IWDG was founded in 1990
to establish an All-Ireland  sighting and stranding scheme and to campaign for the declaration of Irish territorial waters as a whale and dolphin sanctuary.

Since then, the group has grown in numbers to become what it is today, a diverse group of people from varying backgrounds with one thing in common, a passion for whales and dolphins and the marine environment. The IWDG is a registered charity (No. CHY11163), registered with the Charities Regulator (RCN: 20029913) and receives funding from a range of sources., such as core funding from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment through the Irish Environmental Network, grants from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, membership subscriptions, corporate sponsorship, donations and consultancy work.

Martin Sheldrick, Simon Berrow, the late Oscar Merne and Johnny Woodlock at the first
Irish Whale and Dolphin
Group meeting in
UCC on March 1991


The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group was formed first at a meeting in December 1990 in the newly opened ENFO on St. Andrew’s street, Dublin. Brendan Price of the newly formed Skerries Marine Watch called a meeting to gain support to declare Ireland a Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary. About 40 people attended the meeting and supported the sanctuary proposal and agreed to form a group of people interested in whales and dolphins, hence the name. Dr. Don Cotton was elected as its chair.

IWDG 21st Anniversary Review

The first official IWDG meeting was held in UCC the following March at which the Sanctuary proposal was finalised and sent to the then Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey. 

On the 7th of June 1991, the Irish Government declared Ireland an Irish Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary which was a remarkable first achievement of the newly formed group. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group strive to make this an effective sanctuary.

Click here to read our archived Newsletters from 1990-2006

In 1995 Ireland hosted the International Whaling Commission in Dublin during Michael D. Higgins tenure as Minister for Heritage

In 1995, Ireland hosted the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Dublin during Michael D. Higgins tenure as Minister for Heritage. At this meeting, the Irish commissioner was elected vice chair of the IWC and two years later became chair. During his chairmanship, he negotiated a deal with the Japanese which would have allowed commercial whaling, providing there was an 

extension of whale sanctuaries worldwide. This was known as the ‘Irish proposal’.  It was was vehemently opposed by environmentalists at the time. However with Japan recently announcing their return to commercial whaling, coined the Irish Proposal it  now doesn’t seem such a bad idea .

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins became the groups sole Patron in 2012

Our mission is to promote better understanding of cetaceans & their habitats through education & research. We carry this out by: the collection & distribution of information and collaboration with universities, government & research groups

Whale Tales

Whale Tales is our annual gathering of the IWDG where we share our stories and get to see the faces behind the names of those involved in the IWDG.

We move this gathering around to different areas of the Island each year. We went South-West this year, to CECAS, Leap, West Cork and it was FIN-TASTIC!


Find out more

A Human Fluke – Whale Tales 2023

Our Team

IWDG Directors

The responsibility of the Board of Directors is to ensure the IWDG comply with their legal obligations and requirements. The board is formed from a number of individuals interested in the work of the IWDG.  We always try to ensure representation from Northern Ireland as well as the Republic of Ireland.  

Directors are appointed at the AGM. If you are interested in standing for the board please email directors@iwdg.ie

IWDG Officers

Officers are responsible for day to day running of the IWDG and delivering a range of projects from conservation to research including running our vessel Celtic Mist as well as running our sightings and stranding schemes and the Shannon Dolphin Research  and Education Centre in Kilrush. Each summer we also facilitate volunteers from all over the world to help us and gain experience.

If you are interested in taking on an officer role within the IWDG please contact ceo@iwdg.ie

IWDG Videos

  • Identifying and Recording Whales and Dolphin in Ireland


  • Footage from the IWDG RIB in the Shannon Estuary


  • On The Trail Of The Whale tour of Ireland


  • Humpback whales socialising off West Cork, April 2019


  • Whale Shark off BoaVista, Cape Verde Island


  • Dolphin Strandings in Irish Waters


  • Stranded Sperm whale at Mace Head, Carna, Co. Galway


  • Sperm whale floating off Connemara


  • Celtic Mist in Grand Canal Basin, March 2019


  • Crossing the line Footage for IWDG


  • Feedback from the Trail of the Whale library tour, Kilkee, Co. Clare


  • Andrew Shine, MMO IWDG Consultancy


Documentaries featuring IWDG

  • Return of the Humpback Whale by Canola Pictures in 2002.
  • Wild Trials by Crossing the Line with Ray D’Arcy and Mike Brown for RTÉ in 2004.
  • Wild Journeys by Crossing the Line for RTÉ in 2010.
  • Inside Nature’s Giants for National Geographic and Channel 4 in 2010.
  • Living the wildlife with Colin Stafford-Johnson in 2010 and 2015.
  • Autumnwatch for BBC Two in 2011.
  • Monty Halls Great Irish Escape for BBC Two in 2012.
  • Winterwatch for BBC Two in 2012.
  • Ireland’s Ocean by Sea Fever Productions for RTÉ in 2014
  • The One Show for BBC One in 2015.
  • Humpback whales of Cape Verde by Canola Pictures for TG4 in 2016.
  • Britain’s whales presented by Ben Fogle on ITV in 2016.
  • Wild Ireland: The Edge of the World by Crossing the Line for RTÉ in 2017.
  • Ireland’s Deep Atlantic presented by Ken O’Sullivan of Sea Fever Productions for RTÉ in 2018.
  • A Wild Irish Year by Crossing the Line for RTÉ in 2018.
  • On the Trail of the Humpback Whale by Canola Pictures for RTE in 2021
  • RTE Summer Show on the Shannon Dolphins, August 2022
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