The number of dolphins and whales washing up on Irish coasts reached record levels last year, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG)
Some 263 cetacean strandings were reported around all of Ireland, 44 more than the last highest level in 2013.
Dr Simon Berrow, chief science officer of The IWDG’s chief science officer said that the increase in strandings is “unprecedented”.
He told a Cork radio station: “At least 12 species were reported, with the common dolphin being by far the most common, with harbour porpoises a distant second.”
Deep diving offshore species such as sperm whales were rarer but had been stranded on three occasions. For only the seventh time in 17 years, a killer whale washed up on Irish coastline with one appearing at Roundstone in Galway.
Last year, a study of dead whales, dolphins and porpoises in Ireland found that nearly one in 10 were found with marine debris in their systems. In most cases they had ingested plastics including in one stranded whale a shotgun cartridge, an ice cream wrapper and fragmented plastics. Deep diving species tended to have more plastics in their systems.
Dr Berrow said: “This study shows that while larger marine debris is widespread and consumed by nearly 10 per cent of those individuals studied, the smaller fractions, known as microplastics are ubiquitous occurring in all whales, dolphins and porpoise examined.
“We don’t know the consequences of this form of pollution but clearly microplastics are now ubiquitous in the marine environment.”