Fears for Dolphins in Ratty River, Co Clare

Concern has been expressed for the safety of three dolphins which have made their way into a river in Co Clare where it's now feared they will strand and die, writes Pat Flynn.

Rescue services were called out on Sunday evening amid fears that members of the public would enter the Ratty River in Bunratty to save the common dolphins which had made their way up the Shannon Estuary from the Atlantic.

Members of the public socialising in the village spotted the dolphins at low tide just 20 metres north of the bridge at Durty Nellys pub. Dozens of locals and tourists gathered on the bridge and on the riverbank to see the mammals.

Image by Google Earth.

Concerned observers raised the alarm and the Irish Coast Guard (IrCG) rescue coordination centre on Valentia Island in Co Kerry alerted the Killaloe unit of the service.

It had been feared that some people would enter the water in an effort to save the dolphins and so volunteer rescuers travelled almost 50 kilometres from their base in Killaloe in an effort to avert a possible tragedy.

Members of Bunratty Search and Rescue had already launched their rescue boat and as water levels rose, team members tried without success to coax the dolphins towards the bridge and back to deep water.

A Coast Guard spokesman said: "We were called after Valentia expressed concerns that members of the public would try to enter the water to try and rescue the dolphins and endanger their own safety.

When the team arrived the dolphins were in a deep pool of water above Bunratty bridge. Bunratty Search and Rescue had put a small RIB in the water but despite the high levels in the river the dolphins remained there and couldn't be coaxed out," the spokesman added.

After members of the public had dispersed and with weather conditions deteriorating, it was decided to leave the dolphins in the hope they would make their way down river later in the night however they were still there last night (Monday).

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has expressed concern that the mammals will die in the river.

Coordinator Dr Simon Berrow said: "I've never heard of common dolphins moving up river like that. The furthers east I've known them to go is Scattery Island near Kilrush. It would be very hard to coax them back to the ocean. I wouldn't be concerned if they were bottle-nosed dolphins because they go up-river quite often and should be left alone. I am concerned that these will strand and die."