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Displaying items by tag: horse mussels

#MarineWildlife - Northern Ireland acted too slowly to protect endangered horse mussels in Strangford Lough, according to a new report.

The findings by the Northern Ireland Audit Office, as the News Letter reports, have damned Stormont's failure to ensure proper implementation of various plans to protect the mussel reefs since the 1980s.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, it's not the first time the NI government has been criticised for inaction over the protected shellfish species.

A study from Queen's University Belfast in 2011 revealed the extent of damage to their habitat by commercial fishing.

Since then, the lough has faced the additional threat of the invasive Japanese sea squirt.

A revised restoration plan was drawn up in 2012 between the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Dard) and the Department of the Environment (DoE), which share responsibility for Strangford Lough.

But the European Commission is taking seriously previous complaints made against Stormont by the Ulster Wildlife Trust, with the potential for millions in fines to be levied if any future complaint is upheld.

The News Letter has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Northern Ireland faces a whopping £8 million (€9.6 million) fine from the EU over its failure to protect horse mussels.

According to BBC News, "little has been done" to protect horse mussel reefs in Strangford Lough despite promises from two government departments as far back as six years ago.

Last year Afloat.ie reported on a study from Queen's University Belfast that revealed the extent of damage to horse mussel reefs in the lough by fishing activity.

Strangford Lough is officially protected as a Special Conservation Area and a Marine Nature Reserve, as well as an Area of Special Scientfic Interest, but as BBC News states, "in reality there has been little protection put in place".

Horse mussels are pivotal to the lough's ecosystem, as some 100 other species rely on the reefs formed by the mussels in the seabed for their habitat.

NI officials now have just a few months to persuade the European Commission that they are taking strong action to protect the species, otherwise they will be charged with breaking EU directives.

BBC News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#FISHING - Proposals to close substantial areas of Strangford Lough to fishing vessels have been met with strong criticism by Northern Ireland's commercial fishermen.

In a recent letter to the News Letter, Paul Leenan writes asking Fisheries Minister Michelle O'Neill to clarify the government's position following a complaint to the European Commission by the Ulster Wildlife Trust regarding the protection of horse mussel reefs in the lough.

While recognising the importance of the lough's marine ecosystem, Leenan writes: "The notion that substantial areas of the lough could be closed to fishing vessels is of serious concern to fishermen, at a time of great economic difficulty.

"Any hasty action could put livelihoods at risk and threaten the viability of the whole fishing industry here."

In response, the Ulster Wildlife Trust claims that "the management of certain aspects of the fauna and flora within the lough has caused... much concern over the past two decades."

Joe Furphy of the trust writes: "If we are to secure a truly sustainable future for the lough, its environment and diverse wildlife, upon which sustainable fisheries rely, then we need to ensure that adequate ‘non-disturbance zones’ are put in place."

Published in Fishing

Marine Wildlife Around Ireland 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. 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 the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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