Extent of whale and dolphin watching
Irish waters were designated as Europe’s first whale and dolphin sanctuary in 1991 and, to date, 25 species of cetacean have been recorded in Irish coastal and offshore waters. Ireland’s rocky cliffs provide excellent vantage points for shore-based whale watching, and for the past two decades or more boat-based whale-watching have also been offered in Ireland. However, in relation to other tourism activities in Ireland, this industry is still relatively small-scale. There are few, if any, marine tourism operators in Ireland that focus their activities on wild cetaceans alone.Throughout the country whale-watching is more frequently localised and opportunistic, depending on weather conditions and species occurrence, and is often offered as one of a number of integrated local sightseeing activities. However, an increasing number of operators are beginning to focus their activities on wild cetaceans, with dedicated whale watching trips (almost) year- round in Reen Pier, near Union Hall and Baltimore, County Cork. .
Target species, peak times of year and locations:
Existing whale-watching and dolphin-watching ventures are concentrated around the southern Irish counties particularly Counties Cork, Kerry and Clare (see map below). In two locations (i.e., Dingle Harbour, the Shannon Estuary) resident and reliably occurring coastal dolphins provide a key tourism focal point. Wildlife tourism in these two locations has been successful and more sustainable, also incorporating a focus on marine environmental education. More detailed information on where and how to watch whales and dolphins in Ireland can be found in the table below, via the Ireland Whale and Dolphin Group's website, Fáilte Ireland link, and on the Ireland’s Wildlife, or Europe’s Wildsea websites. Whale watchers who want to contribute to science and conservation can also report their whale or dolphin sightings via the IWDG site here.