Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: conservation

#INLAND FISHERIES - Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd was on hand to launch the Atlantic Aquatic Resource Conservation (AARC) conference in Limerick on Wednesday 28 November.

The conference, attended by delegates from five countries, is intended to showcase integrated collaborative water resource management projects across the European Atlantic Arc, comprising Portugal, Spain, France, Britain and Ireland.

The AARC project is the culmination of work undertaken by 13 international partnerships across these five countries, and the conference provides an opportunity to share the research, findings and recommendations to support the conservation of native fish species.

As the project nears conclusion next month, all AARC project requirements have been met and exceeded in a number of cases, according to Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

In Ireland specifically, the project has made a valuable contribution to the Shannon Salmon Restoration Plan (SSRP) which looks at redressing the decline in Atlantic salmon populations throughout the Shannon river system.

Overall, says IFI, AARC has provided an important instrument to facilitate a pan-European approach to conserving our indigenous, migratory fish stocks.

Speaking at the launch of the conference, Minister O’Dowd highlighted the importance of EU research programmes like AARC in enhancing international research and collaboration.

“The strong inter-regional co-operation, under AARC, between regional authorities and research institutions has increased our knowledge of the conservation requirements of these important European fish species,” he said.

“AARC has ensured that we will play our part in utilising this new knowledge and co-operation for the enhancement of the conservation status of important EU species and habitats.”

AARC is a three-year project, launched in 2009, which focuses on migratory stocks of protected fish species: shad, Atlantic salmon, sea trout, sea lamprey, European eel and smelt. Across Europe these species have economic, cultural and environmental value but are in decline.

The issue of their decline is truly transnational, says IFI, and can only be addressed through long-term intensive transnational collaboration.

A major theme running through the AARC project was establishing the role of wider stakeholders in the management of our aquatic resources. Many of the AARC partners have worked to engage local stakeholders in protecting, conserving and managing these resources through the AARC project activities.

In Ireland, the project dealt with restorative initiatives for Atlantic salmon in the Shannon system. This included determining the genetic composition of contemporary and historical populations of salmon in the Shannon and comparing the relative performance in the wild of the progeny Feale, Mulkear and Shannon wild and hatchery salmon populations.

IFI was joined in the project by fellow partners ESB Fisheries Conservation, University College Cork and the Marine Institute. Of the total project budget of €3.87m, Irish partners received €754,242 over the three years.

The Shannon AARC project will address issues pertaining to fish passage, water quality, habitat and hatchery programmes in addition to the construction of a project specific geograpgic information systems (GIS), co-ordination of stock assessment surveys and the promotion of catchment management.

Ultimately it will help identify important factors in the conservation of Atlantic salmon in the Shannon, and will provide a set of useful maps and a spatial visualisation tool for improved planning and development throughout the Shannon catchment.

Results will help inform fisheries staff of the current status of Atlantic salmon populations in the Shannon as well as provide a useful inventory or potential and/or historical salmon locations in the Shannon.

The project will also benefit inter-agency co-operation, particularly in relation to River Shannon fisheries management, and will strengthen the links with relevant research institutions and international fisheries experts.

Published in Fishing

#INLAND WATERS - The European eel population is highly endangered and conservation of this species is a priority for Minister Fergus O’Dowd, who recently visited one of the ESB Trap and Transport sites in Athlone, Co Westmeath.

The minister saw first-hand the silver eel operation that involves the capture of the fish at strategic locations upstream in the Shannon catchment and their subsequent release downstream of Parteen Weir in order to aid their passage and bypass the hydropower generating facility.

Minister O’Dowd assisted the fishermen, Brian and Brendan Connell, in the weighing of the silver eels and loading them into an oxygenated tank for transportation by the ESB to Parteen.

“Eels are protected under EU directive,” said the minister. “I am satisfied that Ireland is addressing its obligations under the directive by ensuring the safe passage of eels past Parteen Weir as they travel onward to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.  

"I value highly the work done by ESB on the Trap and Transport initiative and the co-operation with IFI (Inland Fisheries Ireland). I saw at first hand how ESB, as a major commercial State company, continues to take very seriously its responsibilities in this area.”

The National and River Basin District Eel Management Plans specify actions that include closure of eel fisheries and markets, mitigation of adverse effects of hydropower generation facilities, improvement of water quality and bio-security issues.

The overall objective is to increase the biomass of spawning eel leaving Irish waters as the stock has depleted to a dangerous level.

Inland Fisheries Ireland monitors this ESB-sponsored operation throughout its duration, checking weigh and condition of the fish.

Published in Inland Waterways

#FISHING - Marine scientists working in the Celtic Sea have discovered a natural refuge for the critically endangered flapper skate.  

Many elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates) are highly vulnerable to over-fishing, but a new paper in the open access journal PLOS ONE shows that small areas of the seabed that experience below-average fishing intensity can sustain greater populations of these species.  

The study reveals that one remarkable area in the northeastern Celtic Sea - where uneven seabed makes trawling difficult - supports at least ten species of elasmobranch, including the rare blue skate (Dipturus flossada) and related flapper skate (Dipturus intermedia).

Dipturus was previously considered to represent a single species (D. batis), but made the news in 2009 when a case of misidentification was revealed.

Both species are now listed as critically endangered but populations of the flapper skate, which can grow up to 2.5 metres in length, are considered to be under greatest threat from extinction.

European Union regulations mandate that fishermen throw back any flapper skate but its slow growth and reproduction mean that even very low levels of fishing mortality are now unsustainable for this species.  

Scientists from Queen’s University Belfast, Bangor University and the Marine Institute carried out the study. Lead researcher Dr Samuel Shephard suggests that “the discovery of a Celtic Sea stronghold for flapper skate provides a remarkable opportunity to help save a species on the verge of extinction”.

Professor Michel Kaiser, chair in marine conservation at Bangor University, added: “Some have previously argued that areas of little interest to the fishing industry are not worthy of conservation, however this study clearly overturns that perception and highlights just how important some of these areas are."
 
Importantly, the fishing industry has reacted positively to the ‘win-win’ situation that an area of little commercial interest has potential as an important marine reserve.

Professor Dave Reid of the Marine Institute presented the information to industry leaders, and this has led to the inclusion of the area in proposed management plans for elasmobranchs in the Irish and Celtic Seas.

Eibhlín O’Sullivan, CEO of the Irish South & West Fishermen’s Organisation, responded that the Irish fishing industry "has been working with the Marine Institute for the past 18 months on developing a management plan for skates and rays. This new research adds valuable information for the identification of potential seasonally closed areas."

Prof Reid noted that “this is a great model for collaboration on conservation between the fishing industry and scientists”.  

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013).  

Published in Fishing

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Marine experts are calling on the UK public to pile pressure on their government to create Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to help protect and restore marine wildlife in the Irish Sea and around the British coast.

The Living Seas North West Conference in Cumbria recently was a call to arms for marine experts and the public to join forces to protect the oceans.

And organisers the North West Wildlife Trusts used the event to press support for nature reserves in the Irish Sea as part of a UK-wide campaign by The Wildlife Trusts for 127 MCZs around the United Kingdom.

Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of York, described areas off the Isle of Man which have never been dredged as “carpeted with life”.

He said: “In the 19th century the Irish Sea bed was crusted with oysters. Today it is not just a sea different in the quantity of the wildlife it is different in the quality of the habitats in which that wildlife lives.”

Prof Roberts described how a study showed that dredging to catch 28,000 prawns also caught 12,000 other fish, most of which were thrown away. He also spoke of dives where he has seen the seabed damaged in huge areas by trawling.

“Over-fishing is not the only thing going on in the oceans," he said, "they are also affected by climate change and pollution. Our seas are changing faster than at any other time in human history.”

Prof Roberts said he was not against fishing, but that conservationists and the fishing industry need to find some common ground. “The prosperity of wildlife and the fishing industry depend on it," he said.

Meanwhile, The Wildlife Trusts marine protected areas manager Richard White spoke about the problems caused "by all the things that human activity is doing wrong".

He added: "We are trying to increase the resilience of our marine wildlife. The critical part is that we are doing this by trying to create Marine Conservation Zones.”

Pollution was highlighted by TV star and diver Paul Rose and Caroline Salthouse of the North West Coastal Forum.

“A huge problem is ocean debris," said Rose. "In 43 years of diving I am beginning to see more plastic and less fish. It is an issue that we must use to get people engaged in what is going on in our seas.”

Salthouse called for the public not only to sign the Wildlife Trusts’ new 'Petition Fish', but also to write to the British government as individuals.

More details about the Marine Conservation Zones and Petition Fish can be found at www.wildlifetrusts.org/living-seas

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The board of directors of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has announced the appointment of three new officers to cover the roles of conservation, Northern Ireland and the Irish language.

The new IWDG conservation officer is Dr Joanne O’Brien, a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).

Dr O'Brien lectures on the Applied Freshwater and Marine Biology degree. She has been working on cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoise) since 2004 and completed a PhD on small cetaceans off the west coast of Ireland in 2009.

She is particularly interested in acoustic monitoring and is currently principal investigator on an EPA-funded project exploring ocean noise and its impact on marine wildlife.

Padraic de Bhaldraithe is the new IWDG Irish language officer, following stints in postgraduate research in biological oceanography in Galway and in the Centre Nationale de l’Exploration des Océans in Brest, France.

After teaching in a second-level school for 10 years, he joined the inspectorate of the Department of Education and subsequently seconded to the State Examinations Commission where he was the chief examiner for Biology.

De Bhaldraithe has been a member of the IWDG for a number of years. He is also a keen sailor – and a founding member of the Galway Hooker Association – and currently works as a freelance translator.

The third appointee is Zoë Stevenson, the new Northern Ireland officer. She recently graduated from Swansea University and her passion for whales and dolphins have taken her all over the world. She’s seen humpback whales in Costa Rica, Hector’s dolphins in New Zealand and fin whales in Italy, just to name a few.

The IWDG will soon be appointing three more officers to the areas of welfare, education and science.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Seatruck Ferries is providing free passage this autumn for surveyors with a UK-based marine wildlife charity to discover how many dolphins and seabirds make their home in the Irish Sea.

MARINElife will be extending its marine conservation research on existing sailings operating between Liverpool and Dublin - and it is hoped its surveyors will spot a variety of cetaceans en route, including minke whales, common dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Risso's dolphins. 

Grey seals, basking sharks and a host of seabirds from the gannet to the Manx Shearwater, which winters off the coast of Brazil, may also be spotted.

The charity will be running monthly scientific surveys - the first started last week on 27th September – and its recorded sightings will be posted on the MARINElife website. 

It's expected that the data collected will contribute to a better understanding of the distribution and abundance of dolphins, porpoises, seals and seabirds in the Irish Sea. 

The research with Seatruck Ferries also contributes to a larger project operating on ferries around the UK coastline. 

Kevin Gilland, Seatruck Ferries representative involved in the project, said: "We are delighted to expand our help to MARINElife so they can further develop the understanding of the wildlife in the area. We look forward to hearing more about the wildlife encountered on these routes." 

Adrian Shephard, trustee for MARINElife, commented that "ferries, or ships of opportunity as we refer to them, are a very convenient way of carrying out off-shore surveys. 

"They allow us to access the same areas of ocean and monitor for changes over time - vital information which forms the basis of conservation decisions." 

MARINElife research director Dr Tom Brereton described the ferry routes across the Irish Sea as "particularly vital as the area is an important passage for whale, dolphins, sharks and even turtles."

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The News & Star reports that four graduate students have joined an 11-month scheme run by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust to learn more about marine conservation in the Irish Sea.

The programme, which includes classes and on-the-job training, will see them work at the South Walney Nature Reserve near Barrow-in-Furness, which is designatied as a Site of Specific Scientific Intrest, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area.

“The graduates will play a pivotal role in helping people to understand and value the wildlife that exists in the Irish Sea and what role they can play in both protecting and enjoying it," said programme manager Emily Baxter.

Late last year, the find of a rare leatherback turtle washed up in Cumbria was taken as a sign that the Irish Sea is hiding an unknown bounty of marine wildlife, and reinforced calls for the region to be designanted as a Marine Conservation Zone.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Protection for harbour porpoise off the north coast of Northern Ireland has been assured by the creation of two new areas of marine protection, as BBC News reports.

The new Special Areas of Conservation off Co Antrim encompass the sea and seabed surrounding the Maidens in the North Channel off Larne - protecting reefs and grey seals - and spots adjacent to the Giant's Causeway and Portrush Skerries in the north of the county.

Both areas are also considered of great importance to harbour porpoises, and according to Environment Minister Alex Attwood, the designation "comfirms that their numbers are significant throughout the year".

He added: "I hope this encourages people to visit the area to get a glimpse of these beautiful animals."

Campaigners are hoping for further coastal protections to be guaranteed by the Marine Bill, which will be debated at Stormont ths Autumn.

As reported earlier this year on Afloat.ie, the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force brought togethter politicians, environmentalists, fishermen and wind farm developers to ensure the new bill will deliver for all sea users.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#ANGLING - Voluntary conservation measures have been put in place on the Foyle system for the current angling season to help shore up wild salmon numbers, The Irish Times reports.

The move is in response to a "worrying fall" in the numbers of adult salmon returning to Ireland's rivers this year - and comes just months after wild Atlantic salmon were spotted in the Tolka in Dublin for the first time in nearly 100 years.

These voluntary measures - which involve catch and release, early closure of some club waters and the imposition of sanctuary areas - are intended to reduce the overall salmon catch, thereby encouraging the spawning rate upstream.

The general public have also been asked to assist by not purchasing any wild salmon - and especially those from the Foyle system, as the purchase or sale of such salmon is an offence.

Published in Angling

#ANGLING - Plans to bring forward the estuary draft net season "would have a detrimental effect" on spring salmon stocks, writes Derek Evans in The Irish Times today.

Evans was responding to proposals before Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O'Dowd to extend the draft net season from its current start date of 12 May to mid-April.

"At a time when we are beginning to see the benefits of the 2006 drift net closure coming to fruition in terms of salmon returning to our lakes and rivers," he writes, "is it not absolutely unreasonable to even consider such an application?"

He referred to anglers who have "played their part" by sticking to a "suite of regulations" introduced by the State in an effort to conserve river stocks, which include a doubling of the salmon licence fee and an annual bag limit restricted to 10 fish.

Spring salmon angling is also a significant attraction for tourism, he suggests, and any threat could damage that business.

The minister's office has issued a statement saying there no proposal currently under consideration to bring forward the start date.

Published in Angling
Page 4 of 6

Sharks in Irish waters

Irish waters are home to 71 species of shark, skates and rays, 58 of which have been studied in detail and listed on the Ireland Red List of Cartilaginous fish. Irish sharks range from small Sleeper sharks, Dogfish and Catsharks, to larger species like Frilled, Mackerel and Cow sharks, all the way to the second largest shark in the world, the Basking shark. 

Irish waters provide a refuge for an array of shark species. Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry provides a habitat for several rare and endangered sharks and their relatives, including the migratory tope shark, angel shark and undulate ray. This area is also the last European refuge for the extremely rare white skate. Through a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) project, Marine Institute scientists have been working with fishermen to assess the distribution, diversity, and monthly relative abundance of skates and rays in Tralee, Brandon and Dingle Bays.

“These areas off the southwest coast of Ireland are important internationally as they hold some of the last remaining refuges for angel shark and white skate,” said Dr Maurice Clarke of the Marine Institute. “This EMFF project has provided data confirming the critically endangered status of some species and provides up-to-date information for the development of fishery measures to eliminate by-catch.” 

Irish waters are also home to the Black Mouthed Catshark, Galeus melastomus, one of Ireland’s smallest shark species which can be found in the deep sea along the continental shelf. In 2018, Irish scientists discovered a very rare shark-nursery 200 nautical miles off the west coast by the Marine Institute’s ROV Holland 1 on a shelf sloping to 750 metres deep. 

There are two ways that sharks are born, either as live young or from egg casings. In the ‘case’ of Black Mouthed Catsharks, the nursery discovered in 2018, was notable by the abundance of egg casings or ‘mermaid’s purses’. Many sharks, rays and skate lay eggs, the cases of which often wash ashore. If you find an egg casing along the seashore, take a photo for Purse Search Ireland, a citizen science project focusing on monitoring the shark, ray and skate species around Ireland.

Another species also found by Irish scientists using the ROV Holland 1 in 2018 was a very rare type of dogfish, the Sail Fin Rough Shark, Oxynotus paradoxus. These sharks are named after their long fins which resemble the trailing sails of a boat, and live in the deep sea in waters up to 750m deep. Like all sharks, skates and rays, they have no bones. Their skeleton is composed of cartilage, much like what our noses and ears are made from! This material is much more flexible and lighter than bone which is perfect for these animals living without the weight of gravity.

Throughout history sharks have been portrayed as the monsters of the sea, a concept that science is continuously debunking. Basking sharks were named in 1765 as Cetorhinus maximus, roughly translated to the ‘big-nosed sea monster’. Basking sharks are filter feeders, often swimming with their mouths agape, they filter plankton from the water.

They are very slow moving and like to bask in the sun in shallow water and are often seen in Irish waters around Spring and early Summer. To help understand the migration of these animals to be better able to understand and conserve these species, the Irish Basking Shark Group have tagged and mapped their travels.

Remarkably, many sharks like the Angel Shark, Squatina squatina have the ability to sense electricity. They do this via small pores in their skin called the ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’ which are able to detect the tiny electrical impulses of a fish breathing, moving or even its heartbeat from distances of over a kilometre! Angel sharks, often referred to as Monkfish have a distinctively angelic shape, with flattened, large fins appearing like the wings of an angel. They live on the seafloor in the coastal waters of Ireland and much like a cat are nocturnal, primarily active at night.

The intricate complexity of shark adaptations is particularly noticeable in the texture of their skin. Composed of miniscule, perfectly shaped overlapping scales, the skin of shark provides them with protection. Often shark scales have been compared to teeth due to their hard enamel structure. They are strong, but also due to their intricate shape, these scales reduce drag and allow water to glide past them so that the shark can swim more effortlessly and silently. This natural flawless design has been used as inspiration for new neoprene fabric designs to help swimmers glide through the water. Although all sharks have this feature, the Leafscale Gulper Shark, Centrophorus squamosus, found in Ireland are specifically named due to the ornate leaf-shape of their scales.

Who is Your Sailor of the Year 2021?
Total Votes:
First Vote:
Last Vote:

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating