05/04/12 – Minister Deenihan opens new exhibition at Ballycroy National Park, Westport
Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, today, Thursday 5 April 2012, officially opened a new exhibition on Mayo’s Whaling Past in the Ballycroy National Park, Westport, County Mayo. The exhibition tells the story of this unique chapter in Ireland’s maritime and natural history.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has put together a photographic exhibition which captures Ireland’s historical whaling past and in particular the two whaling stations that operated off Rusheen Island, Inishkea Islands (The Arranmore Whaling Station) and off Ardelly Point, the Mullet Peninsula (The Blacksod Whaling Station).
Speaking in advance of the opening Minister Deenihan said “In 1991, the Government declared the seas around Ireland a whale and dolphin sanctuary. More recently, in 2009 a conservation plan was published, building on from this and I recently launched a public consultation process to support the management of risk to marine mammals in our Irish waters.”
The exhibition provides a window to the past –between 1908 and 1925 some 985 whales were landed of our coastline, these included the Blue Whale, Fin Whale, Humpback Whale and Sperm Whales. The products derived from their catch included oil, whalebone, fertilizer and meat which was duly exported to Scotland and to Norway. At that time, the practice of commercial whaling had been banned in Norway due to depleting numbers.
Minister Deenihan thanked Professor James Fairley, author of ‘Irish Whales and Whaling’ the seminal work on the natural and commercial history of whales and whaling in Ireland. “The priceless photographic record of whaling stations, so generously provided by Prof. Fairley lets us see the whaling stations as they were while in operation. Today, whale and dolphin watching is a growth area for tourism around our costs. Indeed, the remains of the Inishkea South whaling station can still be found and although the buildings are all gone some of the ironwork remains. From the images contained in this exhibition you can easily construct in your mind’s eye the industry which took place. Thankfully, today, we are endeavouring to conserve the whale and dolphin species around our shores. Irish Waters are amongst Europe’s richest for these mammals. This exhibition has been carefully curated and I would encourage people to take the time to visit the exhibition and to take a walk in the beautiful Ballycroy National Park” added Minister Deenihan.