Anthony Quiligan and his father Simon fought to save the young male dolphin when it got caught in their fishing net, but it died in Anthony’s arms. “It’s a terrible thing to happen. It’s the saddest day’s fishing I’ve ever had,” said Anthony.
The Quiligans were using draft nets under licence to fish for salmon a short distance downriver from Cork city, near the Lower Glanmire Road. “We were hauling the nets when I saw the dolphin jump out of the water about seven feet behind the net,” Anthony said. “He went back under water and we started to haul the nets faster to get them out of the way, but I saw the net’s floats go under and I knew he was caught.” The pair waded out and pulled the dolphin ashore to cut the nets. “He was alive when we got him ashore. We were just getting the last bit of net off his tail, and I was holding his head up out of the water. We wanted to save the creature, but he died in my arms,” Anthony said. “We’ve been fishing there all our lives and this never happened. We’re just shocked. It will take a while to get over it.” The teenage dolphin was one of three who have been swimming in the river Lee for the past few days, to the delight of shoppers.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group says it is unusual but not without precedent for dolphins to enter a city environment. Sometimes they are pursuing fish and other times they follow a sick member of their pod. Scientists at UCC will carry out a post-mortem today on the dead dolphin. Dr Emer Rogan of UCC’s department of zoology said the dolphin most likely “dry-drowned” after going into a state of shock. “But we can’t rule out whether it was sick beforehand.”
There is no plan to try and remove the remaining dolphins from the Lee, as doing so might cause more harm than good, a spokesman for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Padraig Whooley, said. “We won’t be rushing to force them out because they might be feeding — you have to be careful about making assumptions in these situations. It’s unusual they are there and we would prefer they were not, but if they were to be forced out, they could become stressed, making the situation worse,” he added.