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Birdwatch Ireland says it is “deeply concerned” at a refusal by the Court of Appeal to continue the Government’s interim ban on large vessels fishing inside the six nautical mile zone.

The stay was applied for by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue, pending a Court of Appeal ruling on a permanent ban.

A full hearing took place on June 22nd, and judgement was reserved.

The case arose after former marine minister Michael Creed announced in December 2018 that vessels over 18 metres (m) would be excluded from trawling inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from January 1st, 2020.

A three-year transition period was granted for vessels over 18m targeting sprat, as the fishery is concentrated inside the six nautical mile zone.

Birdwatch Ireland says the ban followed extensive consultation and was supported by “expert analysis by the Marine Institute and the Bord Iascaigh Mhara”.

“These reports highlighted that restricting the access of larger vessels inside the six nautical mile zone would lead to improved protection of coastal environments and essential fish habitat, benefitting marine biodiversity and commercially exploited fish stocks,” the NGO said.

“They highlighted the socio-economic benefits for the smaller inshore vessels, that constitute the vast majority of Ireland’s registered fishing vessels. The potential benefits included diversification opportunities, more jobs, and added value of landings,” it said.

“Improved management of inshore waters could be achieved by aligning fishing more closely with local ecological and environmental objectives and by reducing conflict between mobile and static gears,” it said.

It said it could also strengthen the link between local fish resources and local economies.

Two fishermen sought a judicial review, challenging the validity of the policy. The High Court ruled on October 6th 2020 that the policy was made in breach of fair procedures, and was void and/or of no legal effect.

After a call by a number of NGOs, the minister appealed the High Court decision to the Court of Appeal.

Birdwatch Ireland policy officer Fintan Kelly said that it was of “serious concern”, that 2019 sprat catches increased significantly - relative to 2016-2018 - to 13,000 tonnes, at a value of approximately €3.5 million.

“Anecdotal evidence from inshore fishermen and anglers around the coast suggest that landings in 2020 may again be an increase on 2019 levels putting significant pressure on the marine environment,” he said.

“We now fear that overfishing of sprat will again occur this winter because of this ruling,” Kelly said.

He noted that European sprat is a critically important species, linking plankton and top predators including seabirds and marine mammals.

Sprat are also an important forage fish species for commercial fish species like herring, Kelly said, and overfishing poses “a significant risk to the health of commercial fish stocks which poses socio-economic implications for the fishing industry”.

“This is especially relevant when considering that three out of the five herring stocks that Irish fisher’s exploit has collapsed, and have zero catch advice for 2021,” he added.

He said BirdWatch Ireland’s research shows that sprat is an important prey species for 12 out of the 23 regularly occurring breeding seabirds in Irish waters. Many of these species are Amber-listed birds of conservation concern.

Overfishing sprat is also a threat to the whale species that pass through Irish waters during the summer months and which rely heavily on Sprat, he said, with up to half of the fin whale diet and 70 per cent of the humpback whale diet relying on young sprat and herring.

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency is inviting Ireland’s fishing industry to take part in a survey of the labour force as part of a study on current issues facing the industry including recruiting and retaining crew. The aim of the study, that began in May, is to better understand how crew members working on Irish fishing vessels are employed and how working conditions and benefits within the sector compare to competing sectors in the Irish labour market.

The study is also looking at the different terms of employment within the industry, comparing the relative advantages and disadvantages of different working arrangements for crew and their impact on tax, social welfare and benefits for crew members and their employers.

The perceived attractiveness of the industry as a place to build a career will be explored by comparing fishing sector working conditions and overall benefits to other competing sectors of Ireland’s labour market such as the construction sector.

Once complete, the findings of the study will help inform industry on courses of action that could be taken to improve the attractiveness of the sector to potential crew. The findings will also be used to assist BIM in its future development of training programmes.

BIM is working with independent research organisation, Indecon, to deliver the study. For more details, please contact BIM Senior Economist, Richard Curtin E: [email protected]

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The Minister for the Marine will definitely "seek to address the imbalance in the quota transfers under the Trade & Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and United Kingdom."

So says Fianna Fail's MEP, Billy Kelleher, in a statement from Brussels saying he had received this confirmation from Minister Charlie McConalogue.

"It may also be necessary for the Minister to seek a separate mechanism, independent of the CFP review, to deal with the issue of burden-sharing due to opposition from some Member States. A separate, but important point is also the need for the fishing communities in Ireland to receive substantial financial support as part of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. Ireland will receive well over €1 billion; some of this money must be used to support our fishing industry. While Ireland has 22% of EU seas, we only have 3% of total catch. As an island nation, it needs to be reflected by the EU authorities," said MEP Kelleher.

However, the Chief Executive of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Sean O'Donoghue, while welcoming a €10m EU aid deal for the Irish fleet, which had been recommended by the Task Force set up by the Minister says the aid has limitations.

He outlined why to Tom MacSweeney on the Maritime Ireland radio show. Listen in below: 

Published in Fishing

New research led by the University of Oxford says that successful conservation policies for marine mammals have increased the potential for conflict with small scale fishing communities.

The study published in the journal Conservation Letters says that management has to strike a balance, and the international community “needs to incorporate the needs and opinions of fishers in the global dialogue”.

This should include “considering if protecting human welfare could involve reducing protection for marine mammals”, the research states.

The paper drew on the experience of fisheries on the west coast of South America to highlight what the researchers describe as a “worldwide issue”.

“Globally, conflict between recovering seal and sea lion populations and fishing communities has been escalating,” the authors state.

They note that in South America, specifically Peru and Chile, marine mammals have been protected since the mid-20th century.

“ Conservation policies have mostly been successful and over the last thirty years marine mammal populations - specifically those of sea lions and seals - have recovered,” they state.

“ However, this recovery means that there’s a much higher likelihood that these animals will come into conflict with local fishers,” they say.

The study found that nearly nine out of ten fishers have a negative impression of sea lions, and they estimate that on average sea lions reduce their catch and income by over 50%.

“Whilst it’s illegal for sea lions and seals to be killed, this is happening regularly with over 70% of fishers admitting that sea lions are being killed to defend catches,”the study says.

It says that “fishers’ overwhelming concern is that sea lion populations are now too large”.

“To manage this conflict, there’s a need to balance the competing objectives of wildlife conservation with protection for local communities,”the researchers state.

“ There’s still concern about sea lion and seal populations because of how recently they’ve recovered, but small-scale fisheries are struggling, and fishers are often earning less than the minimum wage,”they note.

“If the global community is committed to a post-2020 deal for nature and people where improvements to people's wellbeing and nature conservation are both fulfilled - the elusive ‘win-win’ - then governments and scientists must engage with these “messy” local conflicts that repeat across the globe but resist high-level simplification,”lead author Professor Katrina Davis, noted.

The study says that sea lions and seals eat the same fish targeted by fisheries, and it is not uncommon for fishers to catch fish that have already been “nibbled” by the marine mammals.

This is a similar situation in Ireland with competition between seals and inshore vessels.

Marine mammals can also be accidentally caught in fishing nets.

“A tricky balance must be met between ensuring the future viability of marine mammal populations and ensuring that the livelihoods of small-scale fishers are protected. Fishers perceive that they are suffering large catch and income losses because of sea lions—and it’s these perceptions that we have to manage when we’re developing policy solutions,” Prof Davis says.

The researchers say the plan to investigate the impact of culls, and whether this would be viable without harming population levels, and whether it would curb aggression towards marine mammals.

The full paper can be read here

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced the launch of a Brexit Temporary Fishing Fleet Tie-up Scheme.

The scheme will help mitigate the impacts of quota cuts on the fishing fleet arising from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement agreed in December between the European Union and the UK. The scheme delivers on a recommendation of the Seafood Sector Task Force in its June 2021 Interim Report. The scheme is targeted at whitefish vessels in the Polyvalent and Beam Trawl segments.

The Minister said: “Arising from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the UK, Ireland is set to lose 26,412 tonnes of quota per year on a phased basis up to 2026, valued at around €43 million. These quota cuts affect many of our most valuable fish stocks and significantly impact our fishing fleet incomes in 2021. The Task Force I established in March has carefully considered this issue and recommended in its June 2021 Interim Report that a temporary fleet tie-up scheme should be implemented for the whitefish fleet to make best use of the reduced quota available in 2021 and to ensure continuity of supply throughout the remainder of this year”.

Brexit Temporary Fishing Fleet Tie-up SchemeBrexit Temporary Fishing Fleet Tie-up Scheme

The Minister went on to say: “The scheme I am launching today will invite vessels in the polyvalent and beam trawl segments to tie-up for a one-month period during October to December 2021. These vessels would tie-up at the quayside and cease all fishing activity for that month. In return, the vessel owner would receive a payment compensating for the lost fishing income. The vessel owners will in turn be required to distribute one third of that payment to crew. The following payment rates will apply”.

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The EU has approved a 10 million euro scheme to support the Irish fishery sector affected by Brexit and the consequent reduction in quota shares.

The 10 million euro funding under State aid rules is separate to the 5 billion euro Brexit Adjustment Reserve funding for EU states affected by Brexit. 

The European Commission says the support will be “available to companies that commit to temporarily cease their fishing activities for a month”.

“The aim of the scheme is to save part of the Irish reduced fishing quota for other vessels, while the beneficiaries temporarily suspend their activities,”the Commmission says.

“The compensation will be granted as a non-refundable grant, calculated on the basis of gross earnings averaged for the fleet size, excluding the cost of fuel and food for the crew of the vessel,” it says.

Each eligible company will be entitled to the support for up to a month between September 1st and December 31st this year.

Under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), member states can support the development of certain economic activities or regions, under certain conditions.T

This support will ensure the “sustainability of the fishery sector and its ability to adapt to new fishing and market opportunities arising from the new relationship with the UK”, the Commission says.

It says it will also facilitate the “objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally sustainable in the long term”.

The approval of 10 million euros under State aid rules “does not prejudge whether the support measure will eventually be eligible for BAR funding, which will be assessed once the BAR Regulation has entered into force”, the Commission says.

“However, it already provides Ireland with legal certainty that the Commission considers the support measure to be compliant with EU State aid rules, irrespective of the ultimate source of funding,”it says.

The separate 5 billion euro BAR funding for a number of affected coastal states will be allocated later this year, drawing on three main factors - the value of fish caught in the UK exclusive economic zone; the importance of trade with the UK; and the population of maritime border regions with the UK.

The EU has said that overall some €600 million will be allocated on the basis of the factor linked to fishing, €4.150 billion based on trade, and €250 million under the factor linked to maritime border regions.

Following on from the EU approval.of State aid, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue announced a temporary tie-up scheme for the fishing industry on Friday evening

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A Spanish registered fishing vessel has been detained by the Naval Service within Irish waters. 

The detention by the LÉ William Butler Yeats was in relation to "alleged breaches of fishing regulations", the Defence Forces press office said.

It did not give the position of the detention, other than stating it was "within the Irish exclusive economic zone". It said it would be escorted to port and handed over to the Garda.

This is the seventh vessel detained to date this year by the Naval Service, which conducts inspections at sea in line with a service level agreement with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

Earlier, this month a French registered fishing vessel was detained by the Naval Service off Mizen Head.

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Irish MEP Sean Kelly has called on the government to “rethink” its refusal to assist an Arklow fishing family after it lost substantial funds over a vessel bought abroad which proved to be dangerously unstable.

As the Times Ireland reports, the MEP for Ireland South said the case was a “one-off” and should be dealt with quickly and sympathetically by the Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan.

Skipper CJ Gaffney (49) of a well known Arklow fishing family - with five generations of service with the RNLI lifeboat – incurred substantial losses over the purchase of the vessel which had been certified as safe by German authorities.

The beam trawler Mary Kate was bought in the Netherlands in 2007, with the Gaffneys borrowing 620,000 euro for the purchase.

The vessel was registered under the German flag, and was certified by Germanischer Lloyd Classification Society.

However, when CJ Gaffney began fishing the vessel in January 2008, he noticed that it was significantly more unstable than his previous older boat.

Tests showed 20 tonnes of unaccounted steel were in the vessel, and the family opted to lengthen it to make it safer.

The family also initiated legal action against several German companies and the German Marine Safety Authority, but jurisdiction could not be established.

Ireland’s Marine Survey Office (MSO) would not allow the boat fish due to the dangerous stability issue, but issued a stability certificate in 2009 when it had been modified.

However, the Gaffneys had run out of money to buy an additional license.

The Gaffney family were left with a loan of almost 2 million euro after the banks sold the vessel in a fire sale. CJ Gaffney is currently working as a pilot in Dublin Port.

Research by the Gaffney’s legal representatives and naval architect established that other vessels of similar design were built for European waters and could have safety issues.

The European Commission, which gave the family a hearing over the issue back in 2011, says it is outside its remit, but indicated to the Gaffneys that Irish authorities could draw on EU funds to assist them.

Kelly said that he had been in touch with the European Commission, and it was “very sympathetic” and had “made it clear” it would like to see the Gaffney family being assisted financially.

Social Democrats TD for Wicklow Jennifer Whitmore has also called on the two ministers to resolve the issue on humanitarian grounds.

“C J Gaffney did everything he could , and he has prevented people from drowning,”Ms Whitmore said.

The Department of Transport said that the Marine Survey Office (MSO) “has been very proactive on this issue”.

The German ship safety division, the vessel designers and McConalogue’s department declined to comment.

Read The Times here

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Applications are being sought for a business diploma with a “salty air taste” run by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and the Institute of Technology (IT) Carlow.

The closing date is September 3rd for prospective participants in BIM’s higher diploma in business in fisheries and aquaculture.

The course, now in its fifth year, is designed for those interested in management, financial, research and development or regulatory roles in fisheries, aquaculture, seafood processing and related fields.

It may also appeal to those looking to start an aquaculture or fisheries business company or expand an existing company into new markets, BIM and IT Carlow IT.

As Dick Bates - from a well known Kilmore Quay fishing family - explains, the course is the only one in Ireland of its type at third level dealing with fisheries and aquaculture.

It is “more accessible than ever now all over the coast and the offshore islands, due to continuing online delivery”, Bates says.

“My dad was a fisherman from Kilmore Quay, who through circumstances of the time could not progress beyond primary education,” he says.

“I am immensely proud to be involved with the higher diploma in a voluntary capacity in my retirement. I think he would approve,” Bates says.

“I really believe in the transformative powers of education and believe that the way that the fisheries sector has been ignored by the third level institutions in Ireland for so long is not right. I also believe that training is no substitute for education,” Bates adds.

Entry requirements are NFQ Level 7 or level 8 Award or equivalent in a related discipline or relevant industry experience.

Organisers say consideration will also be given to applicants who do not hold level 7 QQI academic qualifications but who have extensive industry experience.

Currently, all modules are being taught remotely due to Covid -19 restrictions on Fridays and Saturdays every second week.

Funding for the course fee and subsistence costs may be available through here

Published in Aquaculture
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The Marine Minister and Donegal T.D., Charlie McConalogue, visited Killybegs for a day of engagements with the fishing industry on Friday 23rd July.

The Minister started the day visiting the Harbour Centre and met the Harbour Master, lead officials on works to the harbour and the SFPA. In May the Minister announced almost €9m in funding for work to Killybegs Harbour including €6.5m for phase two of the Smooth Point Pier Inspection which he visited on his tour of Killybegs.

Throughout the day the Minister met with the IFPEA, the KFO and inshore fishers including NIFA and NIFO representatives and boarded a vessel and visited a processing factory.

Commenting on the visit, Minister McConalogue noted: "I had a constructive day of meetings with fishers and fisher representatives throughout my visit to Killybegs. It was great to also take an opportunity to view the ongoing infrastructure projects to the harbour and to see progress on these projects."

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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.

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