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Displaying items by tag: marine wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Whale watchers off the Sunny South East believed they’ve photographed Ireland’s first humpback whale sighting of 2017, as TheJournal.ie reports.

South Coast Charter Angling skipper Martin Colfer was out with photographer Myles Carroll yesterday (Wednesday 4 January) when they caught a glimpse of the tail fin of the 13-metre-long marine mammal as it slinked back under the surface.

In other Irish whale news, The Times says work has begun on removing the famous diplodocus skeleton replica from London’s Natural History Museum to make way for a blue whale found in Wexford more than a century ago.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the whale specimen has been in the museum’s collection since it washed up at Wexford Harbour in 1891, and will now take pride of place in the central that Dippy previously called home since 1905.

Meanwhile, the world’s oldest killer whale is presumed dead after researchers lost track of her movements some months ago, according to the Guardian.

Believed to be 105 years old, ‘Granny’ was the matriarch of a small and endangered group of orcas in Puget Sound, north of Seattle in the north-west United States.

“With regret we now consider her deceased,” researcher Ken Balcomb, who has tracked Granny and her fellow orcas over four decades.

The genetically unique population bares comparison with the distinctive orca pod that splits its time between Ireland and Scotland, and which has faced its own challenges in recent years.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Conservationists want Tralee Bay and Brandon Bay in North Kerry to be declared a protected marine wildlife zone for bottlenose dolphins.

The call comes in the wake of new research by the Irish Whale Dolphin Group (IWDG) in tandem with the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation, which has identified the vast majority of bottlenose dolphins in North Kerry as members of the Shannon Estuary group that has enjoyed Marine Protected Area status since 2000.

“We knew dolphins had been regularly observed in Brandon Bay,” said the IWDG’s Dr Simon Berrow of the new research, “but did not know which population they belonged to and had no idea they were as abundant and frequent as this study has shown.”

Stephanie Levesque, senior author of the study, added that the research identified “very high numbers of Shannon dolphins present during the summer months in Brandon and Tralee Bays.

“If further surveys were to be carried out at various times of the year, including collecting behavioural data, it could help us to better understand how they are using these habitats.”

Elsewhere on the West Coast, Galway Bay FM reports on efforts in Connemara to form local groups in Oughterard and Letterfrack which are designated for the protection of pearl mussels.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The RSPB has welcomed the announcement of new marine protected areas for Northern Ireland this week.

“The formal designation of four new marine protected areas will help protect a range of vulnerable species and habitats - ranging from black guillemots to ocean quahog and seagrass meadows,” the wildlife charity said in a statement.

Among the new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) announced by Storming is an area near Rathlin Island off Co Antrim that’s the first in the UK to be set aside for a seabird species, the amber-listed black guillemot.

The other new zones announced include seagrass meadows in Waterfoot, also in Co Antrim, and the fragile ecosystem for sea pens in Carlingford Lough.

Also included among the new MCZs is the territory of ocean quahogs in outer Belfast Lough.

According to The Irish News, these clams are thought to have been thriving in the waters near the city for over 200 years - and individual clams could live for hundreds more.

The Stormont announcement comes a year after the new zones were first proposed for public consultation, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The first meeting of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s (IWDG) new local group for North Kerry takes place this Friday 9 December at the Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre from 7.30pm to 9pm.

All are welcome to the evening’s talk by biologist Dr Marie Louis on her work on bottlenose dolphins in Ireland and internationally, followed by a meeting on setting up the new group.

The North Kerry group’s main focus is to get local people out experiencing and recording cetaceans and collecting data for the IWDG, as well as increasing membership numbers. Contact [email protected] for more information.

In other news, Conal O’Flanagan has been appointed to the IWDG’s board of directors, replacing regular Celtic Mist helm Karl Grabe.

O’Flanagan joined the IWDG soon after its formation in 1999 and was the first co-ordinator of its Constant Effort Sighting Scheme. The resident of North Co Dublin has previously been a director on the board and served as group treasurer.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#MarineWildlife - Is cannibalism among seals to blame for deaths of the marine mammals recorded on Ireland’s shores?

That’s one reason suggested by researchers in the latest report from the Irish Seal Sanctuary’s seal death database, according to the Irish Examiner.

While further research is required, recent studies at UCD indicate that some injuries previously attributed to boat propellers may be consistent with attacks on younger seals by older bulls.

Fishing activity is also suspected in some of the more than 100 carcasses recorded in the two years before May 2016 — particularly over the winter months in Waterford and Wexford, though there is no confirmed connection to the concurrent inshore fishery.

The sanctuary’s database relies on public contributions, with the largest number of seal carcasses reported in Dublin, followed by Cork, Wexford and Waterford.

In related news, the Dublin InQuirer reports on the uneasy relationship between dog walkers on Bull Island and the reserve’s resident seal colonies, which conservationists argue are often disturbed by pets running loose.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) received a report at the weekend of a large baleen whale struggling in the shallows at Cross Beach in north-west Co Mayo.

The 12-metre marine mammal, thought to be a sei whale or fin whale, was ushered back into deeper waters by a group surfing in the area on Sunday 27 November.

But locals are urged to keep a lookout over the next few days as the whale, believed to be injured or in poor health, is likely to strand again.

 

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A small Norwegian community in the Arctic Circle recently had a whale of a problem with their internet connection - literally.

As New Scientist reports, a subsea internet cable in the Kaldfjorden north of Tromsø which should have been 170m below the surface broke loose from the fjord bed and entangled one of its many humpback whale visitors for more than a day.

Believing at first that the marine giant was caught in fishing gear, rescuers discovered after finally freeing the whale that it had been caught in a data cable - hence the affectionate nickname ‘Hacker’.

New Scientist has more in the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The Wicklow People reports that a six-week-old common seal is being treated for suspected stab wounds after being found in “very shape” by people walking on Arklow’s South Beach yesterday morning (Friday 18 November).

The incident is the second in three weeks in the Arklow area to involve a seal with wounds thought to have been caused by human hands. More on this story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Irish-made documentary The Humpback Whales of Cape Verde will be broadcast this Saturday 29 October at 7.15pm on TG4.

Narrated by Liam Ó Maonlaí and shot in Cape Verde, Ireland and Malta, the film follows Dr Simon Berrow of the the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) and an international team of marine scientists on an ambitious adventure to prove humpback whales from both the northern and southern hemispheres use the Cape Verde archipelago as a breeding ground.

“If we could make the connection, our understanding of humpback whale behaviour in the Atlantic would change,” says Dr Berrow. “Such a breeding ground would be unique. But going there in the first place at that time of year and at significant cost was a big if in itself.”

The lecturer at GMIT also believes the film will help highlight the importance of conservation in Irish waters.

“It still comes as a surprise to many that we have whales in Ireland,” he says. “In fact the numbers here are increasing each year and Ireland is becoming internationally important.

“To understand where whales in Ireland are coming from or going to and breeding is essential to protect them. This film is part of a 12-year search for the breeding grounds of humpback whales in Ireland.”

The broadcast on TG4 this weekend coincides with the 25th anniversary of all Irish waters being declared a whale and dolphin sanctuary, the first of its kind in Europe.

“It is an international story with an Irish perspective,” says director Tony Whelan. “It’s a cracking tale. Spending time with these scientists in an extraordinary environment was a privilege. We hope people enjoy it.

“We are really happy it has been taken up by TG4, an important channel for independent filmmakers. Without them stories like this can go unseen.”

The Humpback Whales of Cape Verde was screened around the country earlier this year as part of a library tour, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Marine scientists have been puzzled by the recent beaching of a whale rarely seen off the east coast of England.

According to the Guardian, the carcass of a 12m fin whale washed up at Holkham in Norfolk last Thursday afternoon (20 October), far from its usual waters between Britain and Ireland.

“You never get them in the North Sea, so what it was doing there, we have no idea at the moment,” biologist Dr Ben Garrod told the newspaper.

It’s not yet known what causes the marine giant’s death, though collision with a vessel in the North Sea has been mooted as one possibility, as the Eastern Daily Press reports.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 8 of 56

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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