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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. visited BIM’s National Fisheries College in Greencastle today, to officially launch new high-tech simulator suites that will enable skipper students to pilot and berth a vessel and navigate it through adverse weather conditions.

The simulator and radio suites - recently installed both at the college in Donegal and its sister college in Castletownbere - are designed to imitate real-life navigational conditions for helm, ship control training and practice, and for vessel routine and distress alert training.

Gale force winds, rain, waves and even snow conditions simulated

The equipment is currently in use by a cohort of students whom the Minister met and will enable Ireland’s next fishing skippers to hone the skills needed to safely practice vessel navigations, in a series of compromising conditions including major storms. The state-of-the art suites now in place at both colleges, represents a government investment of €465,000.

Minister McConalogue said he was greatly impressed with how closely the simulators were able to replicate the real-life conditions that can be faced at sea: “Every time our fishers set to sea, they potentially face adverse conditions, which they must be prepared for to ensure the safe return of all those on board. It was with this in mind that I approved this additional investment in the new simulator in the BIM Training College. With this new facility and training, we are ensuring that our students have access to the highest standards for skippering fishing vessels. The BIM colleges here at Greencastle, and in Castletownbere, are vital cogs in the seafood and wider marine sector.”

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) chief executive Jim O’Toole said, “This investment is very welcome and upgrading our equipment to world class standards, allows BIM to provide training to new entrants and those already in the sector to the highest level. This will also enable us to develop future navigation simulation courses as legislation progresses.”

Sea Survival Training Unit

This funding is part of a wider capital programme that involves overall €1.7 million investment in the Greencastle Training College, recently approved by Minister Mc Conalogue including a 12-metre sea survival training pool at Greencastle. The project, when delivered, will create a cost-effective Maritime Centre of Excellence that provides a modern sea survival training unit for students and instructors, on-site in the National Fisheries College, Greencastle, supporting a safe and professional sea fishing industry.

The new facility will significantly complement the extensive training infrastructure already in place in the Donegal college including a fire-fighting unit, a fully integrated fishing vessel simulator, vessel dry land trawler deck, engine room, workshop and seven classrooms.

New legislative changes mean that fishermen in vessels under 15 metres are now required to undertake this safety training at a minimum every five years, and this is now being implemented.

BIM offer these training courses through its colleges and coastal training units.

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Irish fishing industry leaders have warned that the costs of marine diesel are so high they are challenging the resilience of the Irish fishing fleet. CEOs of the main Irish industry organisations say fishing operations are being made uneconomical and have expressed concern about the effects on food supplies.

Aodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, and Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, say that the cost of diesel has risen so far above the economic level of operating fishing boats that urgent action by the Irish Government is needed to ensure the continuance of enough seafood supplies.

Aodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ OrganisationAodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation

The European Union has told Member States that they can take supportive action under emergency measures to support fishing vessel fuel costs from the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 until the end of the year.

Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen's OrganisationSean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation

While other nations have acted, the Irish government hasn’t so far given specific support to fishing.

More on the Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Irish fishing industry organisations have united in a call for an “urgent review” of the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The organisations are also calling for a fairer share to rights to fish in the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This follows a series of meetings recently in Brussels, organised and hosted by Sinn Féin MEP Chris McManus.

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO), the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation and the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association were represented in Brussels, along with the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance, Foyle Fishermen’s Co-op and Galway & Aran Fishermen’s Co-op.

“Other nations catch about €250m worth of fish a year in our waters - almost twice as much as the Irish fleet catches,” IFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said in a statement.

Quotas allocated by the EU to the Irish fishing fleet amount to “a paltry 18% of the volume of fish in our 200-mile Zone every year”, O’Donnell said.

“Other nations take the balance of the fish, but bizarrely some EU states are unable to catch their annual quota allocations in this EU zone,” he said.

“So, we are calling on the EU to – at the very least – enable reallocation of annual ‘uncaught’ quotas in Ireland’s EEZ to Irish vessels to give us a more equitable share,” O’Donnell explained.

Meetings were held with the European Parliament fisheries committee (Pech), and the Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare).

Mr O’Donnell says the Irish delegation outlined ways of allocating the uncaught quotas of other EU states - for species such as langoustines and monkfish - to Ireland.

“We support calls for a sensible mechanism for an equitable redistribution of all the annual uncaught EU fish quota in EU waters. We acknowledge that any such redistribution would take account of the quota rights of each of these member states,” he said

“At present, non-EU fishing vessels can fish large volumes of pelagic fish on Ireland’s west coast, based on annual access agreements negotiated to benefit other EU states,” he said.

“ At the same time, the Irish fleet finds itself tied up at port, hindered from catching these same fish by low quotas. This needs to be addressed in a meaningful way so that our share of the important catch is more equitable,” he said.

The delegation also told EU officials and MEPs that the quotas transferred to Britain under the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) were inequitable.

“In particular, Irish fishing vessels were excluded from traditional fishing grounds in the waters around Rockall. So, we made the case that quotas needed to be adjusted to rebalance long-term losses and to restore access to these areas,” O’Donnell said.

He says fishing organisations are united in a call for an urgent review of how the CFP is implemented.

“In particular, we want changes in how the annual quota of fish is allocated to the Irish fishing fleet and to rebalance the significant Brexit losses. We also believe allocations should be based on having greater rights to fish in our own [coastal] zones,” O’Donnell said.

“This would be more democratic, and reduce the carbon footprint of EU fishing vessels, as they would travel shorter distances. It would also strengthen the economic and social linkage between those catching the fish and their coastal communities,” he said.

Ireland has no quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is in “abundance” during the season off the Irish coast, O’Donnell said.

He said it could be worth €150 million annually in revenues to the Irish fishing and tourism sectors.

Large Japanese vessels are currently travelling halfway around the world to harvest these “highly valued” fisheries, and allocation to Ireland could also reduce the carbon footprint for this sector, he noted.

He said European Commission officials “took note of the submissions and undertook to have an additional follow-up meeting in Ireland”.

Published in Fishing

A very rare cold-water loving Leopard fish has been caught off Rockall by a Donegal fishing vessel.

The Leopard fish, also known as a spotted Wolffish (Anarhichas minor), swims in deep water across parts of the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic between northern Russia, Scandinavia and Nova Scotia, Canada.

The 5.9-kilo specimen was landed in Greencastle by the Donegal fishing vessel MV Foyle Warrior.

Galway fish merchant Stefan Griesbach contacted rare fish expert Declan Quigley after he spotted it in the box of fish from Greencastle, and knew it was significant.

The Leopard fish has been declared a threatened species in Canada, but does not have international protection status.

It is generally found much farther north, and in deep cold water, Quigley has said.

From his knowledge, there are only two records this far south, both off Scotland.

The two previous records are from the North Sea, Quigley said – off Aberdeen in October 1892, and off St Abbs Head, Berwickshire in June 1993, which seems to be the most southern record in Europe.

He said the fish may be this far south due to melting glaciers, or may be adapting to warmer sea temperatures.

He said he came across one report based on human observation during a scuba-diving event in June 2016 off Tory Island, Co Donegal, but said it was an unconfirmed identification.

The Leopard fish feeds off crustaceans and molluscs, primarily, while it will also eat smaller fish, seaweed and tube worms.

The fish is slow-growing, maturing at around seven years of age and can live up to 21 years.

"They are nice fish to eat - I often had them for dinner during my frequent trips to Norway about 20 years ago,” Quigley said.

“ I also remember noting that the chairs in the Norwegian Embassy in Dublin were upholstered with Anarhichas minor skin!," he said.

Griesbach displayed the fish on his Gannet Fishmongers stand in the Galway market on Saturday.

He plans to freeze it for taxidermy, and to donate it to the Natural History Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

“I might have got 30 euro for this fish which would have made no sense, and this is a much better idea,” Griesbach said.

“Maybe the museum will have a little plaque with my name for my grandkids to see....”

Published in Fishing
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Overfishing is declining in Europe, but progress is “uneven from region to region”, according to a new evaluation.

The European objective of 100 per cent sustainable fishing by 2020 has “not been reached” and climate change is “inevitably” affecting fish distribution and growth, the study released by French research agency Ifremer says.

Ireland’s Marine Institute worked with Ifremer, along with the French higher education and research agency L’Institut Agro, and the Flanders research institute for agriculture, fisheries and food (ILVO) on the study into the status of fish populations in 2022.

The evaluation says that the 2022 report from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) on the health status of fish in Europe “confirms the trends observed in the Atlantic over the past 20 years: overfishing is falling”.

It has found that 72% of fish populations are "not overexploited" in the north-east Atlantic area.

“Fish biomass has been increasing continuously since 2007 and was 33% greater in 2020 than at the beginning of the 2000s for the best-tracked populations; it was more than 50% greater for other populations subject to less tracking,”it says.

It says that 86 per cent of fish populations are overexploited in the Mediterranean, where the situation remains “critical”. In total, 29 of the 34 fish populations evaluated are considered to be overexploited, while “many other species remain poorly tracked and understood”.

It says that climate change is having direct impact on marine biodiversity, as it “changes species distribution, reduces their available food and stunts their growth”.

“Each year, the ocean absorbs between 30% and 40% of the CO2 that human activity releases into the atmosphere. This excess CO2 causes ocean acidification, which weakens the water’s concentration of calcium carbonate,” the study says.

“Calcium carbonate is essential for plankton, corals, molluscs and many other calcifying marine organisms that use it to build their shells or internal skeletons,” it notes.

Carbon dioxide also increases water temperature, reducing available oxygen and decreasing plankton abundance.

“Using climate models created by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists have established that by the end of the century, marine animal biomass could have decreased by 20% on average,” the study says.

The study says that scientists are taking an ecosystem-based approach, allowing them to “propose management scenarios that better account for all ecosystem changes, not just the direct consequences of fishing”.

“ Scientists are also working on more technological aspects of fisheries management, like the development of more precise fishing methods. One idea is smart trawl nets that combine cameras and artificial intelligence to open and close depending on the species targeted,” it says.

Fostering more resilient ecosystems and encouraging good fisheries management are top priorities, the study says.

Published in Fishing
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As the transitional period for compliance with Safe Manning legislation ends, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency is urging all skippers of vessels of 15 metres in length and above that hold a Second Hand Limited (SHL) certificate, to ensure their Certificate of Competency is endorsed for service as Second Hand Special.

Skippers and owners should check whether they need a second crew member with a Certificate of Competency to be on board to comply with the regulations.

Information on certificates of competency and endorsements may be obtained at www.seafarers.ie. At least 12 months of sea service is required to obtain an endorsement to a SHL certificate.

Safe manning relates to the safe operation of fishing vessels and takes account of the safe navigation of the vessel, operations, machinery, and maintenance. On December 19th, 2019 it became a legal requirement for all fishing vessels of 15 metres in length and above, to apply a safe manning document from the Marine Survey Office (MSO) and Department of Transport. Application forms are available from Gov.ie (MSO Application forms- FV Less than 500gt)

BIM is an approved provider of maritime training on behalf of the MSO. Its two National Fisheries Colleges of Ireland in Greencastle, Co Donegal and in Castletownbere, Co Cork and its mobile Coastal Training Units deliver training to fishers throughout Ireland, to support a safe and professional industry.

To apply to endorse your certificate of competency contact the Mercantile Marine Office at the address below or to find out more information, please contact either of the BIM colleges by email or phone.

Mercantile Marine Office (MMO)

Maritime Services Division, Irish Maritime Administration, Department of Transport, Leeson Lane, Dublin 2, D02TR60.

Tel: +353 (0) 1 6783480

Email: [email protected]

Published in BIM
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Master mariner Capt Robert McCabe has been appointed to chair the Government’s first seafood/offshore renewable energy working group.

The two-year appointment was confirmed by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien.

Delays in establishing the working group had led to recent warnings by fishing industry representatives that both sectors could be on a “collision course”.

Capt McCabe has extensive maritime experience in a variety of senior roles during a 35-year career with the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL).

He served as first master of the ILV Granuaile, before later being appointed to several management positions in CIL, including assistant inspector, deputy head of marine, head of marine, and director of operations and navigation.

He has also served as the president of the Irish Chamber of Shipping and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICoS), and is a current member of a number of marine bodies, including the Nautical Institute and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Mr O’Brien said that the seafood/offshore renewable energy (ORE) working group has been established to “facilitate discussion on matters arising from the interaction of the seafood and offshore renewable energy industries, to promote and share best practice, and to encourage liaison with other sectors in the marine environment”.

He said that Capt McCabe brings extensive knowledge of both the seafood and ORE sectors, having previously worked with both in relation to maritime navigational safety.

“His work has enabled him to gain an extensive knowledge of the Irish coast and maritime activity across all sectors, and he brings a record of effective delivery of offshore engineering and navigation safety projects, which will prove valuable within the setting of this group,” he said.

‘’I’m delighted to appoint someone of Robert’s vast experience and capability to this position. Throughout his career, Robert has demonstrated the type of qualities that this group requires, working with diverse marine groups to achieve win-win solutions by showing leadership, drive and determination to succeed,” Mr O’Brien said.

“I also note that his specific expertise in safety at sea will prove extremely beneficial to the work of the group as the group progresses,” he said, wishing him “the best of luck”.

The appointment has been welcomed by Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan and Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

Published in Marine Planning
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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue today announced approval for a scheme which will provide €45 million in funding for capital investment projects in seafood processing enterprises.

The scheme is based on a recommendation of the Seafood Taskforce which was established by Minister McConalogue to assess the impacts of Brexit and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on the fishing sector and coastal communities. The Taskforce recommended that the sector be provided with a stimulus to drive transformational change and thereby overcome constraints arising from Brexit and incentivise change through the provision of graduated grant aid rates for capital investment projects in the industry. This scheme is proposed for funding under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve

Announcing the approval of the scheme, the Minister said, “Our Seafood Processors are of vital importance for our coastal communities, sustaining over 4,000 jobs and supporting the local economies in which they operate. I am pleased to announce that this new scheme will introduce significant levels of support to enable processors develop their enterprises, navigate the challenging trading environment and support jobs in the seafood sector.”

In line with the Taskforce recommendation, the scheme is designed to provide greater levels of funding to those capital investment projects which result in higher value-added activities. It will, in particular, assist seafood processors seeking to move away from commodity production to the production of higher value-added products. It will also help and to those seeking to diversify their product offering and enter new markets. Funding will also be available for seafood processors seeking to improve environmental performance and those aiming to achieve greater production efficiencies.

Minister McConalogue added: “I believe this scheme will significantly assist processing enterprises to adapt quickly, to become more sustainable in both a business sense and environmentally. Through the supports on offer, processors will be able to invest in innovative equipment, diversify their product lines and reach new, valuable markets.”

An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) will be administering the scheme, and the Minister has requested that BIM open its call for applications as soon as possible. Due to the time limitations placed on BAR funding, investment projects must be completed before the end of 2023 to qualify for funding.

Minister McConalogue concluded: “The suite of schemes and measures I have announced will support fishers, the wider seafood sector and the coastal communities which are most dependent on the sea for their livelihoods. The scheme will assist the Seafood Processing industry in making transformational change and moving further up the value chain. These investments will ensure that Ireland maintains its reputation as a source of premium quality seafood, protect food supply chains in times of uncertainty, grow coastal economies and sustain the natural environment”

Published in Fishing
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, in collaboration with Chef Network Ireland and Fáilte Ireland on Monday 9th May 2022 announced the Taste the Atlantic, Young Chef Ambassador Programme for 2022. The aim of the programme is to engage with five ambitious young chefs, and over a four-month period mentor them through an exciting journey of learning about Ireland’s premium seafood offering along the Atlantic seaboard. This is the second year of the successful programme. Five chefs took part in the programme in 2021.

The selected chefs will benefit from on-site farm visits with Taste the Atlantic seafood producers where they will learn first-hand how organic salmon, mussels and oysters are sustainably produced in Ireland. They will also receive training in social media, business, culinary and fish handling skills from experienced industry mentors, such as Michelin starred chef, JP McMahon. Each chef will be paired with a Taste the Atlantic producer to learn about the provenance of the seafood they produce, broadening their knowledge and inspiring them to create Irish seafood recipes. At the end of the programme, the chefs will work together to create a Taste the Atlantic menu, showcasing the skill and knowledge they have gained on their journey as ambassadors helping to highlight the quality and sustainably produced seafood on the Wild Atlantic Way as well as raising awareness of food tourism.

Máirtin Walsh, Development Executive with BIM said, “BIM is delighted to announce the second year of the programme and looks forward to building on the success of 2021. It was inspiring to work with last year’s chefs and to watch them develop such an appreciation of Ireland’s valuable aquaculture sector. As a sector, providing direct employment to almost 2,000 people, it’s a significant contributor to rural, coastal communities, and was valued at €175 million in 2021. The consumption of seafood in Ireland grew by 3% to €418 million in 2021, with the hospitality sector being the main contributor. We look forward to guiding this year’s chefs on their Taste the Atlantic seafood journey!”

Sarah Browne from County Kerry was one of the Young Chef Ambassadors in 2021 and went on to work at Cava Bodega in Galway after the programme. Speaking at the launch of this year’s programme, she said:

“I’m passionate about sustainable food and I was so impressed when meeting the producers last year how much emphasis they place on sustainability and how future-focussed they were. The programme really boosted my confidence in my culinary skills around seafood and it was a huge stepping-stone for my career. I’d highly recommend it.”

JP McMahon, chef-proprietor at Michelin-starred Aniar restaurant, will provide mentorship to the chefs again this year and he spoke about why he is so supportive of the programme. “This program offers a fantastic opportunity for young chefs to develop their appreciation and understanding of the wealth of Irish seafood available to them. They will get to know producers, understand how the seafood is produced and develop their culinary creativity and confidence, learning how to prepare beautiful seafood dishes. Locally sourced produce is key to any good menu, and it doesn’t get much better than the seafood offering along the Wild Atlantic Way!”

Chef Network is a professional network connecting chefs across the island of Ireland, with over 4,500 members. Programme Manager, Ruth Hegarty said, “The Taste the Atlantic Young Chef Ambassador programme is a really exciting collaboration which brings together Ireland’s up and coming culinary talent with our wonderful seafood producers to explore the food tourism potential along the Wild Atlantic Way. It is so important to keep young chefs motivated and curious through opportunities to gain experience, upskill, and explore their creativity, and in my experience, meeting food producers is hugely inspiring and motivating for chefs, which is why I am genuinely delighted that Chef Network have the opportunity to run this programme alongside BIM and Fáilte Ireland.”

The Ambassador programme is now open for nominations, with full details available on www.chefnetwork.ie. The closing date for nominations is May 24th. Interviews will take place in June, following which we will announce the five successful 2022 young chef ambassadors, who will embark on their Taste the Atlantic seafood journey from June-September

The Young Chef Ambassador Programme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union, under the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

Published in BIM
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The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the EU’s agency for the space programme (EUSPA) have signed a cooperation agreement for an initial two years.

The memorandum of understanding will allow the EFCA to benefit from Galileo, the European global navigation satellite system managed by the EU space programme.

“This cooperation will further strengthen EFCA’s capabilities when it comes to modern and emerging technologies and services, which could be made available to member states' fisheries control authorities,” EFCA said in a statement.

“This would lead to an improved capacity for detecting, identifying and categorisation of suspected non-compliance fishing activities, providing additional tools for the operational activities coordinated by EFCA,” it said.

The two European agencies have identified some initial EU funded projects which could be of common relevance in relation to vessel management systems and search and rescue activities.

“Given the operational reality and specificities of fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, and its connection with the EU maritime security strategy, EFCA as a central hub, seeks to further develop and expand its services in support of member states fisheries control authorities,” the Vigo-based fisheries monitoring agency said.

It said that EUSPA “will offer its technical expertise in satellite navigation as well as its “market knowhow” in global navigation satellite systems and earth observation to produce joint studies and develop space solutions with EFCA that will “positively contribute to the EU’s blue economy”.

The EFCA’s mission is to “promote the highest common standards for control, inspection and surveillance under the Common Fisheries Policy”.

EUSPA’s core mission is to implement the EU Space Programme and to “provide reliable, safe and secure space-related services, maximising their socio-economic benefits for European society and business”.

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