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A new initiative to raise awareness about the spread of harmful invasive plant species and the impact of litter on Irish inland waterways has been launched.

The ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ campaign aims to raise awareness about biosecurity and the impacts of litter and is calling on the public to play their part in protecting Ireland’s waterways.

It asks anyone who goes out on the water to help in reducing the risk of spreading invasive species and disease by following the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ principles:

  • Check boats, equipment, clothing and footwear for any plant or animal material, including seeds, spores and soil. Pay particular attention to areas that are damp or hard to inspect.
  • Clean and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you do come across any plants and animals, leave them at the water body where you found them.
  • Dry all equipment and clothing for at least 48 hours — some species can live for many days or weeks in moist conditions. Make sure you don’t transfer water elsewhere. (If complete drying is not possible then disinfect everything.)

Leave No Trace Ireland is leading the initiative in partnership with Waterways Ireland, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Sport Ireland, Canoeing Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Marine Institute, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland, with the support of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Launching the campaign, Padraic Creedon, ecologist with Leave No Trace Ireland, said biosecurity is all about reducing the risk of introducing or spreading invasive species and harmful disease in rural and urban environments.

“Ireland is facing an increased threat of invasive alien species in and on its waterways,” he said. “These are non-native species that have been introduced by human intervention, outside their natural range that can threaten our native wildlife, cause damage to our environment, economy and human health.

“Water soldier (Stratiotes aloides), chub and pink salmon are just some of the species threatening Ireland’s waterways.”

Waterways Ireland chief executive John McDonagh added that the cross-border body for Ireland’s inland navigations “is delighted to partner on this important campaign with Leave No Trace Ireland.

‘The introduction or spread of invasive species is of key concern as it negatively impacts our native biodiversity’

“Our inland waterways are rich ecological and heritage corridors, enjoyed by a variety of recreational users. The introduction or spread of invasive species, both terrestrial and aquatic, is of key concern as it negatively impacts our native biodiversity and can seriously disrupt people’s enjoyment of the waterways.

“We would strongly urge our users to adopt the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ approach so we can all work together to preserve this valuable resource for current and future generations.”

Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, also expressed his support for the campaign. The minister noted that tackling invasive alien species is vital to our efforts to halt biodiversity loss, and that the Programme for Government provides for development of a new National Invasive Species Management Plan.

“Invasive species are a serious threat to our biodiversity, and I fully support the efforts of Leave No Trace and their partners in this new campaign to raise awareness about ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ protocols,” he said.

“I’m delighted to see my Department’s strong engagement in this initiative through Waterways Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and hope that it will help to improve vital biosecurity measures all over this island’s waterways.

“Through the British Irish Council, the NPWS also engages with counterparts in Great Britain to encourage water users on both sides of the Irish Sea to apply these simple but effective measures.”

Information and updates on the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ Campaign will be available on the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s new invasive species website at invasives.ie as well as through Leave No Trace Ireland’s website and its partners’ social media channels.

Published in Inland Waterways

Irish Water has admitted multiple counts over a pollution event that threatened vulnerable freshwater pearl mussels in a Co Cork river, as The Irish Times reports.

The water utility pleaded guilty to eight counts of breaching is licence terms in connection with highly elevated levels of ammonia and orthophosphate in run-off from a treatment plant in Boherbue, in the northwest of the county.

The case was brought by the Environmental Protection Agency, who gave evidence to the court on the status of the rare mussels in the protected conservation area of the Brogeen River.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett has congratulated a number of farmers in Duncannon, Co Wexford on improvements they have achieved in tackling water quality.

Over two-and-a-half years of the department-funded Duncannon Innovation Project, studies show bacterial counts in two streams which flow into the sea have fallen considerably while ecological assessments also show an increase in numbers of many pollution sensitive macroinvertebrate species

Speaking from Duncannon yesterday (Thursday 10 June), Minister Hackett said: “I am really proud of the contribution made by both the farmers and my department to improving the bacterial quality of the two coastal streams that flow onto the beach here.

“While sewage was a factor in Duncannon Beach losing its Blue Flag in 2007, nutrients and sediments from agricultural use were issues, too. So it is gratifying to visit and hear about both the improvement in water quality and the increase in species which have returned to it.”

The project, run in collaboration with Wexford County Council, was awarded €550,000 from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the Rural Development Programme, using the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) model.

Local farmers were provided with a full-time sustainability manager who helped with their Pollution Potential Zone (PPZ) plans and explained how sources of pollution could be dealt with.

Various measures were implemented such as fencing watercourses, putting in arable grass margins alongside the streams, moving water troughs, planting extensive runs of native hedges and implementing enhanced nutrient management planning for all farms.

Minister Hackett was also briefed on how the reduction in pollution from agricultural sources has highlighted other sources of bacterial contamination resulting in Irish Water accelerating planning for a municipal wastewater treatment system for the area to 2021.

“Bringing the start date of that plant forward is really good news for this very scenic area on the Barrow Estuary,” she said.

Published in Coastal Notes

The Marine Institute has collaborated with 10 European partners as part of the research project Alertox-Net: Atlantic Area Network for Innovative Toxicity Alert Systems for Safer Seafood Products.

Alertox-Net has focused on developing a marine toxin warning network to facilitate the market delivery of safer marine food products in European waters.

Funded by the INTERREG Atlantic Area European Regional Development Fund, Alertox-Net has provided a better prediction system of potential seafood toxicity risk while providing scientific advice to meet the needs of stakeholders.

The Marine Institute says this future-proofing detection and alert system is focused on emerging toxins so that the shellfish aquaculture industry will be prepared and ready to detect potential emerging toxins.

Joe Silke, director of marine environment and food safety services at the Marine Institute, said: “Alertox-Net is providing technical solutions for faster and easier detection methods for emerging toxins to the European shellfish industry, and these resources are currently being collated into one integrated expertise network.”

Alertox-Net has also helped to deliver scientific, technical services and provide advice to regulatory authorities, which will underpin future development in Europe's aquaculture sector.

A recent project meeting included talks on the validation completed on a multi-method for regulating emerging toxins, and the creation of an open access database on toxin isolation and structure elucidation.

The meeting also acknowledged the 20 papers which have been published as part of the Alertox-Net project.

Published in Aquaculture
Tagged under

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) investigated a pollution incident that occurred last weekend on the Carrowbeg River in Westport, Co Mayo.

IFI received a number of calls to the hotline number and had a report from the landowner where the pollution incident occurred last Saturday 16 January.

Fisheries staff responded to the report of what’s understood to be an accidental detergent discharge into the Carrowbeg River that afternoon.

The Carrowbeg River is the main river that runs through Westport town and has an abundant indigenous brown trout population, as well as being is an important amenity to the local community.

IFI officers attended the scene and worked with the landowner to identify the source and to carry out immediate remedial works.

IFI says its staff continue to monitor the site and carried out kayak and drone surveys of the catchment area over the weekend to assess implications for the fishery. Surveys to date have not found any evidence of a fish kill resulting from the incident.

IFI says it has had “subsequent engagement with the landowner regarding remediation works to be undertaken at the site” and is liaising with with Mayo County Council’s Environmental Section on analysis of samples from the affected stretch of river.

Patrick Gorman, Galway director in the Western River Basin District at IFI, says: “Inland Fisheries Ireland urges members of the public to be aware of the environmental risk posed to their local waterbodies should such discharges be made into road or car park drain networks.

“Members of the public can report suspected pollution or poaching incidents to Inland Fisheries Ireland’s 24-hour confidential hotline on 1890 34 74 24.”

Published in Angling

The new National Maritime Oil & HNS Spill Contingency Plan (NMOSCP) will establish “a national framework and strategy to co-ordinate marine pollution preparedness and response”, according to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Published yesterday (Friday 26 June), the plan aims to address all oil and HNS (hazardous and noxious substances) pollution in the waters of Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone, whether it originates from ships, harbours, offshore units, oil/HNS handling facilities or land-based sources.

An “essential feature” of the plan is co-ordination between the Irish Coast Guard and relevant Government and non-State bodies, and it provides “a platform to co-ordinate responses in the context of the Major Emergency Management Framework and separately under the Strategic Emergency Management National Structures and Framework”.

The department adds that the NMOSCP “will address Ireland’s obligation under international convention in respect to preparedness and response to maritime pollution incidents”, and will provide the coastguard with a benchmark for best international practice.

The contingency plan is available to download below, while various standard operating procedures can be found on gov.ie HERE.

Published in News Update

It started in August last year when Northern Ireland man Jon Medlow noticed the amount of rubbish floating downstream while kayaking in the River Bann near Portadown.

Just a few months later, as BBC News reports, and he’s removed almost 9,000 bottles from the waterway — besides hundreds of discarded footballs, and enough refuse to fill close to 70 bin bags.

The sheer amount of waste even prompted Medlow to purchase a dinghy which he tows behind his kayak to carry the rubbish he collects — and his one-man initiative has now won support from the local council.

BBC News has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Inland Waterways
Tagged under

An Irish sailor and visual artist will join next month’s leg of an all-female sailing voyage that’s carrying out important research into the devastating impact of ocean plastic.

Claire McCluskey was a relative novice to sailing when in 2016 she and her partner took part in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the first of two transatlantic voyages she has under her belt.

Now she’s preparing to set out to sea once again, as she has been chosen from over 10,000 applicants to join the crew of eXXpedition Round The World 2019-2020.

The pioneering all-female sailing voyage and scientific research mission is circumnavigating the globe via four ocean gyres and the Arctic.

And Claire is one of 300 women to join the crew over the voyage’s 30 legs over more than 38,000 nautical miles, studying microplastic and toxins in our oceans.

In February and March, Claire will join Leg 7 of the eXXpedition mission to sail 2,000nm from the Galapagos to Easter Island, gathering samples en route from the South Pacific Gyre — a major plastic accumulation zone.

She will be part of an interdisciplinary team which, in addition to assisting with scientific research at sea, will bring together their unique expertise to think of new ways to tackle the problem of plastic pollution.

As a visual artist, this experience will contribute to Claire’s research into our relationship with the ocean, and will inform a new body of work on her return to Ireland. She will also be writing updates and blog posts for the duration of the four-week voyage.

You can Claire’s participation in the eXXpedition voyage via her GoFundMe fundraiser — for which she is also organising a table quiz next Tuesday 4 February from 7.30pm at Bloody Mary’s on South William St in Dublin — and find out more about the Pacific islands leg HERE.

Published in Marine Science

A court has heard that Malahide Marina was flooded with enough sewage to fill more than two Olympic-size swimming pools in a pollution incident last year, as TheJournal.ie reports.

Irish Water pleaded guilty to offences under the Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations 2007 following the malfunction of a treatment plant in the north Co Dublin town on 28 April 2018.

The company was fined €1,500 and ordered to pay €850 for expenses and €5,000 towards legal costs.

Brendan Kissane, inspector for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which brought the case, told the court that the incident occurred after one of the plant’s three pumps had been removed, and the other two failed four days later on a day when the facility was not staffed full-time.

This resulted in raw sewage overflowing from tanks in the facility into the nearby marina.

It was also heard that the pump failure was not detected until the day after the pollution incident, a Sunday, and the pollution continued until a temporary pump was installed the following day.

TheJournal.ie has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Irish Marinas

Marine Minister Michael Creed has welcomed the increase in trawlers and other fishing boats now signed up to Ireland’s Clean Oceans Initiative.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the initiative involves fishermen storing and returning to land marine plastics that come up in their nets daily as they fish, thereby removing this pollution from the marine environment.

The minister launched the Clean Oceans Initiative in January this year at Union Hall, setting a very ambitious target for the participation of the entire Irish trawl fishing fleet in the scheme by 31 December.

To date, 168 trawlers and 56 other fishing boats have signed up with 12 ports registered and involved in the initiative.

“It is heartening to see the numbers that have come on board and that we are now at 70% participation. I would like to thank every boat owner who has joined up,” said the minister.

“We need to get every single trawler on-board for this. This is good for the fishing industry and good for the environment.”

He added: “I’m delighted that the fisheries producer organisations endorsed this initiative and are encouraging their members to sign up and get involved.”

Protecting our oceans is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

By the end of the third quarter this year, approximately 70 tonnes of marine plastic waste had been collected from 12 of Ireland’s busiest fishing ports and 25.5 tonnes of used fishing nets have been collected for recycling by Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s (BIM) mobile shredder, the ‘Green Machine’.

Minister Creed expressed his thanks to BIM and to those leading the early brigade: “I must commend all those currently involved in the Clean Ocean’s Initiative being run by BIM and the longstanding commitment many in the fishing industry have to bringing ashore plastic waste from the sea.

“I look forward to seeing 100% participation by our trawling fleet by the end of this year.”

Applicants are advised to sign up on the BIM website or by contacting BIM directly at 01 214 4100.

Published in Fishing
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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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