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Inshore fishers have expressed shock at the sudden closure of the hook and line fishery for mackerel due to an exhausted quota.

As the Times Ireland reports, the hook and line method used to catch the fish inshore has low environmental impact, as there is no risk of by-catch of dolphins and turtles and other marine mammals.

The growth of farmers’ markets has opened up new domestic opportunities to sell the highly prized migratory fish - which is in demand worldwide because of its rich oil content.

However, a number of skippers among up to 2,000 other vessels under 15 metres entitled to catch inshore mackerel were shocked to hear earlier this month (June) that the fishery has closed early.

“We were told our 400-tonne overall quota for the entire inshore fleet has expired,” Eamon Dixon of the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association in Mayo says.

“We had dozens of young lads working on this fishery up here for up to three months of the year, and it has been so valuable for this area,” Dixon explains.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns has called on Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue to explain why over 98 per cent of Ireland’s overall quota of mackerel has been allocated to 49 larger Irish vessels – leaving less than a per cent for the inshore fleet.

National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) secretary Alex Crowley said the popularity of line-caught mackerel had risen in recent years, taking pressure off shellfish stocks and at a time when the price of crab had fallen.

“Up to last year, there was a trip limit of 500 kg, but this was increased by the department to 750kg per trip which had made it viable,” he said.

“For remote communities like north Mayo, it is an opportunity and with such a low impact,” he said. “However, our own management regime is choking this fishery”.

Dixon and colleagues believe there should be no quota set for smaller vessels, as they pose no threat to supertrawlers – both Irish and international - following the mackerel shoals between Norway, Scotland and Ireland.

Mr McConalogue’s department said that when the 400-tonne limit was exceeded in the fishery in 2020 it was “unexpected”, as total landings for vessels under 15m had been below this until then.

“The 2021 fishery was closed by the minister on June 12th, when the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) advised the Department that the available quota had been caught and exceeded,”it said.

The policy for allocation of 400 tonne to smaller vessels had been set in 2010, amended in 2017, and the minister must be “satisfied that there is satisfactory evidence of changed circumstances to justify a policy review”, it said.

Any such review would require an assessment and full public consultation, the department said, and any increase for the inshore fleet would require that it be “taken from others who are already facing significant cuts” under the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

The Brexit TCA involves transferring 25 per cent of Ireland’s overall mackerel quota to Britain, the department pointed out.

Read more in The Times here

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Steaming up the river Liffey before sunrise, a fleet of 55 Irish fishing vessels staged a national protest in Dublin over the impact of several key issues including Brexit.

The second large-scale protest called on the government to seek a “fairer share” of the burden imposed over loss of quotas in British waters as a result of the Brexit deal.

It was supported by all the main fish producer organisations.

Inshore skippers affected by the sudden closure of the hook and line fishery for mackerel were among those who travelled to Dublin.

Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association chief executive Brendan Byrne said fishermen from right around the coast were “venting frustration and anger at successive years of policy failures at EU and national level”.

“We are over-regulated...we have no equality compared to the French, and the Spanish and Dutch fleet...we are looking for a level playing field,” he said.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said Ireland gave away a “totally disproportionate” amount of fish to Britain in the Brexit agreement.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’DonoghueKillybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue

The other “bombshell” was the withdrawal of the EU control plan which meant all fish had to be weighed at the pier – a move which could “destroy the industry”, he warned.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chairman Damien Turner said he had fished for over 30 years, but he and his wife talked recently about him leaving the industry.

“It would break my heart to leave the industry and sell the boat..but when you look at the figures and look at what’ s happening ... you can’t let your heart rule your head,” Turner said.

“It is not just the men and women working on the boats, but up to 15 companies relying on us from electronics to engineering to the local supermarket,” he said.

Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation chairman John Lynch said that "a once-off temporary tie-up scheme is not enough".

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogueMinister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue

The Irish government’s seafood task force committee has recommended a tie-up scheme in the autumn as part of a series of measures to support the fleet after Brexit.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue said he held constructive talks over two hours with representatives of the fishing industry in Dublin, following the flotilla and protest.“

“ I welcome continued engagement with the industry,” he said.

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A commitment by Taoiseach Micheál Martin to “do right by the Irish fishing community” has failed to avert a large scale protest planned by the sector for Dublin Port this week.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, the protest planned for Wednesday (June 23) is expected to involve vessels from many ports steaming up the river Liffey.

They will berth close to the National Convention Centre, where the Dáil has been sitting temporarily.

Supported by the main fishing industry organisations, the protest comes several weeks after a similar “steam-in” to Cork harbour to highlight the impact of the Brexit deal which was co-ordinated by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation.

Mr Martin and Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue are due to hold online discussions on Brexit and other issues today (Mon June 21) after a visit by Martin to west Cork ports including Castletownbere and Union Hall.

Castletownbere fishing port in West CorkCastletownbere fishing port in West Cork

Speaking to reports in Castletownbere, Martin said that the Government had “already signalled to the European Commission that we are not happy with the unfair burden-sharing that occurred as a result of Brexit.”

Allocation of quotas was “challenging” and he hoped to “redress the balance” and “do right by the Irish fishing community”.

Martin’s weekend visit to hear the views of fishermen was organised by Fianna Fáil Cork South-West TD Christopher O’Sullivan, who called in the Dáil last week for a “whole government” approach to addressing the “unfair burden share” imposed on Ireland in the Brexit deal.

The EU-UK free trade agreement has resulted in a 15 per cent overall reduction in Irish fish quotas – to the value of 43 million euro – between now and 2026.

Irish fishing industry organisations are demanding that the Taoiseach demands a “fairer burden share” from the EU.

Ireland currently bears the largest proportionate loss of fish among eight EU coastal states which had fished in British waters.

The protest is calling for a renegotiation of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to ensure Ireland is allocated a fair share of quotas in its own waters.

It is calling for “equal burden sharing” among EU member states in relation to the Brexit deal, and a fair share of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve fund for the fishing industry.

The withdrawal of Ireland’s control plan by the EU – which means all fish has to be weighed on the pier, affecting quality – and issues with the current penalty points system for fishing offences are also being highlighted.

The industry also wants “immediate reinstatement” of traditional access to fishing grounds at Rockall and equal rights for all seafarers under Revenue and taxation laws.

An interim report published last week by the Government’s seafood task force had many valid proposals to ease the Brexit deal's impact, the spokesman said.

The interim report recommends a voluntary temporary tie up scheme of one month’s duration be offered to approximately 220 whitefish vessels impacted by the quota reductions in the period from September to December this year, among other measures.

Read more in The Times Ireland edition here

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has now received the interim report of the Seafood Sector Task Force. The Minister set up the Seafood Sector Task Force to examine the implications for the Irish Fishing industry and coastal communities particularly dependent upon it arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement, agreed between the European Union and the UK.

The Task Force, Chaired by Aiden Cotter, was charged with recommending initiatives that could be taken to provide supports for development and restructuring, so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing.

The Minister requested that an interim report to focus on arrangements for a temporary voluntary fleet cessation scheme to counter the impact of the reduction in quotas would be provided, followed later by the full report of the Seafood Sector Task Force. The Task Force was also asked to review the options and recommend actions that may be pursued that would assist in reducing the burden on Ireland from the transfers of fishing quota shares to the UK.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogueMarine Minister Charlie McConalogue

The Interim Task Force Report, supported by all Members of the Taskforce, addressed the issue of burden-sharing between Member States and recommends a range of initiatives to address the quota reductions in Trade and Co-operation Agreement. The Taskforce recommended a series of actions targeted at pelagic quotas and actions targeted at demersal quotas. The Interim Report indicates that the recommended actions, after further consideration by the Task Force, will be set down in detail in the main Report. The Interim Taskforce Report also recommends that a voluntary temporary cessation scheme of one months duration be offered, to approximately 220 whitefish vessels impacted by the quota reductions, in the period from September to December.

The Minister said “I wish to thank the members of the Seafood Sector Task Force for their constructive engagement under the guidance of the steering group (Aidan Cotter, Margaret Daly and Micheál O’Cinneide) to draft this interim report, which I requested would focus the issue of burden-sharing and on arrangements for a temporary voluntary fleet cessation scheme to counter the impact of the reduction in fishing quotas under the Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement. I am delighted to have now received that interim report.”

The Seafood Sector Task will continue its work with a view to producing a final report for submission to the Minister. The terms of reference ask the Task Force to outline the arrangements for a voluntary decommissioning scheme or other initiatives to address the implications of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement and outline other developmental strategies to strengthen and enhance coastal communities especially dependent on the seafood industry. The Task Force will also review the options and recommend actions that may be pursued which would assist in reducing the burden on Ireland from the transfers of fishing quota shares to the UK.

The Minister went on to say “I have asked the Task Force to consider how all available funding streams could be used to address, to the extent possible, initiatives to mitigate the impact of quotas transferred to the UK under the Trade and Co-operation Agreement. While the Brexit Adjustment Reserve and the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund will be very important elements in the implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force, they should not be considered the only sources of funding and, in the first instance, it is a matter for the Task Force to consider appropriate funding sources for recommendations they may make.”

The Seafood Sector Task Force is continuing its work and has, to date, met on seven occasions and received a total of 57 submissions from its members and through the public consultation process.

The establishment of the Seafood Sector Taskforce is an Action in the Department’s Action Plan 2021 under the Strategic Goal to ‘Deliver a sustainable, competitive and innovative seafood sector, driven by a skilled workforce, delivering value added products in line with consumer demand’.

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“There is a better way” than the present approach taken by government to the fishing industry, according to the Chairperson of Comhdháil Oileán na hEireann, the Islands’ Federation.

“This is a matter of huge importance regarding island community livelihoods and sustainability not to mention heritage and traditions,” wrote Chairperson Aisling Moran in an open letter on behalf of the offshore island communities to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

They have asked him to “intervene personally in the difficult situation facing the fishing industry.”

“We implore you to act to prevent the loss of hundreds of jobs, a way of life and a key element to coastal communities, Irish heritage and tradition. Island communities are intimately acquainted with the consequences of changes to fishing rights and regulations inflicted through the years. Islanders are by nature people of the sea. To sacrifice their ability to make a living though life-learned skills they are passionate about is beyond unreasonable. This continued decimation of the Irish fleet has been magnified with the onset of Brexit and the Irish fishing industry is fighting for its life.

“As Taoiseach we consider it appropriate for you to personally intervene in this serious situation. We ask all involved with the control and regulation of the fishing industry to have a hard look at the consequences of their actions against a proud and respected Irish livelihood.

“There is a better way.”

The Federation represents 16 offshore island communities. It was set up in 1984 to draw attention to “the difficulties facing islanders” in socio-economic development, problems which they felt were not being addressed at regional or national level

“We don’t know if he read our letter, but his Department sent a reply that it had been forwarded to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,” the Comhdháil told Afloat.

Charlie McConalogue is Minister at that Department, but the islanders had already sent a copy of the letter to him.

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D today paid tribute to the men and women working in Ireland’s seafood sector for their continued efforts to reduce Ireland’s marine waste as part of the Clean Oceans Initiative.

To date, the collaborative efforts of the sector have resulted in more than 600 tonnes of mainly plastic waste being collected at sea and during shore and pier clean-ups.

The Clean Oceans Initiative is being led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Speaking at the pier in Greencastle, Co Donegal, Minister McConalogue commended Irish fishing, aquaculture and coastal communities for their achievements in helping to reduce what he described as “the plastic pollution pervading the marine environment.”

The Minister also highlighted the collective and ongoing work of the sector to better manage gear to prevent it from entering oceans in the first place and their efforts to remove waste from the Marine environment.

He stated, “The Irish seafood sector are a leading example of what can be achieved through collaboration. This collective approach is the key ingredient needed to tackle the plastic pollution pervading the marine environment. I am ever- impressed by the level of ingenuity being taken by the sector and this new focus to address the problem of marine waste is helping to protect Ireland’s marine environment for future generations.”

The Clean Oceans Initiative is being led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM spoke of the learnings being gained from the sector’s involvement in the pilot project to better understand the benefits of a circular economy and said, “BIM is proud to support the work of Ireland’s fishers, aquaculture producers and other members of the seafood sector in their continued Clean Oceans Initiative activities. The sector has assumed a leadership role in the protection of the marine environment through marine litter retrieval. BIM will continue to work with industry to ensure they are prepared for new waste management requirements under impending EU legislation.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

Britain and the EU have reached agreement “in principle” on joint management of fisheries for this year, after over five months of negotiations.

The agreement was finalised in a phone call on Wednesday afternoon, June 2nd, between the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, and Britain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice, the commission says.

“Today's agreement closes the first-ever annual consultations on fishing opportunities between the EU and the UK under the terms of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA),” the commission said last night.

“The successful conclusion of the negotiations, which started in January, creates a strong basis for continued EU-UK cooperation in the area of fisheries,” it said.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George EusticeBritain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice

The agreement establishes the total allowable catches (TAC) for 75 shared fish stocks for 2021, as well as for some deep-sea stocks for 2021 and 2022, it said.

“It also provides clarity on access limits for non-quota species. The signing of the agreement, expected in the coming days, will also enable both parties to engage in quota exchanges,” the commission said.

Commissioner Sinkevičius said the agreement “provides predictability and continuity for our fleets with definitive TACs for the remainder of the year”.

“This is good for fishermen and women, our coastal communities and our ports, as well as for the sustainable use of our marine resources. This also proves that two partners on both sides of the Channel can find agreements and move forward if they work together,” he said.

The EU said the agreement is “based on the best available scientific advice on the state of fish stocks, as provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea”.

“It takes into account important sustainability and management principles, such as maximum sustainable yield and the precautionary approach, which are central to both the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and to the fisheries provisions of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” it said.

It said it would “shortly propose to the EU Council to incorporate the agreement into EU legislation”.

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After carrying out a high level of data and positional data analysis, the Naval Service has detained the Spanish fishing trawler involved in an incident with a Castletownbere trawler in Bantry Bay last Friday.

As Afloat reported earlier, the LÉ Roisin detained the Punta Candierira approximately 95 Nautical Miles South of Mizen Head for alleged breaches of fishing regulations and is escorting it to Cobh.

The Spanish-registered vessel was at the centre of an incident within the Irish 12-mile limit in Bantry Bay on Friday morning when the Castletownbere trawler, Lours de Mer, alleged that it attempted to ram the Irish vessel to force it away from fishing grounds.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers' Organisation described the incident as "dangerous intimidation" and called for the Spanish boat to be arrested.

Castletownbere Skipper Kieran Sheehan said that the Spanish Skipper was "aggressive" and was "doing circles around us."

The Castletownbere trawler claimed that the Spanish gill-netter vessel was long-line fishing inside the 12-mile limit and cut its gear to get outside the 12-mile limit before the Navy got to the scene.

The Naval Service said it conducted a search of the area but did not find any fishing gear.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority said the Spanish vessel was "operating" within the Irish 12-mile limit.

Spanish vessels do not have rights to fish there.

The Naval Service said that they "had to contact a high level of data and positional data analysis" in the case which resulted in the detention.

This is the fifth vessel detained by the Naval Service in 2021.

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Researchers at the Marine Institute are calling on fishers from around the country to participate in a new project aimed at reducing unwanted catches across harvesting practices, in an ecological, economic, and socially sustainable way.

The project, IFISH, will use a behavioural approach involving near real time on-line mapping of unwanted catches in order to simultaneously help fishers adhere to EU quotas and promote sustainability of fish stocks. Effectively the system aims to help fishers reduce the amount of catch they don't want, avoiding discards. The project is funded by a Science Foundation Ireland SIRG grant.

According to Dr. Julia Calderwood, Principle Investigator on the project, over the past few decades fishers and the wider public began to realise that discarding of fish was a significant issue throughout fisheries worldwide.

“Discarding is the throwing back of dead or damaged fish into the sea, which can undermine sustainability,” she says. “That's why legislation was introduced by the EU meaning the discarding of many fish species is no longer allowed.”

Dr. Calderwood explains that quotas are set on how much fishers can land each year. This is rolled out initially at an EU level and is thereafter divided out between the member states to manage their own stocks accordingly. In that way the species populations should be capable of replacing themselves.

Methods to control stocks

In order to adhere to quotas, fishers adopt an array of solutions that help increase selectivity in a fishery. Technical measures include using more selective nets such as those with larger mesh sizes or escape panels so that unwanted catch aren’t retained in them. However, marine researchers around the world are now considering ideas at a more sophisticated level of planning. For example, scientists at the Marine Institute have previously worked on a project to develop probability maps to help understand where and when the species subject to quotas were most likely to be caught.

“The maps didn't reveal anything truly surprising,” says Calderwood. “Fishers told us that they were generally useful as a reference tool, and broadly agreed with their own knowledge. But they were limited because they were based on catch information collected over broad areas, and over broad timeframes or seasons.”

“So, the fishers said it might be something that they would check in on every now and then, but the maps weren’t going to be used every day, because they weren’t giving them the up-to-date information on where the fish are right now.”

The IFISH system

Dr. Calderwood and her team then decided to try something more innovative. The idea is to create a mobile phone app using a near real-time mapping system to provide advice to fishers about where they might avoid fishing to not catch unwanted species or sizes of fish, helping them to stay within their quotas and improve their catch efficiency so they are still making a viable living.

“That's the IFISH project,” she says. “The idea is for skippers to provide live information on unwanted catches they encounter using our app. So, for example, they could log in and very simply and easily click on the map to indicate that, say, right here, right now, we're catching lots of something that we don't want, like undersize fish or species which aren’t marketable.”

“The app would then create an alert that would be shared among vessels who are signed up to use the app together, helping them to avoid areas with this unwanted catch. It's a win-win situation for everyone, but we need fishers to help us by signing up to help develop and test the app.”

The project aims to have an app in use during 2022 but is currently designing what is needed for this app alongside industry so that the final product best addresses their needs. The project is currently asking fishers to sign up and join in the design process. Further information and contact details can be found at www.i-fish.org

This focus on research is presented as part of the Marine Institute’s four-week Oceans of Learning campaign, which will enable everyone to engage with our ocean from anywhere. Oceans of Learning includes a new podcast series, videos and short films, news and online resources all about our ocean. There’s something for everyone and the Oceans of Learning series will explore all aspects of our marine resource - from our rich marine biodiversity, to our changing ocean climate, and our oceans future.

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The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says that a Spanish-registered fishing vessel was "operating within the waters of Bantry Bay and therefore within Ireland's 12-nautical mile limit" during what Irish fishermen in the South West claim was an attempted ramming incident.

The incident was filmed by the crew of the Irish trawler.

The Irish skipper can be heard on VHF radio telling the Spanish boat to 'stay away from us.'

The CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick Murphy, called SFPA Chair Susan Steele and asked for immediate action.

Fishermen also called for the Navy to protect Irish fishing boats.

The CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick MurphyThe CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick Murphy

"The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority are aware of a situation that arose when a Spanish registered vessel was encountered by an Irish-registered vessel operating within the waters of Bantry Bay and therefore within the IRL 12-nautical mile limit. The situation continues to be closely monitored by the National Fisheries Monitoring Centre at the Naval Base, Haulbowline," the SFPA said in a statement.

The incident happened on Friday morning, two days after fishermen staged a demonstration in Cork protesting at the dominant quotas held by non-Irish EU vessels in Irish waters.

"This was an attempt to force Irish boats off our own fishing grounds. It is intimidation. Our authorities must take action against this vessel acting extremely dangerously at sea and endangering life," the Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers' Organisation, Patrick Murphy, said. "It is appalling. This was a threat to life at sea, so action must be taken against the vessel which tried to do the ramming. The Spanish boat should be arrested and stopped from fishing in Irish waters."

Published in Fishing
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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.

©Afloat 2020

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