The number of dolphins and whales washing up on Irish coasts reached record levels last year, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG)

In all 263 cetacean strandings were reported around the country, which was 44 more than the previous highest level of 219 in 2013.

Dr Simon Berrow, chief science officer of the IWDG, said that the increase in strandings in recent years has been "unprecedented".

He told Cork's Cry104FM: "At least 12 species were report, with the common dolphin being by far the most common, with harbour porpoises a distant second."

He added that deep diving offshore species washed up rarely, with sperm whales becoming stranded on three occasions.

And for only the seventh time in 17 years, a killer whale washed up on Irish coastline with one appearing at Roundstone in Galway.

Last year, a study of dead whales, dolphins and porpoises in Ireland found that nearly one in 10 were found with marine debris in their systems.

In the majority of these cases, the cetacean had ingested plastics. In some cases, fish hooks and paint fragments were found inside them.

In one case, a shotgun cartridge was found in one stranded whale, as well as an ice cream wrapper and fragmented plastics.

Deep diving species tended to have more plastics in their systems.

Dr Berrow said: "This study shows that while larger marine debris is widespread and consumed by nearly 10% of those individuals studied, the smaller fractions, known as microplastics are ubiquitous occurring in all whales, dolphins and porpoise examined.
We don't know the consequences of this form of pollution but clearly microplastics are now ubiquitous in the marine environment.