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Displaying items by tag: humpback whales

A humpback whale regularly spotted in Ireland’s South West has been traced to Norwegian waters in the first confirmed link between our two countries, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Researchers and citizen scientists in the Happywhale collective made the discovery last week as they matched images of #HBIRL43 — first recorded in Ireland in 2015 — with a whale sighted in the waters of the High Arctic in the vicinity of the Svalbard arcipelago.

“This is our first international re-sighting of this individual who was the first humpback recorded this season off the Stag Rocks in West Cork,” IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley says.

“We documented it this spring/summer on four occasions between 27 April and 6 June. This match suggests it travelled a minimum distance of 3,800km over a period of 75 days, a daily average of 50km.

File image of HBIRL43 sighted off off Toe Head in West Cork | Credit: Dan LetticeFile image of HBIRL43 sighted off off Toe Head in West Cork | Credit: Dan Lettice

“This sighting puts it circa 900km further north of the last known position of #HBIRL07 and is our only humpback to be recorded in what we’d term the High Arctic.”

It wasn’t the only remarkable news this week, as Whooley confirms that another Norwegian whale, #NA09849 — which has been sighted regularly off Tromso and Iceland over the last decade — was photographed this past June some 500km west of the Aran Islands.

“We’ve decided that, as this animal was so far offshore and well outside the Irish EEZ in international waters, for now anyway we’d keep it off the Irish catalogue,” he says.

“But it’s another important link to Norway and who knows just how useful these offshore encounters may prove to be in years to come as IWDG continue to unravel the mystery of this most iconic of our whales.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says last Sunday 29 August will stand out as “particularly memorable” for sightings of humpback whales, with the marine wildlife giants spotted at four separate locations.

At Slea Head in Co Kerry, Jimmy Flannery of Dingle Sea Safari and Nick Massett located and identified #HBIRL107 just south of Crow Rock.

Shortly afterwards, Eoin Delaney was sea kayaking off Carraroe in Connemara when he happened upon a humpback feeding in among common dolphins.

“While we can’t get a positive ID on this individual, any humpback sighting record from Galway Bay is an important event,” IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley says.

Map of humpback whale sightings off Ireland on Sunday 29 AugustMap of humpback whale sightings off Ireland on Sunday 29 August | Credit: IWDG

Later on Sunday afternoon, Colin Barnes of Cork Whale Watch was on his second trip of the day when he photographed a third humpback breaching close to the cliffs at Scullane Point. This turned to be a new humpback not previously recorded in any Irish waters, and it has been allocated the ID #HBIRL113.

Slightly further away, a pelagic birding voyage off the Isles of Scilly crossed paths with #HBIRL77, a humpback that’s been documented in Ireland’s West and South West coastal waters every year since it was first recorded in 2016 — most recently off the Blaskets in June.

“These encounters and re-sightings are important, as they help IWDG build a more complete picture that reveals how these humpbacks are using Irish and adjacent waters,” Whooley says.

The sightings officer also appealed for anyone “fortunate enough to have an encounter with this most charismatic of our whales” to get in touch with [email protected] with a photograph of the ventral surface of their tail fluke, which is the most effective way for the IWDG to confirm identity.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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A Cape Cod lobster diver said he feared for his life after getting caught in the mouth of a humpback whale, as the Associated Press reports.

Fifty-six-year-old Michael Packard said he was some 14 metres below the service off Provincetown, on the northern tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, on Friday 11 June when “all of a sudden I felt this huge bump, and everything went dark”.

Packard believes he was trapped in the jaws of the marine wildlife giant for around half a minute before it surfaced and spat him out.

The Associated Press has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it has confirmed its first humpback whale match between Ireland’s waters and the Canary Islands.

Images of a fluke and dorsal fin captured by Alex Brenner at Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera were, with the help of Nick Massett, compared with those of a humpback photographed by IWDG member Simon Duggan at Baltimore in early December 2012.

“On matching the images we can confirm that this is indeed the same individual #HBIRL21, whom we’ve not recorded in Irish waters over the interim nine years,” the IWDG says.

The development marks an important new connection between Ireland and the Spanish island chain off north-west Africa, following earlier links confirmed with key humpback whale breeding grounds off Cape Verde further south.

Published in Marine Wildlife

West Cork is enjoying a veritable bounty of whale sightings “in dolphin numbers”, as the Southern Star reports.

Video recorded last week near Union Hall shows two humpbacks who followed a whale watching vessel “in a very sociable mood”, according to Cork Whale Watch’s Colin Barnes.

He descried it as the best marine wildlife sighting of its kind in the last two decades — a sentiment echoed by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Padraig Whooley.

Noting a recent report of as many as 100 minke whales spotted on a single boat trip, Whooley said the whale activity off the South Coast at present is “exceptional on a global scale”.

The Southern Star has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has warned the public to stay away from the final resting place of a humpback whale carcass that washed ashore in West Cork last month.

And according to the Southern Star, poor weather forecast for later this week has dampened hopes to potentially retrieve the marine wildlife remains for public display.

The carcass of the juvenile humpback whale is only the ninth recorded stranding of the species in Ireland, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

First spotted in the waters of Roaringwater Bay, it eventually came to rest on the rocky shore at the foot of steep bank at Colla West near Schull, where IWDG volunteers have examined the remains over the weeks since.

Plans had been mooted to preserve the skeleton as a potential tourism draw for the area, the IWDG’s Pádraig Whooley said, though this would be “at great expense”.

“Although the plan was tentative, if successful, it would be a wonderful opportunity because the only other humpback whale on display is in the Natural History Museum, and that dates back to 1893,” he added.

The Southern Star has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The carcass of a juvenile humpback whale washed ashore in West Cork is only the ninth such stranding of the species in Ireland, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Sightings officer Pádraig Whooley confirmed from images of the marine wildlife specimen captured in Roaringwater Bay yesterday (Wednesday 24 February) that it was a juvenile male not previously recorded in Irish waters.

Such young whales are not unexpected close to our shores at this time of year, when adults of breeding age are either en route to or already at lower-latitude breeding sites such as Cabo Verde off West Africa.

“This is something that some young humpbacks can opt out of, as it’s a long track south to places like the Cabo Verde and with no hope of successfully breeding there is nothing much in it for them,” Whooley explains.

“So a cohort of young, independent humpbacks seem content to over winter at higher latitudes, where there is, or should be, plenty of food for them.”

In this case, however, Whooley says: “The images we’ve received so far suggest it is in rather thin condition and so it may not have fed for some time.

“There are no obvious signs of rope marks or net damage that may suggest entanglement in fishing gear, something that slow-swimming humpbacks that remain inshore are prone to. And there are no large traumas to suggest ship-strike. So as is so often the case, the circumstances underpinning this stranding are unclear.

“IWDG hope in the coming days to visit the site to take detailed measurements and get skin and blubber samples which can be used for genetics, contaminants and stable isotope analyses.”

Whooley adds that the IWDG is in liaison with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) regarding examination of the carcass and its disposal, but suggests that because of its remote location “there is no strong case for removal”.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it has recently documented evidence of a humpback whale scarred by entanglement in fishing gear in Irish waters.

Humpback IRL#HB43 was photographed in Dingle Bay on Sunday 11 October by IWDG member Nick Massett, who noted in his images some significant scarring on its tail fluke that was not present when the same whale was spotted off West Kerry two months prior.

The charity says this scarring is consistent with entanglement — and it’s believed, based on the marine wildlife giant’s known movements between August and this month, that the lesions were sustained off West Kerry.

Humpback whales regularly feed in Ireland’s inshore waters during the summer and autumn. But this activity also brings the whales into close proximity with active fisheries.

“It’s likely this animal got caught in the rising rope of a marker buoy to a string of lobster pots, or gill net,” Massett says.

Entanglement in fishing gear is an issue of emerging concern to the IWDG, which is working with Dr Charla Basran at the University of Iceland’s Husavik Research Centre to quantify the rate of entanglement of humpback whales in Irish waters.

Dr Basran recently published work showing that 24.8% of 379 individual humpback whales photographed in Iceland presented wrapping injuries and notches known to be indicative of entanglement.

Ireland shares a whale population with Iceland, and the IWDG says will be interesting to quantify the rate of these lesions on whales photographed in Ireland — and potentially reveal where along their journey to the North Atlantic from their southern breeding grounds they pick up their wounds.

The IWDG is planning a workshop on the issue supported by knife-maker Spyderco, which has provided knives customised for cutting ropes from live whales.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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One of the victims of a deadly mass stranding of bottlenose whales in Donegal last week has not reappeared, according to Highland Radio.

Seven of the marine mammals died in the biggest mass stranding of its kind on record in Ireland, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

The eighth whale was refloated in the shallows when the tide came in, and hopes were that it would make to back to deeper waters on its own. However it was confirmed to have died the following morning, Thursdasy 20 August.

Local volunteers with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) have appealed for the public to report any possible sightings, as they are keen to get samples which might reveal more details about the whale pod and its sudden demise.

Elsewhere, rare video has been captured of the humpback whale known as ‘Boomerang’ off West Cork, as RTÉ News reports.

The whale is the third humpback in the IWDG’s records. It was first identified in 2001 thanks to its unique dorsal fin, and has returned to feed in Irish waters regularly over the last two decades.

This story was updated on Monday 31 August to correct details about the refloated bottlenose whale, which was not presumed to have survived as the previous version stated.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Whale watchers off the Kerry coast have been gifted a treat with a “feeding frenzy” of humpback whales near the Dingle Peninsula, as RTÉ News reports.

As many as 12 of the marine wildlife giants have spent more than a week chasing sprat shoals even in inshore waters — providing a rare opportunity to see them from land.

And the number includes the latest addition to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s records: a juvenile that’s the 107th individual humpback in Irish books since 1999.

But the approach of Storm Ellen later today (Wednesday 19 August) means any prospective whale spotters will have to put off their plans as Status Red conditions loom.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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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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