Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has announced that an Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) project has been awarded £15,000 through the DOE Environment Fund.
The funding will be used to monitor dolphins and porpoises in the seas off Portrush and the Giant’s Causeway.
The funding is part of the Environment Fund managed by DOE which has been made available to eligible organisations to protect and improve our habitats, the quality of our air and water, promote health, wellbeing, resource efficiency and sustainable economic development and access to the natural environment.
Announcing the fund, Mr Durkan said: “This is good news for the IWDG and for those with a passion for marine wildlife. The project will use modern technology to provide a better understanding of the occurrence of porpoises and dolphins in our waters. It will also make recommendations for future monitoring programmes for this internationally important site.
“The outreach programme with local schools and the community will further cultivate this enthusiasm for marine conservation both now and for future generations with more people encouraged to report sightings of these exciting marine mammals.
“DOE’s budget suffered heavy cuts this year. I pledged that I would try and find funding to continue to support environmental groups and projects across the North in the future. I am pleased to be able to award £15,000 to IWDG as a part of this wider Environment Fund.”
Cathy Hinds from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said “The IWDG are extremely grateful for the funding offer and are looking forward to studying the porpoises and dolphins of the North Antrim coast and to promoting their conservation with the local community.”
The fund will enable the IWDG to investigate patterns of occurrence of porpoises and dolphins within the Skerries and Causeway Special Area of Conservation by using sophisticated acoustic monitoring devices to record their communication calls.
This will provide information on seasonal patterns and the habitat preferences of the dolphins and porpoises living off the North Coast.
Results from close to the coast will be compared with those from further offshore and they will also be related to the land based monitoring records that have been gathered at the site since 2009. This information is critical for developing monitoring programmes and fulfilling the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive.
Minister Durkan concluded: “I commend the IWDG for applying to the Fund to advance our knowledge of these fascinating mammals, which are a conservation priority in the marine environment.”