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Displaying items by tag: Cape Verde

Despite desktop research replacing field work during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group recently made a breakthrough in confirming a second Irish humpback whale at breeding grounds off Cape Verde — following last year’s confirmation of what was long suspected by researchers.

The match with HBIRL78 — first sighted off Hook Head in January 2017 — was made in collaboration with Lindsey Jones of the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue and “suggests we were right to invest our time and energy into this archipelago”, writes IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley.

Although there is little chance of any further trips this breeding season, with Cape Verde having shut down like much of the world to control the spread of the virus, the latest find will be encouraging when field work can resume in 2021.

“HBIRL78 may still be in the waters of Sal Rei Bay, Boa Vista, looking to mate or give birth, and if this is the case, it still has a long 4,250 km northbound journey ahead of it,” says Whooley. “It could of course have completed it’s reproductive mission, in which case it may be little more than a few weeks away from finding itself within scoping range of our southwest headlands.

“Whether of course we’ll be able to get out on boats to photograph it when it does return will be down to a much smaller and far less welcome organism. But given the current Covid-19 environment, I can think of nothing better for body, soul or mind, than to sit on a headland for a few hours and try to spot our returning humpbacks.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) sets sail this weekend for Cape Verde next month on its eighth humpback whale expedition.

Funded by the Island Foundation, this two-week mission comes just months after the IWDG finally confirmed the breeding grounds for Ireland’s regular humpback whale visitors near the west African island chain.

Cape Verde also appears to be a chosen spot for these marine wildlife giants from both ends of the earth, as a previous mission in September 2014 recorded humpbacks that usually feed in the southern hemisphere.

Next month’s mission, while building on this research, will also involve training local marine biologists in cetacean survey and research techniques “to empower them to take ownership of whale and dolphin conservation”.

Spanish research group Edmaktub will be providing its 47ft Lipari catamaran as a research platform for their work, updates from which will be posted to a dedicated Facebook page.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Sixteen years after the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s (IWDG) first attempt to find the origins of Ireland’s humpback whales, a chance excursion on the latest expedition to Cape Verde has finally revealed the breeding grounds for these threatened marine wildlife visitors.

It was long suspected that the waters around the island chain off West Africa were the most likely breeding area for humpbacks that have been sighted nearly 1,000 times and photographed ever 100 times in Irish waters over the last two decades.

But that wasn’t confirmed until this April during a two-week expedition, when on a trip to a known breeding spot in Santa Monica off Boavista, IWDG chief Simon Berrow photographed two humpbacks that surfaced near his boat.

One of these whales was identified by the group’s international network of experts as an individual sighted by Nick Massett off Kerry four years ago. It was just the match they’d been searching for.

“What a fantastic outcome for the IWDG,” said Massett at the news. “It was born out of the belief that the Cape Verde islands was the breeding ground for the humpbacks we have documented here off Ireland. But it is down to the dogged persistence of the expedition teams that have returned there over the years to prove the theory.

“I am delighted for Simon Berrow that he finally got the definitive proof of this connection, and pleased to have played my part in documenting the animal here off Co Kerry.”

Also celebrating the achievement was IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley, who had been beginning to doubt whether they had been looking in the right place all these years.

“We’ve finally found a really important missing piece of the jigsaw,” said Whooley, “but it’s a very large puzzle, which still has lots of missing pieces.”

The next steps for the IWDG are to determine how to use this information to enhance conservation for the endangered species, perhaps involving a greater level of co-operation between the Irish and Cape Verdean governments.

Meanwhile, the group will follow-up this find with another expedition to Cape Verde this coming September.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A new film on a decade-long study of humpback whales in the Atlantic will have a special screening in Cork later this month, as The Southern Star reports.

The Humpback Whales of Cape Verde – which stars some of the marine giants that visit Cape Clear every year – will be shown to the public in a free event at Clonakilty Library at 7.30pm on Wednesday 27 January.

It following the work of Dr Simon Berrow of GMIT the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), who has been a part of annual marine science expeditions to Cape Verde for a number of years, studying the humpback whales of the islands off Western Africa – and their connections with West Cork, where the species is regularly spotted each summer.

Dr Berrow also featured on Afloat.ie this week for the new journal paper he co-authored on the threat of banned toxic chemicals in European waters to killer whales and other cetaceans.

Note: a previous reference to a screening in North Donegal was inaccurate, but dates of future library tour screenings for the film from February 2016 can be found HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Researchers with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) have arrived in Cape Verde to continue their studies on the North Atlantic humpback whale.

In what is the fourth expedition by the IWDG to the islands off the west coast of Africa, Conor Ryan and Darren Craig will be collecting biopsy samples to study the whale's genetics and analyse for persistant organic pollutants in their habitat. They will also be recording whale song and collecting photo ID images.

According to the IMDG: "All these techniques are helping us to build up a picture of how isolated this population is, about the geographic range of these whales, and how large the population is."

Regular updates from the duo, including photos of local flora and fauna and marine wildlife, will be posted on their research weblog HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has announced another series of its popular whale watching courses on Cape Clear in West Cork this summer.

The courses cater for adults keen to learn more about whales and dolphins in Irish waters and how to observe, record and identify them. They will feature a mixture of workshops and field trips, including cliff and boat-based whale watches.

Three weekend courses will take place on 25-27 May, 20-22 July and 7-9 September, led by IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley. All are open to IWDG members and non-members alike, but places are limited to 20 places each weekend on a first-come-first-served basis.

Admission is €70 for IWDG members (€90 for non-members), with a non-refundable deposit of €25 required. Please note that this fee does not cover transport to Cape Clear, food or accomodation (which is limited in high summer) or any boat trips. As the itinerary will be weather-dependant, some flexibility will be required.

More information on the weekends and booking details are available at the IWDG website HERE.

In other IWDG news, the group has secured another grant from the Island Foundation to continue its humpback whale research in Cape Verde this spring and summer.

A shore-based team will be stationed in Boa Vista in an area that is "possibly the most important site for breeding humbacks in the entire northeast Atlantic".

Published in Marine Wildlife
Deep sea fishing is alive and well off the west coast of Ireland, and not only is it a hugely enjoyable sport - just one catch can be enough to feed the whole family.
That's what The Irish Times' Elizabeth Birdthistle discovered in the last of her series on catching your dinner in Ireland.
Birdthistle set out for the waters off Inis Boffin with John Brittain, who has been skippering his angling boat Bluewater for 20 years for the charter fishing season between April and October.
The boat takes up to 12 anglers who are more than eager to pay €70 a head to catch large cod, pollack and mackerel in abundance. Even novices are welcome, as the fee covers all rods, tackle and tuition.
Squid and octopus are also on the cards, as are some larger quarries such as sharks and ray - though these can only be fished in a tag-and-release programme. Smaller catches also get thrown back to propogate.
"The biggest shark caught here weighed 150lbs," writes Birdthistle,  "and, as with all sharks caught, Brittain must tread with caution to release the giant hook or else the shark returns to the deep with part of his hand.
"The tagged sharks have been caught as far away as the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and the Cape Verde islands.
The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Deep sea fishing is alive and well off the west coast of Ireland, and not only is it a hugely enjoyable sport - just one catch can be enough to feed the whole family.

That's what The Irish Times' Elizabeth Birdthistle discovered in the last of her series on catching your dinner in Ireland.

Birdthistle set out for the waters off Inis Boffin with John Brittain, who has been skippering his angling boat Bluewater for 20 years for the charter fishing season between April and October.

The boat takes up to 12 anglers who are more than eager to pay €70 a head to catch large cod, pollack and mackerel in abundance. Even novices are welcome, as the fee covers all rods, tackle and tuition.

Squid and octopus are also on the cards, as are some larger quarries such as sharks and ray - though these can only be fished in a tag-and-release programme. Smaller catches also get thrown back to propogate.

"The biggest shark caught here weighed 150lbs," writes Birdthistle,  "and, as with all sharks caught, Brittain must tread with caution to release the giant hook or else the shark returns to the deep with part of his hand. 

"The tagged sharks have been caught as far away as the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and the Cape Verde islands."

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Angling

Plans to carry out a post-mortem examinations on thirty-five Pilot whales found dead on a beach in Co Donegal yesterday have been cancelled due to bad weather according to Dr. Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Up to thirty-five  Pilot whales were found dead on a beach in Co Donegal. The whales were discovered on Rutland Island near Burton port yesterday afternoon on a beach and have been confirmed as pilot whales, mostly mothers and calves.

A team from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology led by Dr Ian O'Connor and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group are planning to travel to record length, gender and obtain photographs to see if they can be matched to the recently observed Scottish animals. Skin samples and teeth will also be collected for genetics and life-history studies.

According to locals the whales had been seen feeding in the area around Aranmore Island since Tuesday. 

A group of around 30 pilot whales were monitored in South Uist in the outer Hebrides, Scotland last weekend for fear of their live-stranding. The IWDG believe it may be the same group.

Pilot whales have a tendency to strand themselves in large numbers and a similar incident occurred in Co Mayo a few years ago. In June Cape Verde islanders abandoned hope for the survival of 92 pilot whales that were found washed up in a mass beaching. In September in New Zealand at least 25 pilot whales died after beaching themselves in a north Wellington bay as rescuers battled to save almost 50 more stranded.

RTE News has pictures HERE

 

Published in Marine Wildlife

Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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