Beach-goers warned of biting dolphin

Courtesy of Yasuyuki Nakaze
A diver tries to escape from a dolphin in Echizen, Fukui Prefecture.

Swimmers have been warned to stay away from dolphins in Fukui Prefecture in the wake of attacks on people by what is possibly a single male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, a species that usually lives in warm waters.

Having installed ultrasonic transmitters on buoys off the coast to repel dolphins, beach officials warned visitors not to approach dolphins even if they look cute.

On July 26, a beach house operator was seen urging people to watch out for dolphins at Koshino beach, located about 20 kilometers west of the Fukui City center. The shallow waters of the beach are popular with families. The 71-year-old man was telling swimmers to come out of the sea immediately if they saw a dolphin.

According to the man, the dolphin began to be spotted around June and has frequently come into the shallow waters where many people bathe since the opening of the beach on July 9.

On July 24, the city received two reports of injuries involving a dolphin, including one in which a swimmer’s hand was bitten and the individual was taken to a hospital by ambulance.

“I’ve been doing my business here for more than 40 years, but there was never a case where a dolphin came so close to people,” he said.

In April, a dolphin began to be spotted at a fishing port more than 10 kilometers north of Koshino beach. A dolphin also showed up at nearby Takasu beach in the city around June.

Injuries began to be reported in early July, when the beach season started. After two men had their hands bitten by a dolphin and incurred wounds at Takasu beach on July 29, swimming at the beach was temporarily banned.

Courtesy of a Yomiuri Shimbun reader
A dolphin is spotted at Takasu beach in Fukui City on July 29.

According to the Fukui municipal government, there have been at least 10 cases of a dolphin biting or ramming swimmers at the two beaches. Ultrasonic transmitters were installed in the sea at both beaches to repel dolphins. A sign was also put up at Koshino beach, warning people not to touch the animals.

Witness reports suggest there is an Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin that are usually found in warm seas around southern islands of Japan such as Amami Oshima island and the Izu Islands. These dolphins, which also live around Australia, are highly curious, and their teeth are sharp so as to catch fish and keep them from escaping.

According to Ryoichi Matsubara, deputy director of Echizen Matsushima Aquarium in Sakai, Fukui Prefecture, the dolphin sightings in the prefecture are all of the same male dolphin.

“In the unlikely event of a life-threatening situation, it could lead to culling the dolphin or the closure of beaches. I hope that people will try to coexist with the animal by coming out of the sea as soon as they see him,” Matsubara said.