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Displaying items by tag: Salmon

A new report published by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) shows that more wild salmon are now being ‘caught and released’ than ‘caught and kept’ by anglers in Ireland, to help conserve declining fish populations.

For the first time since records began in 2001, the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Statistics Report 2020 shows that the number of salmon caught and released by anglers (51% of salmon caught) now outstrips the number of salmon that are kept (49% of salmon caught).

In all, 14,138 wild salmon and sea trout licences were issued to recreational anglers in 2020, while 78 public licences were made available to commercial fishermen.

IFI’s newly published report is based on the logbook returns of these licence holders, which shows that recreational anglers caught an estimated 78% of all salmon and sea trout last year, compared with commercial fishermen’s catch of 22%.

‘Catch-and-release angling by itself won’t solve the problem of declining fish populations, such as wild salmon or sea trout’

IFI chair Fintan Gorman praised the conservation efforts of anglers, clubs and federations around the country, saying: “Looking at statistics from the 2020 Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Report, it is encouraging to see anglers practicing ‘catch and release’ to a greater extent than ever before. Anglers released 51% of their wild salmon catches in 2020, compared with 47% in 2019 and that’s a very positive development.

“However, catch-and-release angling by itself won’t solve the problem of declining fish populations, such as wild salmon or sea trout. That’s why Inland Fisheries Ireland will continue implementing other important measures too, such as fish barrier mitigation, water quality monitoring, ‘invasive species’ control and enforcement patrols of fisheries.

“We will also keep promoting the sustainable stewardship of our precious salmon fishery through our schools and marketing programmes. These are all crucial factors in protecting and conserving our fish populations and their habitats for the benefit of this generation and future generations to come.”

The Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme provides the state agency with data to assist with the protection, management and conservation of wild salmon and sea trout.

IFI chief executive Francis O’ Donnell has also welcomed the positive conservation efforts being made by citizens across the country to protect Ireland’s salmon and sea trout resource.

“Atlantic salmon and sea trout are facing a very uncertain future due to habitat degradation, water quality issues, unacceptable levels of poaching, marine migration issues and the effects of climate change,” he said.

“As always, our staff are deeply committed to executing our statutory role to enforce, protect and conserve our native fish stocks and in particular salmon and migratory sea trout. This is very much aligned with our new corporate plan and vision as the statutory agency charged with protecting the inland fisheries Resource.”

According to IFI’s 2020 report, five rivers accounted for over half of all salmon caught by anglers and commercial fishermen last year: the River Moy in Co Mayo, the River Blackwater in Lismore, Co Waterford, the River Laune in Co Kerry, the Corrib in Co Galway and the Lower Lee in Cork.

A total of 27,829 wild salmon were caught collectively by commercial fishermen and recreational anglers in 2020, including salmon which were later released. For sea trout, the total catch recorded last year was 1,394 when figures for commercial fishermen and anglers are combined.

‘Atlantic salmon and sea trout are facing a very uncertain future’

Meanwhile, between now and 1 December, IFI is running a public consultation on the future management of the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

The State agency is encouraging anyone with an interest in the area to submit their views on how the tagging system can be improved and modernised. It is especially keen to hear from salmon and sea trout anglers, angling clubs, commercial fishermen and those businesses that distribute salmon and sea trout licences, such as fishing tackle shops.

Published in Angling

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

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has launched a public consultation on the future management of the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme.

The State agency with responsibility for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats is encouraging anyone with an interest in the area to submit their views on how the tagging system, which started in 2001, can be improved and modernised.

It is especially keen to hear from salmon and sea trout anglers, angling clubs, commercial fishermen and those businesses that distribute salmon and sea trout licences, such as fishing tackle shops.

The Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme was set up 20 years ago to record the issuing of wild salmon and sea trout licences, gill tags and logbooks to both recreational anglers and commercial fishermen and to process details of fish catches on a database for further analysis.

It was part of a series of measures introduced to help with the management and conservation of Ireland’s wild salmon and sea trout populations, which have been in decline.

Figures from the 2020 Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Statistics Report show that 14,138 salmon and sea trout licences were sold to recreational anglers in the state last year, which were a mixture of virtual licences sold online and hard copy licences sold over the counter in shops. In addition, 78 public commercial licences were made available to commercial fishermen in 2020.

IFI is now carrying out a review of the whole tagging system, to see how it can be made more user-friendly in the future and to ensure that it can provide the agency with real-time, accurate data to assist with the protection, management and conservation of wild salmon and sea trout.

Suzanne Campion, IFI’s head of business development, said:“The Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme was first introduced two decades ago and since then, we’ve seen a seismic shift towards buying and selling online, with many technological advances along the way that we’d like to harness.

“As we’re undertaking a review of the tagging system, we see this as the perfect opportunity for the public, especially those involved in the angling sector, to have their say on the management of how licences, tags and logbooks are issued and distributed in the future. In other words, how can Inland Fisheries Ireland make the tagging system as user-friendly as possible in the future and a better service for all?”

The public consultation for the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme closes at 5pm on Wednesday 1 December. Submissions can be made via a short online survey.

Alternatively, written submissions can be emailed to [email protected] or posted to Wild Salmon & Sea Trout Tagging Scheme Consultation, Inland Fisheries Ireland, 3044 Lake Drive, Citywest Business Campus, Dublin 24, D24 CK66.

Published in Angling

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is encouraging salmon and sea trout anglers to return their angling logbooks, setting out their fishing and catch record, and any unused gill tags from 2021 licences.

Under the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme, anglers can return these in one of three ways:

  • Using the postage pre-paid business return envelope that was supplied at the time of licence purchase (preferred option).
  • Posting the logbook and unused gill tags to the IFI office address that is displayed on their licence or logbook.
  • Scanning and emailing logbook and licence documents to [email protected] (Please scan all sides of documents, including continuation pages, to ensure that the licence names and number can be correctly linked to the logbook.)

On average, 70% of anglers in Ireland return their logbooks and these returns provide vital information regarding the status and management of our wild Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout stocks into the future.

In accordance with the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme, anglers in Ireland are required by law to return their completed logbook and all unused tags to the issuing office of Inland IFI within seven days of licence expiry and no later than next Tuesday 19 October.

As part of the scheme, an angler must attach a valid gill tag to a salmon (any size) or sea trout (over 40cm) harvested, immediately on landing. hey must enter details of their catch and/or gill-tag used into their logbook.

Questions or queries can be directed to [email protected] and IFI says it will respond as quickly as possible.

Published in Angling

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has confirmed that it is seeking a judicial review into the granting of an aquaculture licence for Atlantic salmon at in Bantry Bay.

As the matter is due before the High Court tomorrow, Tuesday 28 September, and the State agency with responsibility for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats says “it will not be possible…to make any further comments at this stage in the process”.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, a licence was granted by the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board this summer — following a protracted appeals process over several years — to Mowi Ireland for an 18-pen facility at Shot Head in Co Cork.

Published in Aquaculture

The State agency responsible for the protection of freshwater fish and habitats is investigating an incidence of farmed salmon recovered from the Connemara Fishery.

Officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland’s (IFI) Western River Basin District in Galway were alerted by anglers fishing for wild Atlantic salmon on the Dawros River in Letterfrack, more commonly known locally as the Kylemore River.

The anglers had reportedly captured fish with poorly formed fins and other distinguishing features associated with farmed salmon.

Scientists from IFI inspected various fish samples from the river and have confirmed that the fish are of “aquaculture origin” and are not wild Atlantic salmon.

The discovery is a serious cause for concern for IFI, according to its head of operations Dr Greg Forde.

“The Dawros Rivers have been designated a special area for conservation for wild Atlantic salmon and we are seriously concerned about the impact that farmed salmon could have on this native species,” he said.

“For example, farmed salmon could potentially transfer disease or could interbreed with the indigenous wild salmon population of this river.

“Salmon spawn during the month of December and each river has a genetically unique salmon stock. Early indications are that the farmed salmon, due to their size and development, could be capable of spawning this winter and interbreeding with wild fish, thereby weakening the natural genetic pool unique to the Dawros River.”

IFI says its investigations to determine the source of the escape are ongoing. The State agency has notified the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which is responsible for the issuing of aquaculture licences.

In an appeal to owners and operators of salmon fish farms around the country, Dr Forde said: “To protect and conserve wild Atlantic salmon for both current and future generations, it is absolutely essential that all salmon aquaculture installations are completely secure and farmed fish are not allowed to escape into the wild.”

Published in Angling

A Limerick councillor has hit out at what he branded as the “utter incompetence” of inland fisheries officers after images circulated on social media of as many as 60 salmon allegedly poached from the River Shannon.

As the Limerick Leader reports, the images show the the wild salmon lined up in a front garden, with three men alongside giving thumbs up.

It’s understood that the salmon are thought to have been illegally netted from the tail race at the Ardnacrusha hydro-electric plant.

Commenting on the images, Cllr Emmett O’Brien did not mince his words as he directed his ire at Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

“The dogs in the street know that poachers are putting out nets and catching salmon swimming in the tail race,” he said, adding that there is a black market for such salmon throughout Limerick city.

“But bizarrely the IFI officers rarely if ever patrol the tail race but rather seem intent to race up and down the river in large power boats like Navy Seals.”

IFI says it is “currently investigating the circumstances of this incident and is therefore not in a position to comment further at this stage”.

The Limerick Leader has more on the story HERE.

Published in Angling

Two people have been fined and sentenced to prison for illegal netting of salmon on the River Barrow last summer in prosecutions taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

Michael Malone, of Taghmon, Co Wexford, received a sentence of five months’ imprisonment and a €2,000 fine and was ordered to pay €1,245 in court costs at Kilkenny District Court on Monday 12 July.

Also in Kilkenny District Court on the same date, James Malone, with an address in Graiguenamangh, Co Kilkenny, received a sentence of three months’ imprisonment and a €1,500 fine and was ordered to pay €1,245 in court costs.

The court heard from IFI how both men had been observed in the act of illegal netting on the River Barrow, attempting to capture salmon.

As a statutory consequence of the conviction for use of a boat contrary to Section 285 (A)(1) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959, the boat that was seized by IFO is now automatically forfeited.

The breaches of Fisheries legislation occurred on 21 July 2020 on the River Barrow, in the townland of Bauck, Co Carlow and Kilconnelly, Co Kilkenny.

Evidence in relation to the offence was given before Judge Brian O’Shea, who proceeded to convict the defendants on all charges under Section 96, 97, 65 and 285A of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959. The case has been appealed to the Circuit Court.

IFI recently revealed that a total of 250 illegal fishing nets, measuring 13,158 metres in total, were among the 1,287 items seized by the agency on its patrols and inspections in 2020, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Angling

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

Marine survival of salmon in the eastern North Atlantic has substantially declined in recent decades, yet little was known about the migratory behaviour and distribution of populations. A new genetic tagging study, just published in the international journal Fish & Fisheries, shows where young salmon gather and begin to migrate during their first summer at sea; migrating along the the continental shelves off Ireland, Scotland and Norway and subsequently aggregating to feed in the Norwegian Sea west of the Vøring Plateau in international waters (those waters outside national jurisdiction). Here they are exposed to potential mortality from major commercial fisheries for other pelagic species. 

The genetic analysis of fish caught at sea demonstrates that the salmon stocks that make up this feeding aggregation are unexpectedly not from neighbouring Norwegian rivers, but are predominantly from southern rivers such as those in Britain, Ireland, France and Spain.

This points to fundamental differences in migration behaviours (routes) and likely explains variation in how stocks from Northern and Southern European rivers have been responding to environmental change and critically to recent climate change, and may account for the differences that have been observed among stock groups in marine survival.

Experimental salmon trawl net being hauled aboard the Celtic Explorer Research Ship, May 2008Experimental salmon trawl net being hauled aboard the Celtic Explorer Research Ship, May 2008

Joint senior author of the paper, Prof. Philip McGinnity of UCC and the Marine Institute said, “This report is the culmination of a major logistical and technical effort to synthesise the data from 385 marine cruises, 10,202 individual trawls, 9,269 captured post smolts, spanning three decades and approximately 4.75 million Km2 of ocean and 3,423 individuals assigned to their region of origin.” 

Further adding, “A post smolt salmon at 25cm is a very small and rare fish in a very large ocean and so to firstly catch and then assign a couple of thousand fish back to their region and even, potentially, their river of origin is a considerable feat.”

The sampling was largely carried out by research vessels, such as the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer (pictured), from several European countries and the laboratory analysis by many European labs.

In addition to the large team of international researchers from the UK, Norway, Faroes, Denmark, Russia, France, Spain, Finland, Irish scientists from University College Cork, the Marine Institute, Queen’s University Belfast, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, the Loughs Agency and the Agri-Food and the Biosciences Institute for Northern Ireland were centrally involved. 

Marine Institute's RV Celtic ExplorerMarine Institute's RV Celtic Explorer

Professor Tom Quinn of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, a leading world authority on salmon has welcomed the study, saying “This paper is the result of sampling efforts that were vast in space and time, and equally impressive collaboration including research agencies and universities from many nations. The scope of this study alone is most impressive, and the results are of great importance. These scientists have revealed rich variation in the early marine migrations of Atlantic salmon from different regions, and are entirely consistent with a growing body of research using similar genetic methods being conducted on Pacific salmon. It is clear that salmon migrate to distant, stock-specific locations at sea, despite never having been to these regions before, and having no older members of their cohort to lead them. The environmental conditions that they encounter in their respective locations will affect their access to food, hence growth, but also their exposure to predators and intercepting fisheries. Thus migratory routes are of great consequence for the persistence and recovery of salmon stocks, in addition to the marvel of animal orientation that they reflect.”

According to Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh of the Marine Institute and a co-author on the paper, “Precise information on migration routes and timing are crucial for research into highly migratory marine species especially as the main factors causing population declines may be unknown.”

Dr Ciaran Kelly, Director of Fisheries and Ecosystem Services at the Marine Institute said, "The Marine Institute is pleased to see the contribution of its scientists and infrastructure to this project come to fruition. The findings of this study are very important for the management and conservation of salmon in the pelagic marine ecosystem." 

Link to full paper here

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 1 of 16

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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