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The RNLI and HM Coastguard have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that lays out each organisation’s responsibilities for search and rescue operations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

John Payne, director of lifesaving operations for the RNLI, and HM Coastguard director Claire Hughes met at Dover Lifeboat Station yesterday (Thursday 1 October) to sign the MOU which the UK coastguard service says demonstrates both sides’ “commitment to joint working and building on what is a very positive relationship”.

It’s hoped the agreement will bear fruit in terms of joint training and regular communication that will ultimately save lives around the UK’s coastlines and inland waters.

“The close working relationship we have with the RNLI is very special and the signing of this MOU exhibits our continued collaboration and dedication to preventing loss of life at sea and along the coast,” Hughes said.

Payne added: “The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea and our close co-operation with our tasking agency in the UK, HM Coastguard, helps to make this possible.

“Our volunteer lifeboat crews and staff work side-by-side on search and rescue operations with HM Coastguard teams up and down the UK’s coastline and we are pleased to officially recognise this relationship.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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HM Coastguard dealt with 340 individual incidents across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on Saturday (8 August), representing its highest number of call-outs in a single day for well over four years.

Packed coastlines and beaches kept coastguard personnel very busy throughout another hot heatwave day, which saw rescue teams attend 221 incidents.

Both the RNLI and independent lifeboats were called out on 155 occasions combined, and aircraft were also used to assist at the coast and sea in 30 incidents.

HM Coastguard responded to 186 emergency calls and co-ordinated search and rescue responses to a wide-range of incidents, which included people being cut off by the tide and children swept out to sea on inflatables.

In total, the service rescued 146 people and assisted a further 371 people.

Saturday’s incident count represents a significant 145% increase when compared to the average amount of call-outs we recorded throughout August 2019.

The count also surpasses its previous (and recent) busiest day over the past few years, on Friday 31 July the previous weekend, when the service co-ordinated 329 incidents.

‘We don’t want you to remember your day out for all the wrong reasons’

HM Coastguard’s head of coastguard operations Richard Hackwell said: “We have seen a big rise in incident numbers this weekend as more people visit coastal areas and head to the beach.

“We understand that people want to have fun at the coast and enjoy the heatwave but we urge everyone to respect the sea and take responsibility in helping to ensure the safety of themselves, friends and family.

“We’re heading into a period of more good weather so we want to remind you to check and double check tide times as even the most experienced swimmer or keen watersports enthusiast can get caught out by currents and tides. Plan your day out, always exercise caution and make sure you have a way of contacting us if you get into trouble.”

He added: “As our latest statistics show, we’ll always respond when someone calls 999 and asks for the coastguard but help us to help you by not making choices which could put yourself and others at risk.

“Every time our frontline teams respond — as they always do and always will — please don't forget that they're also put at risk too. Take extra care at the coast today and over the coming days. We don’t want you to remember your day out for all the wrong reasons.”

Published in Scottish Waters
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Coastguard rescue teams around Great Britain and Northern Ireland were called to nearly 200 incidents over the weekend, to come to the aid of those who found themselves in difficulty in the sea or at the coast.

The 194 incidents included inflatables drifting offshore; crashed and broken down jet skis and pleasure boats; people injured while out walking or cycling along the coast; paddle boarders, kayakers, windsurfers and kite surfers who found themselves in difficulty; and people cut off by the tide or stuck in mud.

There were 84 callouts on Saturday (16 May) and a further 109 on Sunday (17 May), which proved to be the second busiest day of the year so far for HM Coastguard, as significant numbers of people took to the water and visited the coast.

In addition, 119 teams carried out proactive patrols of English beaches, cliffs and marinas to look out for anyone in trouble, offer safety advice where needed and ensure that people are staying safe in the water after the relaxing of some UK government guidelines in England.

‘The sea can still catch you out and can be unmerciful when it does’

The teams also assisted in providing mutual aid on 38 occasions in support of the other emergency services.

Boating, swimming and other sea-based activities are now allowed once again in England under UK government guidelines. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the lockdown remains and people should continue to follow the guidance to stay home.

HM Coastguard director Claire Hughes said: “In England, now more than ever, people need to respect the sea and the coast. While people are now allowed to go out on and in the water, they need to make sure they are safe and protected and have a way to contact HM Coastguard if they get into difficulty.

“Regardless of how well you know the coast and of your ability in your chosen sport, the sea can still catch you out and can be unmerciful when it does.

“In addition, the government guidelines around social distancing should continue to be observed by everyone in the UK.”

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The number of recorded incidents dealt with by HM Coastguard yesterday has been the highest since the UK was put into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic in late March, the service has warned.

Friday 8 May saw 97 incidents — a 54% increase over the daily average in the previous month — within a single 24-hour period. This coincided with the start of the UK’s early May bank holiday weekend.

“People are ignoring the measures put into place by the [UK] government,” said Matt Leat, duty commander with HM Coastguard.

“I completely understand that the weather and the bank holiday coupled with the fact that we’ve been in this lockdown situation for just over six weeks has tempted people out to our beautiful coasts.

“However, as the government said only yesterday, it’s really vital that we all continue to observe the guidance.”

Leet said that the coastguard would always respond to a 999 or distress call “but the minute we send in a rescue response, we’re putting our frontline responders at risk as well as putting the NHS under avoidable pressure”.

He added: “Please, please continue to observe the #StayHomeSaveLives message — it’s still in place for a reason. Exercise locally and stretch your legs, not our resources.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticised today (Sunday 10 May) for changing the coronavirus advice slogan from ‘stay at home’ to the less direct ‘stay alert’. The change has been rejected by the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Portaferry’s coastguard rescue team was paged yesterday morning (Saturday 7 March) to a report of multiple kayakers capsized in the water off Killyleagh on Strangford Lough.

Portaferry RNLI were also tasked to the incident, recovering four individuals from the water and locating two more on Don O’Neill Island.

Another two were found on Island Taggart, and they were winched to safety by HM Coastguard rescue helicopter R199 based in Prestwick, south of Glasgow in Scotland.

The casualties were then taken to Killyleagh where Bangor Coastguard Rescue Team had set up a landing point.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service also tasked the Air Ambulance NI and Hazard Area Response Team to the scene.

All eight persons were checked over by the doctor and paramedics, with no further treatment needed.

“Well done to all emergency services involved in this incident and a good outcome in the end,” Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Team said.

Following the rescue, as BBC News reports, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency issued general advice to kayakers.

“We’d always recommend that kayakers tell someone at home their passage plan including points of arrival and departure, timescale and any other relevant information.

“It would also be advisable to consider advising the coastguard of your intentions and any deviation of your plans.

“You should also carry a VHF marine band radio and/or PLB (personal locator beacon).”

Published in Coastguard

HM Coastguard in the UK was among the agencies joining an international search operation last night (Friday 22 November) after a superyacht sank off Indonesia.

While initially believed to be a UK-registered vessel, it was quickly confirmed that the yacht, named Asia, was a Malaysian-registered sailing vessel with two British citizens among the four people aboard.

Following “extensive investigation work” by HM Coastguard, contact was made with the boat’s skipper at 5am this morning (Saturday 23 November).

He confirmed that the vessel sank after hitting an object in the water some 55 nautical miles off an Indonesian island, but all four crew had managed to get in board its RIB tender and were met by marine police at the nearest landfall.

“We are relieved to hear that the crew are now safely ashore,” said HM Coastguard Controller David Jones, who was in charge of co-ordinating efforts overnight.

“This incident demonstrated good international working between the UK Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, JRCC Australia, JRCC Jakarta, USA Mission Control Centre and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

Published in Rescue

HM Coastguard rescue teams from Lerwick, Hillswick and Sumburgh, the search and rescue helicopter crew from Sumburgh and staff from the Coastguard Operations Centre in Shetland have been awarded the prestigious UK Department for Transport Rescue Shield by Brian Johnson, chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), for a dramatic cliff rescue 18 months ago.

The DfT Rescue Shield is the highest national accolade in the United Kingdom awarded to coastguard teams which have performed the most outstanding rescue of the year. The presentation last Tuesday 5 November marks the sixth time that Shetland-based teams have been awarded the shield.

On the evening of 9 May 2018, a teenager was trapped at the base of a 120ft cliff for two hours with the tide coming in, in Fethaland, Shetland, after attempting to scale it.

The rescue was challenging and its success was due to the professionalism and teamwork of all involved in a rescue co-ordinated by HM Coastguard.

Coastguard rescue teams navigated difficult terrain in appalling conditions on the narrow headland, setting up cliff rescue equipment before one of the team descended the cliff, enduring storm force winds, rain and heavy squalls from the incoming tide to safely recover the casualty to the top of the cliff.

“As emergency response teams we rely heavily on each other to achieve success and this case was a prime example of that,” said Dave Sweeney, senior coastal operations officer.

“It was a challenging rescue and we needed all our teams’ shared expertise and resources to safely rescue the man. It was teamwork at its best.

“We are honoured to be awarded for our efforts on this particular rescue and it’s a mark of recognition for all the work and dedication of the front line volunteers, paid crew members and behind the scenes teams that help us all save lives together.”

Published in Coastguard

Coleraine Coastguard is back in business after a reported burglary at its station during Storm Gareth on Tuesday night (12 March).

Volunteers woke yesterday morning (Wednesday 13 March) to find that their station “had been broken into and ransacked”.

The North Coast station was taken offline while the PSNI completely investigations and volunteers could determine that its equipment was safe to use.

Volunteers were given the all-clear by 4.30pm yesterday to resume their rescue services.

And they have appealed for anyone with information about the burglary — one of a spate of incidents throughout the town on Tuesday night — to contact the PSNI.

Published in Coastguard

#Hoax - The UK coastguard has decried an “elaborate hoax” after lifeboats and a coastguard helicopter were launched after several calls from someone claiming to be a kayaker in difficulty off the Co Down coast.

As BBC News reports, lifeboats from Bangor and Donaghadee RNLI respectively joined a rescue helicopter from HM Coastguard in Scotland in the search off the Copeland Islands yesterday (Sunday 2 April) that was declared a hoax after a thorough search of the area.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Two Coastguard Rescue Teams carried out a difficult and complex rescue in a Force 9 gale, after a climber became cragfast on cliffs at Fairhead, near Ballycastle, Northern Ireland.

At about 11.30pm yesterday (Tuesday 28 September) the UK Coastguard received a report from a local Coastguard Rescue Team member that a climber needed rescuing after becoming cragfast whilst climbing the cliff.

Ballycastle and Coleraine Coastguard Rescue Teams and Redbay RNLI All Weather Lifeboat were sent to the scene along with the UK Coastguard search and rescue helicopter based at Prestwick. The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service was also informed of the incident.

Daniel McAuley, Station Officer for Ballycastle Coastguard Rescue Team said: ‘The two climbers had started climbing the cliff at around 5.00pm and when the winds started to pick up, the position of the ropes they were using for support moved. Luckily, one of the climbers managed to get the top and raise the alarm at a local farmhouse nearby. The occupants of the farmhouse quickly alerted one of the local Coastguard team members who called the job into the Belfast Coastguard Operations Centre.

‘A combination of working in darkness, the instability of the cliff edge and the 44 knot winds meant that we had to set up thirty metres away from the edge of the cliff to make sure the equipment was secure. We were very grateful to the Belfast Coastguard Operations Centre for co-ordinating the response and for the Coastguard helicopter and the RNLI lifeboat, who shone their lights on the climber and our operations so we could work safely. Without their vital support, our jobs would have been made all the more difficult. This is a great example of how these teams worked brilliantly together under challenging circumstances to rescue the climber. Thankfully, he did not require any medical attention or treatment after being rescued.’

'The climbers did the right thing by calling the Coastguard as soon as they got into difficulty. Unfortunately, they just got caught out by the change in the wind conditions - we're just glad they're safe and well now.'

Published in Coastguard
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Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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