Moonlight & Starlight Welfare Advice

Welfare advice issued to keep resident dolphins from harm (July 2023)

“People are reminded that under the Isle of Man Government’s Wildlife Act 1990, it is an offence to disturb any dolphin, whale, basking shark or seal intentionally or recklessly.
Anyone caught doing so shall be guilty of offence.
If you have evidence of someone causing disturbance you can call the Isle of Man Constabulary on 01624 631212
Ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer”

Moonlight and Starlight are the Isle of Man’s resident, and locally famous, bottlenose dolphin mother and daughter. Despite being a pair, they exhibit behaviours associated with ‘social solitary’ dolphins, an unusual circumstance where an individual chooses to interact primarily with people and watercraft over living with other dolphins. 

They often display behaviour such as bow-riding vessels, spending time inside our bays and coming amongst swimmers, paddleboarders and kayakers. This can understandably elicit a lot of excitement from observers, but leaves them very vulnerable to disturbance, anti-social behaviour and boat strike.  Sadly, two dolphins of a similar nature, ‘Danny’ in Dorset and ‘Nick’ Ireland, were both killed as a result of being hit by boat propellors in recent years. ‘Dusty’ in County Clare has been known to ram into and injure swimmers which may have been aggression or rough play.

Liz Sandeman of Marine Connection in the UK commented “Sadly, the more dolphins become habituated through prolonged human contact, the greater the potential for accidents and injury to both the dolphin and members of the public. Dolphins are powerful marine mammals and have been known to seriously injure people when thrashing their tail or butting them with their rostrum.  It is vital that guidelines are closely followed to ensure the welfare of the dolphin which itself can become injured during interactions, sometimes fatally.” 

Jen Adams of Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch said “Moonlight originally hails from the Moray Firth and came to the Isle of Man in 2019 when heavily pregnant, giving birth to Starlight in the September. Since January 2020, the pair have been on their own, and frequently enter our bays to feed in extraordinarily shallow waters within close proximity to the shoreline. Starlight displays strong ‘solitary dolphin’ attributes, approaching swimmers, paddleboarders and kayakers. It is vital that our local community is educated in what to do and what not to do if approached by these dolphins. MWDW has been working with Marine Connection and British Divers Marine Life Rescue to put together our Moonlight and Starlight Code of Conduct.”
It is a great privilege that Moonlight and Starlight have chosen the Isle of Man as their home and that so many people are able to watch them easily from the shore. We, as the Manx community, have a duty of care to ensure they are safe to enjoy our coastal waters for as long as they choose to remain here.

Thank you to British Divers Marine Life Rescue and Marine Connection for their welfare advice regarding solitary dolphins. Click on the logos for more information. 

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