Wally the Walrus is on the move again with marine observers hoping he will make his way north, back to his Arctic home. He has been spotted in Ireland, the UK, France and even Spain this year.
But the growing phenomenon of Arctic mammals leaving their habitat and arriving in Ireland is of major concern for marine observers. Emer McGovern, the founder of the Ocean Research & Conservation Association Ireland (ORCA Ireland) described the data as “shocking”.
ORCA Ireland developed an app where people who spot marine mammals such as sharks and dolphins can take a picture and record the GPS location.
“What we are seeing in the citizen-science crowdsourcing of data is that multiple Arctic species are showing up here and that is worrying,” Emer said.
“You have to ask, what the hell are these animals doing here? It does raise a lot of questions about climate change. We have had so many Arctic pinnipeds - seals, sea lions - in our waters. People used to think climate change affects developing countries but it is coming much closer to home.
“I know Wally is a big story, but he was certainly not the first Arctic species that we have recorded in Irish waters in recent years. We only have two resident seal species in Ireland but we are getting Arctic vagrants and that is very worrying. Seal Rescue Ireland rescued a rimmed seal pup. And we also had a bearded seal in Timoleague in 2017.
“I’d hope we won’t see more (Arctic species), but sadly it is something that is happening more often.”
Emer and her colleagues have been working flat out to try to make a site for Wally so that he can rest. But their main efforts have been to try to keep people away from him.
“Wally hasn’t been seen now in a few days. We are just waiting to see where he pops up. We are trying to keep people back from Wally, that really is our main message. We need to keep our distance and respect these wild animals.”
Emer revealed a “ludicrous” situation that arose recently where a woman on a recreational vessel tried to board the boat where Wally was resting and get a selfie with him.
“We had fishing vessels, recreational vessels and ecotourism vessels all harassing Wally. He is an 800kg animal with tusks. He is a wild animal. He sunk two boats because he is so big that when he gets out, they overturn.
“If he got a fright and got spooked the boat could have flipped and she could have been injured. We were on land looking at him with binoculars and had a perfect view.”
Emer is appealing for anyone who spots Wally to alert ORCA Ireland, but adds - “If you see Wally, leave him alone.”
Source – The Irish Independent