to discuss how the situation could best be managed. Instead of seeing the dolphin as a problem, our hope is that her presence will come to be seen as a great opportunity and a boost to eco-tourism in West Clare, as has already happened in Dingle and the Shannon estuary.
Dolphins are of course protected by law in Ireland and there is absolutely no justification for interfering in any way with her freedom to go where she chooses and settle there for as long as she wants. Any attempt to restrict her liberty or harm her in any way would have to be approved by Duchas, the state agency responsible for wildlife. It is hardly conceivable that Duchas would grant a licence for such an intervention and nor would the IWDG assist with such a plan. Nevertheless it has happened before in similar situations that misguided people have taken the law into their hands and our fear is that one day we will find another dead dolphin washed up on the rocks. Few wild animals anywhere in the world are so trusting and easy to approach as this dolphin and it would not be difficult to injure or even kill her. Even if such a crime were later taken seriously and prosecuted, it would be too late to make a fuss then, so that is why we are now broadcasting what at the moment is only a rumour. At least one sympathetic local man, from whom we heard this story, is keeping his eyes open and noting down any unknown car number plates and we hope this will be enough to deter any individuals who wish the dolphin harm. Meanwhile we continue to press for further discussions in respect of a rational and sensitive management plan.