The inshore distribution and abundance of small cetaceans on the West Coast of Ireland: site assessment for SAC designation and an evaluation of monitoring techniques
To date, 24 cetacean species have been recorded in Irish waters. These are protected by a range of legislation, including the Whale Fisheries Act, the Wildlife Acts and the EU Habitats Directive, which oblige Ireland to maintain cetacean populations and their habitat at a favourable conservation status. Policies aiming to maintain conservation objectives must be underpinned by scientific research. In this chapter, historical and recent research on cetaceans in Irish waters (within the EEZ) is reviewed in order to evaluate present knowledge and identify gaps in research. This information includes historical (pre-1976) records, targeted and incidental land, vessel and aerial based observations, acoustic surveys and monitoring as well as information from strandings. The habitat requirements of most cetacean species are not fully understood but some important habitats have been identified. A number of threats to the welfare of cetaceans in Irish waters have also been identified, including fisheries interactions, pollution, climate change and disturbance. Future research required to fill gaps in knowledge highlighted by this manuscript is considered and discussed.
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