ANTI-SHELL campaigners are concerned about the planned Mayo gas pipeline damaging dolphin habitats after recent sightings of up to 20 of the mammals locally.
The bottlenose dolphins were spotted off Broadhaven Bay in north Mayo over the past two weeks. Many were young and campaigners say the adult mammals are similar to ones spotted previously.
Objectors to the planned Shell gas pipeline — due to run across the bay — fear dolphins may not return to the secluded spot if pipe-laying work goes ahead.
“They were smack bang in the middle of where they have carried out dredging before,” said Shell to Sea’s John Monaghan, who captured images of the dolphins.
“In some of the pictures you can clearly see young with them. It appears the same group of dolphins [identified from marks on their dorsal fins] have been in the same waters in the last two years, so along with the young, this may indicate that they are resident rather than visitors.”
Shell to Sea warn any largescale industrial activity could harm the bay’s habitat.
“The seismic activities associated with the offshore exploration and the recent survey work in the bay itself, could have very serious effects on mammals because they depend on sonar,” they said.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has now begun an investigation into the recent bottlenose dolphin sightings in Broadhaven Bay.
The group’s co-ordinator Simon Berrow said it was important if the mammals were returning to the Mayo bay. If true, it would increase the environmental significance of a region that is already a special area of conservation.
A survey of Broadhaven Bay carried out by UCC’s Coastal and Marine Resources Centre on behalf of the Corrib gas partners in 2001, revealed varied species of mammals in the area.
A total of 223 mammal sightings were made in and around the bay over a 12-month period, including different species of whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks.
The “biological significance of the area should not be overlooked,” the UCC report concluded.
Shell yesterday said every effort would be made to identify concerns in or around the bay once pipeline work begins. A spokeswoman confirmed dredging took place in the bay previously in 2005 but that there were marine mammal observers aboard the ship.
It was too early to speculate on any activity that this pipeline building would produce, she said.
Shell admit all of its plans to link the offshore section of its gas pipeline will come into or run across Broadhaven Bay.