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Displaying items by tag: Loughs Agency

The Loughs Agency’s CatchmentCARE Team has been busy since the summer delivering and deploying passive samplers across the Finn catchment in the North West.

This passive sampler survey aims to detect the presence of herbicides and pesticides such as MCPA, Diazinon, Cypermethrin and Acetamiprid in the target areas.

The samplers have been placed strategically at five key locations in Co Donegal: a control site deployed in the Stranagoppoge; two sheep dip monitoring sites at the Reelan Bridge and Altnapaste; and forestry monitoring sites in the Upper Reelan and Cummirk which will monitor private and public forestry, respectively.

The sample survey aims to detect the presence of herbicides and pesticides such as those commonly uses as sheep dip | Credit: Loughs AgencyThe sample survey aims to detect the presence of herbicides and pesticides such as those commonly uses as sheep dip | Credit: Loughs Agency

Sites were chosen based on data collected by the CatchmentCARE Team on active dipping facilities and forestry locations in the Finn.

The samplers will be deployed for 12 months. The CatchmentCARE Team will visit the sites every two weeks to collect the samples, which will be sent to TE Laboratories for analysis.

The Loughs Agency says the team is hopeful the results from the passive sampler will highlight the extent to which herbicides and pesticides related to sheep dip and forestry activities are impacting the aquatic environment.

The CatchmentCARE samplers will be in place for 12 months | Credit: Loughs AgencyThe CatchmentCARE samplers will be in place for 12 months | Credit: Loughs Agency

The nature of the passive sampling equipment allows us to continuously monitor for the presence of these chemicals, which is not possible with traditional spot sampling of water and sediments.

The use of this type of equipment to monitor pesticides in Ireland is very novel, the agency adds, and expressions of interest in the results have been received by several environmental regulatory bodies on the island and academic researchers.

You can find out more about the CatchmentCARE project in its Autumn 2021 Newsletter.

Published in Environment

The Loughs Agency reminds anglers of the annual close season, which prohibits angling over the winter months to help protect salmon and sea trout from disturbance when spawning.

The Foyle Area and Carlingford Area (Close Seasons for Angling) Regulations prohibit fishing for salmon and sea trout over the winter, with fishing due to resume in early 2022.

The annual close season for salmon and sea trout began last Thursday 21 October in the Foyle catchment, and starts Monday 1 November in the Carlingford catchment.

As closing dates vary slightly across the catchments, Loughs Agency encourages anglers to check season dates for each river on the Loughs Agency website and social media platforms, as well as with fishery owners to ensure they are up to date on local restrictions.

The State of the Salmon report published recently by the international lead on salmon management, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO), highlights the worrying and continuous decline in the populations of the Atlantic salmon.

NASCO states: “It now takes about double the number of eggs to produce one adult (compared to 1990s) that will return to that same river to spawn – an indication of the multiple pressures facing the species throughout its complex life cycle.”

Lough Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said: “The annual close season is an important time of year. Reducing disturbances on fish when they are spawning and at their most vulnerable helps protect stocks for the future.

“We recognise that angling is not the sole cause of stock decline, but by observing the close season, anglers are ‘playing their part’ in boosting the long-term resilience and sustainability of iconic fish species.”

John McCartney, director of conservation and protection at the Loughs Agency, added: “We all must take a forward-thinking approach based on the latest scientific guidance that balances responsible angling and sustainability.”

As the game fishing season ends for 2021, anglers are reminded to update their catch return and fishing effort on the Loughs Agency elicence website.

Anglers who wish to fish during the winter months are permitted to catch coarse fish such as perch, roach and bream, for which a valid coarse fishing licence is required.

During the close season, Loughs Agency fishery officers patrol riverbanks to prevent illegal fishing and protect fisheries. Anglers found fishing out of season will be prosecuted through the courts.

The Loughs Agency encourages members of the public to make direct and prompt illegal fishing reports either through the 24-hour response line at +44 28 7134 2100 or through the WaterWatch reporting tool.

Published in Angling

The Loughs Agency has welcomed the announcement of its new Board Chairperson, Heather Mackey, who is also the first female appointee in the role. The appointment was officially announced at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) held this week.

Loughs Agency’s Board is responsible for ensuring that the Agency’s statutory functions and strategic plans are implemented effectively and efficiently.

Ms Mackey, a native of Co. Galway, has served as an independent non-executive Board Member of Loughs Agency since 2016. Her appointment as Chairperson will take effect from 13th December 2021.

Loughs Agency CEO, Sharon McMahon congratulated Ms Mackey on her appointment as incoming Board Chairperson. “Heather has served on Loughs Agency’s Board for the past five years and is a dedicated ambassador on behalf of the Agency. She brings a wealth of expertise and guidance to the Board in setting the strategic direction for the Agency and is passionate about the work that we carry out in the Foyle and Carlingford areas.”

“I am delighted that Heather will also become the first female Chairperson of our Board and we all look forward to working with her in her new capacity, taking over the reins from our esteemed Chairperson Laurence Arbuckle.”

Commenting on her appointment, Heather Mackey said it was an honour and a privilege to be stepping into the role as Chair of Loughs Agency’s Board which reports to the NSMC and its government Sponsor Departments – Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) in Ireland.

Ms Mackey said: “I am delighted to have received the opportunity to serve on Loughs Agency’s Board as Chairperson. I am looking forward to further assisting and supporting the excellent work carried out by the Agency as part of their functions providing effective conservation, management, promotion and development of the fisheries and marine resources of the Foyle and Carlingford areas in a key time for the organisation, particularly whilst we all help address the climate crisis.”

Laurence Arbuckle, outgoing Chairperson of Loughs Agency’s Board, also expressed his best wishes to the new incumbent following today’s announcement and thanked Ms Mackey for her valued contribution to date as an independent non-executive Member of the Board.

Heather Mackey is an experienced Communications Director with over 20 years’ experience in strategic communications and advises numerous boards providing governance, business and communications support. A seasoned traveller, Ms Mackey has visited over 40 countries.

Ms Mackey founded the Galway-based public relations company, Ace Media, in 2009. She currently works as a publicist for many arts organisations in Galway, including the Galway Film Fleadh, Irish Film and Television Academy, Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture and TULCA Festival of Visual Arts and Blue Teapot Theatre Company. She previously worked as a TV producer for Bloomberg Television in London. She also works as a media lecturer and holds a Masters in Journalism from NUI, Galway.

Published in News Update
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Field personnel from the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) based at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia are currently in the North West working with the team servicing critical animal tracking infrastructure in support of the SeaMonitor project.

Led by the Loughs Agency and supported by eight leading marine research institutions, SeaMonitor is delivering Europe’s largest fish monitoring array using advanced, large-scale technology, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

The project aims to track the movements of some of the ocean’s most vulnerable species including Atlantic salmon, flapper skate, basking sharks, seals and cetaceans.

Data collected by researchers will be used to help inform marine policy and management frameworks and support conservation measures.

OTN field personnel Cassandra Hartery and Caitlin Bate have been carrying out expert field work coordinated alongside Diego del Villar, senior scientific officer for the SeaMonitor project at the Loughs Agency, using large-scale acoustic telemetry equipment.

“OTN has once again come up trumps for the agency and the SeaMonitor project by lending their expertise to help our team with the retrieval and redeployment of Europe’s largest array,” said Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon.

“The ocean is a massive, dynamic and challenging environment to work in. Our priority is to get the equipment safely out of the water and I am delighted at the excellent progress to deliver such significant and innovative marine research data that will ultimately help protect some of our most important and vulnerable marine species.

“The agency’s specialist team together with project partners are continuing to work hard to ensure project objectives are delivered whilst following COVID-19 protocols and the amazing work undertaken recently puts us well ahead of schedule.”

Funding for the SeaMonitor project has been provided under the environment objective of the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), to the tune of €4.7m.

Match-funding for this project has been provided by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland.

Key support and expertise was also provided by DEARA whose vessel, The Queen of Ulster, was used to take the project scientists out for the retrievals last week. Other vital field work was carried out at Loughs Agency headquarters in Derry and in Lough Foyle.

For more information about the project visit the Lough Agency’s SeaMonitor portal or follow the project on Twitter at @SeaMonitor1.

Published in Marine Science
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A section of riverbank in Co Tyrone which was eroded by flash flooding has been stabilised as part of a wider habitat enhancement project being progressed by the Loughs Agency.

Flood waters in the Owenkillew River had stripped the 160m riverbank area of vegetation, and trees became unstable resulting in subsidence and suspended solids entering the river at Beltrim Estate in Gortin.

Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said the site was identified as needing support to improve water quality for the benefit of downstream salmonid spawning sites.

“Managing and supporting a sustainable wild fishery is a careful balance of conservation, protection and letting nature take its course,” she explained.

The Loughs Agency engaged with the landowner who had recently installed fencing to protect the riverbank from livestock access.

Before the riverbank enhancement works on the Owenkillew River in Co Tyrone | Credit: Loughs AgencyDuring the riverbank enhancement works on the Owenkillew River in Co Tyrone | Credit: Loughs AgencyAfter the riverbank enhancement works on the Owenkillew River in Co Tyrone | Credit: Loughs AgencyFrom top: before, during and after the riverbank enhancement works on the Owenkillew River in Co Tyrone | Credit: Loughs Agency

Larch timber poles were then driven into the edge of the river to reinforce the bank, while layers of horizontal poles were fixed to protect the base of the riverbank. Brash was installed behind the poles to help catch silt and debris and naturalise the bank.

The area behind the revetment was planted with native broadleaf trees including hazel, oak and alder. Willow was also planted tight into the riverbank so that the root structure would help stabilise the bank, further reducing erosion.

While the riverbank has naturalised with trees and plants becoming established during the summer, the invasive Himalayan balsam plant has unfortunately also established itself. The agency says it hopes to reduce coverage on this non-native species by removing stems before it goes to seed next year.

Seamus Cullinan, fishery inspector at the Loughs Agency, said: “It is important to understand the cause of riverbank erosion and design the most appropriate solution to mitigate against it. This type of green engineering is sustainable and effective at providing long-term stabilisation and benefits for the fishery.”

Loughs Agency has used green engineering solutions in other sites in Northern Ireland's Foyle catchment, where persistent water flow and floods are responsible for removing bank material, causing erosion and subsidence.

The Owenkillew, Camowen, Glenelly and Finn rivers are among several river enhancement projects scheduled for this year.

Published in Angling
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The ability to track free-swimming salmon juveniles has been extended hundreds of kilometres into the open ocean using advanced robotic technology.

As part of the EU INTERREG VA-funded SeaMonitor project, Dr Ross O'Neill of the Marine Institute and Kieran Adlum, P&O Maritime, tested a remotely operated ocean glider along the steeply sloping area of the shelf edge some 130km north-west of the Scottish Hebrides.

The torpedo-shaped device, equipped with an acoustic tag detector, was deployed from the RV Celtic Explorer on 16 April during the 2021 Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey.

This is the first time such active tracking technology has been applied to Atlantic salmon in Europe.

During its two-month mission, the glider successfully detected four individual juvenile salmon smolts measuring only 15-19cm, nearly 600km from their home rivers in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

These fish had been tagged between four and six weeks previously with electronic acoustic transmitting tags along with hundreds of other juvenile salmon as part of the SeaMonitor project as well as the West Coast Tracking Project, a partnership between the Atlantic Salmon Trust, Fisheries Management Scotland and Marine Scotland, EU INTERREG VA-funded COMPASS project and Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI) research initiatives.

One of the main aims of these projects is to investigate the persistent low marine survival of Atlantic salmon in the early stages of their oceanic migration to feeding grounds in the North Atlantic.

The four fish originated from the River Burrishoole in Co Mayo, the River Bann in Northern Ireland and the rivers Clyde and Awe in Scotland.

Up to now, most tracking studies had been limited to estuarine or coastal areas due to technology limitations and the need for stationary receivers.

Map showing SeaMonitor Atlantic salmon smolt detection and release locations

According to Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh of the Marine Institute and principal investigator for the SeaMonitor project: “The detection of these fish confirms the importance of the shelf edge in this amazing journey, as the faster currents associated with the steep slopes most likely act as an aquatic transport system facilitating the northward migration of these tiny fish through a very harsh environment.”

Prof Colin Adams of the University of Glasgow and principal investigator for the SeaMonitor Project added: “This study shows that tracking salmon over considerable distances at sea can be achieved which is crucial for research into highly migratory marine species especially where mortality may be occurring far from the shore.”

Dr Ciaran Kelly, director of fisheries ecosystems and advisory services at the Marine Institute, said: “The use of the glider to track the movements of even very small fish has been clearly demonstrated and this will encourage the use of autonomous underwater vehicles to improve information on many marine species of animals which may be endangered or threatened without interfering with their natural migrations.”

The SeaMonitor project is “breaking the boundaries of research into the marine migration journey of the iconic Atlantic salmon”, said Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon.

“This innovative research will help to identify migratory routes and factors influencing salmon survival at sea, providing data to inform future research and decision making.”

The glider is part of the SeaMonitor integrated cross-jurisdiction major network of acoustic receivers, robotic underwater vehicles, satellite tracking and passive acoustic receivers in European waters and its use will be extended to track cetaceans, basking shark and skates as well as to collect physical oceanographic data.

When combined, the data will enable a holistic view of the regions mobile marine species and will prove invaluable to the regions managers, as well as establishing an integrated network of marine receivers for future applications and extended monitoring.

Match-funding for the project has been provided by Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in Ireland.

For more information about the project visit the Lough Agency’s SeaMonitor portal or follow the project on Twitter at @SeaMonitor1.

Published in Marine Science

TV weather presenter Barra Best learned about the iconic Atlantic salmon from school pupils at the recent virtual Salmon Ambassador conference hosted by the Loughs Agency.

The conference was the culmination of a five-month primary school education programme that encouraged pupils to learn about their local river system.

It included a range of activities and topics such as salmon life cycles, migration, conservation, preservation, restoration and the role of the Loughs Agency.

School pupils also received regular video updates of live salmonids and watched as the eggs developed, hatched and matured to the fry and parr stage of their life cycle.

At the conference, which Barra Best compered, nearly 200 pupils gathered virtually and presented animations, videos, posters and works of art to their fellow Salmon Ambassadors, with each class focusing on a particular life stage.

Pupils highlighted the habitat in which the fish live, the food they eat, the natural threats they face and the impact of human activities and waste on their health and survival.

Loughs Agency CEO Sharon McMahon said: “The children who participated in Salmon Ambassadors are the next generation of environmentalists, anglers, fishery officers, teachers, scientists and caretakers for the natural world.

“I hope that Salmon Ambassadors has inspired them to care passionately about our planet and instilled in them the importance of living in balance with nature.”

The Loughs Agency initiated Salmon Ambassadors as part of the International Year of the Salmon to help connect young people to the incredible fish that inhabits the Foyle and Carlingford river catchments. For more information see the Loughs Agency website HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Loughs Agency has issued advice for any anglers in the Foyle and Carlingford catchments who have made unusual catches in recent weeks.

Those who suspect they have caught an escaped farmed Atlantic salmon, escaped farmed Rainbow trout, escaped farmed brown trout, non-native pink salmon or fish displaying external or internal signs of disease are directed to follow the advice below:

  • Please report to DAERA Inland Fisheries at [email protected] or the Loughs Agency at [email protected]
  • If possible take a picture prior to release and attach this to any report.
  • Do not dispatch fish unless in line with current fisheries regulations and bag limits.

DAERA Inland Fisheries and the Loughs Agency will monitor reports and develop further advice if required.

Published in Angling
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The Loughs Agency says it welcomes the news that Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee have endorsed the proposal to host the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 2022.

Northern Ireland was previously scheduled to host the Clipper fleet in Derry last summer but those plans were scuppered with the postponement of the race amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sharon McMahon, Loughs Agency chief executive, said: “As an organisation that cares deeply about the Foyle and its surrounding areas, Loughs Agency is delighted to welcome the Foyle Maritime Festival and Clipper Race back to our doorsteps in 2022.

”The number of local people getting involved in water-based activities is steadily on the rise, and this festival gives us the opportunity to showcase our picturesque rivers and loughs to an international audience, thus aiding in the development of marine tourism.

“We look forward to playing a role in supporting the festival and using the opportunity to highlight the social, economic and environmental benefits of the Foyle and our rivers in general.”

Speaking at a recent Business and Culture Meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council, head of culture Aeidin McCarter said: “If you look back to 2018, the last Foyle Maritime Festival attracted almost 211,000 attendees, achieving over 19,000 bed nights and an estimated economic impact of at least £2 million for the local economy.

”That gives an idea of the significance of the Festival and the Clipper Race in terms of its capacity to draw visitors from all over the world as well as international media coverage of all the North West has to offer.

“Needless to say, we are delighted to resume our partnership with Clipper Ventures, and we hope that, circumstances permitting, we will be able to adapt and deliver on the plans which came to such an abrupt halt last year.”

Published in Clipper Race

The Loughs Agency has announced that angling permits for its waters on the River Finn and River Foyle, including the Greenbraes, are now available to purchase online.

Online permits will make angling in these rivers even more accessible, particularly during the current COVID-19 government restrictions when many tackle shops are closed.

Loughs Agency permits provide access to some of the best quality fishing locations in the Foyle system, which is famous for its salmon and trout angling.

The River Foyle is a large tidal river that begins its seaward journey near Strabane in Co Tyrone and Lifford in Co Donegal at the confluence of the River Mourne and River Finn, spilling into Lough Foyle at Culmore Point in Co Derry.

Along its length are several fishing hotspots, including Mary’s Pool, the Gribben, Corkan Island and the Backwater, where anglers can cast a line for salmon, brown trout and sea trout.

The Finn is a well-known spate river for spring fish, but it also maintains a good run of salmon throughout the season. Sea trout fishing is best from July to mid-August.

For the 2021 season, the regulations for the River Foyle and Finn require total catch and release for all salmon caught, and anglers must use single barbless hooks.

For more information on fishing in the Foyle catchment, visit the angling section of Loughs Agency's website. To purchase a permit, visit the Loughs Agency's elicence website. Prices are as follows:

  • River Finn permit: £20/€24 for adults £10/€12 for juveniles
  • River Foyle permit: £20/€24 for adults £10/€12 for juveniles
  • Greenbraes morning permit: £15/€17 8am to 3pm
  • Greenbraes afternoon permit: £18/€20.50 4pm to midnight
Published in Angling
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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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