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A Harbour Seal photographed at Dun Laoghaire Marina on Dublin Bay, Ireland. Also known as the common seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. The most widely distributed species of pinnipeds, they are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Baltic and North seas. Photo: AfloatA photograph of a Harbour Seal taken at Dun Laoghaire Marina on Dublin Bay, Ireland. Also known as the common seal, this species can be found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They are the most widely distributed species of pinnipeds and can be found in the coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Baltic and North Seas. Photo: Afloat

Displaying items by tag: pollution

Three Sinn Féin MLAs have brought a motion to the newly restored Stormont Assembly for action to save Lough Neagh from its pollution crisis, as The Irish Times reports.

MLA for North Antrim, Philip McGuigan described the situation on the lough as an “ecological catastrophe”.

“The work of saving Lough Neagh and repairing the damage to its ecology and environment and that of its tributaries and surrounding land must be a top priority for the Executive in the time ahead,” he told the Assembly on Tuesday (13 February).

The motion comes on the heels of last summer’s spate of toxic blue-green algae blooms, which caused the deaths of numerous pets and was blamed for the collapse of the lough’s renowned native eel fishery.

Untreated wastewater and agricultural run-off — not to mention climate change, invasive species such as the zebra mussel, and political inaction due to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive — have been singled out as reasons behind the current crisis.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has welcomed the outcome of a case it brought against Uisce Éireann involving sewage pollution of the Cavan town river.

A fine of €2,000, plus costs and expenses of €3,197, were imposed at a hearing on the matter at Cavan District Court on Friday 1 December.

It comes after IFI had previously secured prosecution in October against the State water utility for pollution of the Ballinagh River in Co Cavan which killed 160 fish.

The court heard that in the wake of ongoing issues at the Uisce Éireann wastewater treatment plant at Ballinagh, senior IFI fisheries environmental officer Ailish Keane had taken samples for analysis following the pollution event in Cavan town on 3 February this year.

These test samples, taken downstream from the plant, showed high levels of pollutants, with large amounts of sewage fungus — bacteria, fungus and algae that reduce oxygen levels — visible on the bed of the river.

Commenting on the verdict, Dr Milton Matthews, director of IFI’s North-Western River Basin District said: “We welcome the outcome in this case. The presence of sewage fungus in the river is indicative of chronic organic pollution of the Cavan town river at this location, rather than an isolated incident — with significant impact on fish, invertebrates and all aquatic life in the river.

“There were significant breaches of the licence emission limits for biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) — oxygen required to break down organic matter in the water — and high ammonia levels.

“Sample results taken at the location indicated that ammonia levels were over 115 times higher than permitted discharge limits, and eight times higher than permissible for BOD limits as stipulated for this treatment plant.”

The conviction was secured under Section 171 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 — legislation regarding protection of fishing waters from harmful pollutants.

Members of the public are encouraged to report instances of water pollution, illegal fishing, habitat destruction or fish kills to IFI’s confidential number at 0818 34 74 24.

Published in Angling

The Rivers Trust supports the findings of new report that rings alarm bells about the critical state of water quality management in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The Surfers Against Sewage Water Quality Report for 2023 says that in Northern Ireland, there is a lack of the discharge of raw sewage into waters at popular beaches and inland waterways bathing sites — and both anecdotal reports and water quality data suggest the problem is significant.

Mark Horton, all-Ireland director of The Rivers Trust said the report “underscores longstanding environmental concerns we continually raise. The evidence of the effects of sewage and pollution is there and clear.

“The severe algal bloom in Lough Neagh is a stark illustration of the consequences of poor environmental stewardship in Northern Ireland.”

NI’s 2,398 operational sewage overflows — and the sparse data on their performance — emphasise an urgent need for investment in increased monitoring and more transparency so the public can make informed decisions and remedial actions can be taken, The Rivers Trust says.

Horton added: “The management of sewage in Northern Ireland shows a critical need for investment and modernisation. With the absence of a functioning Stormont Executive and no independent environment agency, decisive actions to protect and restore water quality are practically impossible.

“This inaction is unacceptable. Water users in Northern Ireland deserve the same level of safety and information as those elsewhere. Ultimately, we need proper resourcing of Northern Ireland Water to enable it to put in place real-time sewage alerts, so swimmers, surfers and anglers can protect themselves from direct discharges of untreated sewage.”

Horton acknowledged NI water’s plans to deploy monitoring systems by 2024 as “a positive step”, but cautioned that “the lack of clarity on how data will be dissemination and public accessibility to the data remains a concern”.

“Real-time, accessible water quality information isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a necessity for the health and safety of our communities and ecosystems,” he said.

Warning signage is being removed from locations around Lough Neagh following this past summer’s blooms of toxic blue-green algae.

But as BBC News reports, it could be years before the ecological impact on the lough is fully understood.

Ulster Angling Federation chair Gary Houston claimed that the collapse of the Lough Neagh fly, attributed to the cyanobacteria blooms, has had a knock-on effect on all other species in the area — most notably its native trout and eels.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) said the fly species was not previously monitored as it was “commonplace and not a protected feature” but confirmed they are “a key trophic (food) component of the Lough Neagh ecosystem”.

“We’ve been damaging the ecosystem in Lough Neagh now for 60 years or so and we’ve been doing it knowingly for 50 years, but we’ve got away without the acute impacts [until now],” said Dr Adam Mellor of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institution (AFBI).

All parties acknowledge that the current crisis is the result of multiple factors over decades — including climate change, changes in agriculture and the presence of invasive species — and some believe it could take just as long to turn it around.

BBC News has much more on the story HERE.

New predictive technology being developed in Estonia could help prevent the spread of pollution from shipwrecks.

Estonia’s public broadcaster ERR News reports on the monitoring system created by marine scientists at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) that may forecast where fuel will spread in the water from a hazardous wreck site.

Estonia’s coastline on the Gulf of Finland, Gulf of Riga and Baltic Sea has a large number of decades-old shipwrecks which are increasingly prone to fuel leaks as they age.

So far the results are promising, with TalTech’s predictive computer models — using current and wave data from Estonian waters — matching real-world data collected from smart buoys placed at a number of coastal sites.

ERR News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Science

More than half of Ireland’s bathing waters were affected by swimming bans this past summer, an investigation by Noteworthy has revealed.

While four in five coastal and inland bathing spots were classed as excellent in 2022, that statistic runs counter to a wave of swimming prohibitions at beaches and other areas around Ireland in recent years.

This is due to various problems with pollution caused by wastewater release and other factors, the report indicates.

And the issue is being exacerbated by climate change, as wetter conditions lead to overflow from treatment plants operating below EU standards, not to mention runoff from farmland and other surface waters.

Noteworthy has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Sea Swim
Tagged under

Lough Neagh “isn’t just dying, it’s been killed” by a combination of human-made factors, one conservationist has declared as the crisis around toxic blooms of blue-green algae continues.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Friends of the Earth NI director James Orr says the situation “has literally blown people’s trust in the health of the lough out of the water”.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the lough — which is the source of nearly half of Northern Ireland’s drinking water — is in crisis due at least in part to the affects of pollution from untreated wastewater and agricultural run-off, as anglers and other groups have claimed.

Similar blooms of cyanobacteria have been recorded across the region, such as on the Lower Bann — which has lost at least one long-standing watersport business to the “unsustainable” situation — and with the latest confirmed at Lough Ross in Crossmaglen.

The issue prompted protestors to hold a ‘wake’ for Lough Neagh last weekend, as others lamented the collapse of the lough’s renowned eel fishery and even the Catholic and Anglican archbishops of Armagh were moved to call for immediate government intervention to help reverse “an environmental disaster”.

In recent days the SDLP has made a renewed bid to recall the Stormont assembly to address the crisis — the lack of a functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland since February 2022 being cited as one of a combination of factors that’s led to the current state of affairs.

Peter Harper of the Lough Neagh Partnership tells The Irish Times that other salient factors include the impact of the invasive Zebra mussel as well as climate change, which has raised the temperature at the bottom of the lough by one degree, in turn contributing to wetter weather that feeds the cycle of pollution from farmland and an overwhelmed sewage system.

“The lough’s in crisis,” says Ciara Laverty of the Lough Neagh Partnership. “The ecology’s changing, unless we do something drastic about it now. Decades of neglect have led us to this point.”

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Causeway Coast and Glens councillors have echoed growing concerns over the state of the aquatic environment following recent blooms of toxic blue-green algae, as the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Alliance Councillor Peter McCully tabled a motion at last week’s Environmental Services Committee Meeting that emphasised the “detrimental impact these blooms have had on local businesses”.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, at least one long-standing business on the Lower Bann has announced its closure, claiming its future is “unsustainable” given the likelihood of dangerous cyanobacteria blooms happening “on a yearly basis”.

Cllr MuCully said the response from Northern Ireland’s Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to this summer’s incidents is “not sufficient” and his motion calls for DAERA to convene cross-party talks across all affected council areas to develop and action plan.

Lough Neagh has also been affected by toxic blue-green algae blooms in recent months, with angling groups claiming that the lough is “dying” due to the affects of pollution from untreated wastewater and agricultural run-off.

The lough’s eel fishermen have added their voices to the call for action, saying their industry has collapsed this season.

"Never have I seen so many eel fisherman resorting to scale fishing in order to make some form of income,” one co-op member told the Irish News, which has more on the story HERE.

A ‘substantial’ fish kill affecting trout and young salmon has been discovered in a tributary of the River Finn in Co Donegal.

Donegal Daily reported on Wednesday (13 September) on the incident in what’s described as a “nursery stream” at Crossroads in Killygordon, east Donegal.

It says it understands that hundreds of trout and young salmon have been lost.

In a statement, the Loughs Agency said it was alerted on Tuesday evening (12 September) “to the potential presence of a pollutant into a tributary of the River Finn, allegedly stemming from a commercial premises”.

It continued; “Loughs Agency fishery officers immediately initiated an investigation, where they discovered a discharge of deleterious matter had entered the watercourse.

“Substantial fish mortalities were discovered in the river on Tuesday evening, as well as during searches on the morning of Wednesday 13 September. Samples were collected from the discharge for analysis.

“Loughs Agency has committed significant resources into the clean-up operation, with fishery officers actively working to help ensure additional fish mortalities are mitigated as best as possible. We will have resources at the site of the incident until the investigation is complete.”

Published in Angling

A popular destination for watersport on Northern Ireland’s North Coast has blamed governmental inaction over wastewater discharges for its decision to close after nearly three decades.

In a statement on social media, Rob Skelly of the Cranagh Activity Centre said recent blooms of toxic blue-green algae that have affected Lough Neagh and the Lower Bann are travelling out to sea through the river system, past its location.

“With this likely to happen on a yearly basis we feel that our business has become unsustainable and that we have no option but to close,” Skelly added.

He also echoed recent comments from concerned angling groups in saying that “we are seeing the collapse of the ecology of the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann system”.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

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For all you need on the Marine Environment - covering the latest news and updates on marine science and wildlife, weather and climate, power from the sea and Ireland's coastal regions and communities - the place to be is Afloat.ie.

Coastal Notes

The Coastal Notes category covers a broad range of stories, events and developments that have an impact on Ireland's coastal regions and communities, whose lives and livelihoods are directly linked with the sea and Ireland's coastal waters.

Topics covered in Coastal Notes can be as varied as the rare finding of sea-life creatures, an historic shipwreck with secrets to tell, or even a trawler's net caught hauling much more than just fish.

Other angles focusing the attention of Coastal Notes are Ireland's maritime museums, which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of our nautical heritage, and those who harvest the sea using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety pose an issue, plying their trade along the rugged wild western seaboard.

Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied as the environment they come from, and which shape people's interaction with the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

Marine Wildlife

One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with Marine Wildlife. It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. And as boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify, even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat. Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse, it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to our location in the North Atlantic, there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe. From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals, the Marine Wildlife category documents the most interesting accounts around our shores. And we're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and video clips, too!

Also valuable is the unique perspective of all those who go afloat, from coastal sailing to sea angling to inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing, as what they encounter can be of great importance to organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). Thanks to their work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. But as impressive as the list is, the experts believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves, keep a sharp look out!

Weather

As an island in the North Atlantic, Ireland's fate is decided by Weather more so than many other European countries. When storm-force winds race across the Irish Sea, ferry and shipping services are cut off, disrupting our economy. When swollen waves crash on our shores, communities are flooded and fishermen brace for impact - both to their vessels and to their livelihoods.

Keeping abreast of the weather, therefore, is as important to leisure cruisers and fishing crews alike - for whom a small craft warning can mean the difference between life and death - as it is to the communities lining the coast, where timely weather alerts can help protect homes and lives.

Weather affects us all, and Afloat.ie will keep you informed on the hows and the whys.

Marine Science

Perhaps it's the work of the Irish research vessels RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of Marine Science for the future growth of Ireland's emerging 'blue economy'.

From marine research to development and sustainable management, Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. Whether it's Wavebob ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration, the Marine Science category documents the work of Irish marine scientists and researchers and how they have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

Power From The Sea

The message from the experts is clear: offshore wind and wave energy is the future. And as Ireland looks towards the potential of the renewable energy sector, generating Power From The Sea will become a greater priority in the State's 'blue growth' strategy.

Developments and activities in existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector, and those of the energy exploration industry, point to the future of energy requirements for the whole world, not just in Ireland. And that's not to mention the supplementary industries that sea power projects can support in coastal communities.

Irish ports are already in a good position to capitalise on investments in offshore renewable energy services. And Power From The Sea can even be good for marine wildlife if done properly.

Aside from the green sector, our coastal waters also hold a wealth of oil and gas resources that numerous prospectors are hoping to exploit, even if people in coastal and island areas are as yet unsure of the potential benefits or pitfalls for their communities.

Changing Ocean Climate

Our ocean and climate are inextricably linked - the ocean plays a crucial role in the global climate system in a number of ways. These include absorbing excess heat from the atmosphere and absorbing 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity. But our marine ecosystems are coming under increasing pressure due to climate change.

The Marine Institute, with its national and international partners, works to observe and understand how our ocean is changing and analyses, models and projects the impacts of our changing oceans. Advice and forecasting projections of our changing oceans and climate are essential to create effective policies and management decisions to safeguard our ocean.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, said, “Our ocean is fundamental to life on earth and affects so many facets of our everyday activities. One of the greatest challenges we face as a society is that of our changing climate. The strong international collaborations that the Marine Institute has built up over decades facilitates a shared focusing on our changing ocean climate and developing new and enhanced ways of monitoring it and tracking changes over time.

“Our knowledge and services help us to observe these patterns of change and identify the steps to safeguard our marine ecosystems for future generations.”

The Marine Institute’s annual ocean climate research survey, which has been running since 2004, facilitates long term monitoring of the deep water environment to the west of Ireland. This repeat survey, which takes place on board RV Celtic Explorer, enables scientists to establish baseline oceanic conditions in Irish waters that can be used as a benchmark for future changes.

Scientists collect data on temperature, salinity, water currents, oxygen and carbon dioxide in the Atlantic Ocean. This high quality oceanographic data contributes to the Atlantic Ocean Observing System. Physical oceanographic data from the survey is submitted to the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) and, in addition, the survey contributes to national research such as the VOCAB ocean acidification and biogeochemistry project, the ‘Clean Atlantic’ project on marine litter and the A4 marine climate change project.

Dr Caroline Cusack, who co-ordinates scientific activities on board the RV Celtic Explorer for the annual survey, said, “The generation of long-term series to monitor ocean climate is vital to allow us understand the likely impact of future changes in ocean climate on ecosystems and other marine resources.”

Other activities during the survey in 2019 included the deployment of oceanographic gliders, two Argo floats (Ireland’s contribution to EuroArgo) and four surface drifters (Interreg Atlantic Area Clean Atlantic project). The new Argo floats have the capacity to measure dissolved ocean and biogeochemical parameters from the ocean surface down to a depth of 2,000 metres continuously for up to four years, providing important information as to the health of our oceans.

During the 2019 survey, the RV Celtic Explorer retrieved a string of oceanographic sensors from the deep ocean at an adjacent subsurface moored station and deployed a replacement M6 weather buoy, as part of the Irish Marine Data Buoy Observation Network (IMDBON).

Funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the IMDBON is managed by the Marine Institute in collaboration with Met Éireann and is designed to improve weather forecasts and safety at sea around Ireland. The data buoys have instruments which collect weather and ocean data including wind speed and direction, pressure, air and sea surface temperature and wave statistics. This data provides vital information for weather forecasts, shipping bulletins, gale and swell warnings as well as data for general public information and research.

“It is only in the last 20 years, meteorologists and climatologists have really began to understood the pivotal role the ocean plays in determining our climate and weather,” said Evelyn Cusack, Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann. “The real-time information provided by the Irish data buoy network is particularly important for our mariners and rescue services. The M6 data buoy in the Atlantic provides vital information on swell waves generated by Atlantic storms. Even though the weather and winds may be calm around our shores, there could be some very high swells coming in from Atlantic storms.”