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A bottlenose dolphin was recently rescued by quick-thinking locals after live stranding on Mutton Island near Galway city.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports the story related to it by friend of the group Jason, who was alerted to the marine mammal in the shallow water near the Galway Bay lighthouse by an Australian couple with whom he had previously been discussing the area’s resident bottlenose Nimmo.

“I just knew it was in trouble so I ran down and the dolphin was out of the water alive,” he said.

With the tide going out, time was of the essence as Jason was joined by three others who offered their scarves to form a brace to lift the dolphin into deeper water.

“I just went the rest of the way as it was getting dark at that point. With one final push it just started to swim away.

“I can’t explain how I felt and we did it as a team. An incredible thank you so so much to those who helped,” he added.

The incident came just days after the IWDG called on the Government to join forces with NGOs like itself to develop a stranding response protocol, especially for large whales.

The IWDG said “fresh attention” has been drawn to the issue following the death of a fin whale seen swimming in Dublin Port earlier this month.

More recently, an endangered sei whale was found floating in the River Thames at Gravesend in the UK last Friday (18 October), nearly two weeks after a humpback whale died in the same stretch of water.

IWDG chief executive Dr Simon Berrow said: “Strandings, both live and dead, of large whales are not common in Ireland but do occur and we need a protocol, signed off by relevant partners, including Government agencies, so we can respond quickly and efficiently in such cases without having to phone around looking for resources and support.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

Concerns remain for the health of a rare beaked whale refloated from a Co Waterford beach at the weekend, as The Irish Times reports.

The Sowerby’s beaked whale stranded near Helvick Head on Friday (30 August) and was twice returned to the open sea by the local RNLI lifeboat crew.

The incident marks the fourth stranding this year around the coast — and the only live stranding — of a deep water marine wildlife species that’s historically been rare in Irish inshore waters, with only 25 confirmed since records began.

Its fate is currently unknown, but Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) strandings officer Mick O’Connell suggests the situation doesn’t look good.

“Sowerbys usually live in much deeper water 300kms off the west coast — that makes me think it’s unlikely it will survive — it may be sick, but it’s got as good a chance to survive as it could because everything was done locally to get it back out to sea,” he said.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) sets sail this weekend for Cape Verde next month on its eighth humpback whale expedition.

Funded by the Island Foundation, this two-week mission comes just months after the IWDG finally confirmed the breeding grounds for Ireland’s regular humpback whale visitors near the west African island chain.

Cape Verde also appears to be a chosen spot for these marine wildlife giants from both ends of the earth, as a previous mission in September 2014 recorded humpbacks that usually feed in the southern hemisphere.

Next month’s mission, while building on this research, will also involve training local marine biologists in cetacean survey and research techniques “to empower them to take ownership of whale and dolphin conservation”.

Spanish research group Edmaktub will be providing its 47ft Lipari catamaran as a research platform for their work, updates from which will be posted to a dedicated Facebook page.

Published in Marine Science

Marine wildlife miracle Spirtle appears to have taken up residence off the Kerry coast if the many sightings over recent weeks are anything to go by.

Last month the young dolphin was spotted in the area some weeks after she was seen off the East Coast, headed south from her usual haunt off the west of Scotland.

Indeed, it was there where she live stranded in 2016 and suffered severe sunburn, which left her with her distinctive markings.

Despite fears that she wouldn’t survive her ordeal, Spirtle returned to fine health and is now part of a small pod regularly feeding off Feit in Tralee Bay, and which includes a juvenile, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Researchers are now trying to establish if Spirtle became part of this group after her long travels, or whether they swam with her from Scotland.

Initial evidence suggests at least two of her pod are Scottish regulars, including Spirtle’s own mother Porridge.

“We have documented movements of individual bottlenose dolphins between Ireland and Scotland before, but we do not know how often this occurs or whether it is typical behaviour,” the IWDG said.

“We hope to continue to monitor the presence of this famous ‘Scottish’ dolphin and see if she stays or travels further,” the group added.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Minke and humpback whales arriving and other species of whales and dolphins along the Irish coast is a good omen for this years All Island Whale Watch day.

Organiser of the event, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) invite you to join them for a land-based whale watch at a local headland between 2:00-5:00 pm on next Saturday, 24th August.

The purpose of whale watch day is to raise awareness of the 25 species of cetaceans (porpoises, dolphins and whales) recorded to date in all Irish waters, by giving the public an opportunity to look for and observe some of these wonderful marine mammals in their natural environment. This event also provides IWDG researchers with a unique snapshot of whale and dolphin activity around the Irish coast.

This annual, all-island event, organized by the IWDG and sponsored by Inis the Energy of the Sea www.seathebeauty.net is free and open to all.

All watches are land-based and will be led by experienced IWDG researchers, enthusiasts and whale watchers, who will show you how to observe and identify some of the more commonly recorded cetacean species in Irish waters.

You should bring binoculars or a spotting scope and dress appropriately and dress appropriately for outdoor weather conditions. There are no boat trips involved, and there is of course no guarantee that you will see whales or dolphins at your chosen site; but at last year’s event whales or dolphins were recorded at 14 of 19 sites (73.6%). So if the weather issuitable on the day, you’ve quite a good chance of seeing some really interesting marine wildlife, and in the process you’ll be supporting whale and dolphin conservation in Ireland by becoming actively involved in Citizen Science.

Please click and scroll down page to contact your local organizer for further details as listed from the IWDG website www.iwdg.ie and for the latest information on whale and dolphin sightings and strandings in Irish waters.

Whale Watch Ireland, will once again be part of Heritage Week, co-ordinated by the Heritage Council www.heritagecouncil.ie

Published in Marine Wildlife

The RV Celtic Voyager departed early this morning (Thursday 1 August) from the Port of Cork on a multidisciplinary marine wildlife survey investigating the biological and oceanographic features of the 100m contour line between Cork to Galway.

The survey team comprises scientists and students from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology’s Marine and Freshwater Research Centre and NUI Galway’s Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

And they are hoping to learn more about what’s an apparent biodiversity hotspot, attracting the top marine predators in Irish waters from large predatory fish to seabirds and cetaceans.

Inspiration for the survey came from the regular occurrence of humpback whales observed near the 100m depth contour line, especially off West Kerry, and the team hopes to learn if this is consistent along the whole contour.

During the survey, which can be followed at the [email protected] blog, visual survey teams will record marine mammals and seabirds from the deck, and a hydrophone will be towed to record any vocalising whales and dolphins.

Physical oceanography will be recorded through CTD casts along six east-west transects during the night. If fish marks coincide with concentrations of marine predators, it’s hoped they will reveal what species are feeding and what they’re feeding on.

This survey also contributes to the IWDG’s WhaleTrack Ireland project, funded by Ryanair through its Carbon Carbon Offset Programme.

Published in Marine Wildlife

O’Sullivan’s Marine have shared with us a photo of the surprise moment when a dolphin landed on the bow of one of their boats.

The sudden encounter was all the more startling as the marine mammal almost knocked a child out of the boat — but the youngster still managed to capture the cetacean on camera.

Elsewhere, BreakingNews.ie reports that a striped dolphin was found dead in a river near Lahinch despite the best efforts of local surfers after the animal live-stranded on the popular North Clare beach.

Dr Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, who also joined the rescue effort, said: “We found a striped dolphin, quite a large animal, obviously in distress. We tried to push it out again [to sea] but it was very weak.”

The IWDG chief added: “The surfers did their best and we thank them for trying but sometimes a dolphin will live strand themselves … there’s very little you can do.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

Sixteen years after the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s (IWDG) first attempt to find the origins of Ireland’s humpback whales, a chance excursion on the latest expedition to Cape Verde has finally revealed the breeding grounds for these threatened marine wildlife visitors.

It was long suspected that the waters around the island chain off West Africa were the most likely breeding area for humpbacks that have been sighted nearly 1,000 times and photographed ever 100 times in Irish waters over the last two decades.

But that wasn’t confirmed until this April during a two-week expedition, when on a trip to a known breeding spot in Santa Monica off Boavista, IWDG chief Simon Berrow photographed two humpbacks that surfaced near his boat.

One of these whales was identified by the group’s international network of experts as an individual sighted by Nick Massett off Kerry four years ago. It was just the match they’d been searching for.

“What a fantastic outcome for the IWDG,” said Massett at the news. “It was born out of the belief that the Cape Verde islands was the breeding ground for the humpbacks we have documented here off Ireland. But it is down to the dogged persistence of the expedition teams that have returned there over the years to prove the theory.

“I am delighted for Simon Berrow that he finally got the definitive proof of this connection, and pleased to have played my part in documenting the animal here off Co Kerry.”

Also celebrating the achievement was IWDG sightings officer Pádraig Whooley, who had been beginning to doubt whether they had been looking in the right place all these years.

“We’ve finally found a really important missing piece of the jigsaw,” said Whooley, “but it’s a very large puzzle, which still has lots of missing pieces.”

The next steps for the IWDG are to determine how to use this information to enhance conservation for the endangered species, perhaps involving a greater level of co-operation between the Irish and Cape Verdean governments.

Meanwhile, the group will follow-up this find with another expedition to Cape Verde this coming September.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Sightings of an unusual looking bottlenose dolphin off the East Coast in recent weeks have turned out to be a Scottish scrapper named Spirtle.

Images of the dolphin seen off South Dublin and North Wicklow earlier this month showed what appeared to be heavy scarring and discolouration on its right flank.

That was enough for Dr Joanne O’Brien of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) to identify the animal as the daughter of a dolphin well known in the Moray Firth.

Spirtle’s story is one of survival as almost three years ago to this day, she was found live stranded with significant injuries and suffering severe dehydration.

Since then she’s bounced right back from the brink of death, and it appears she’s now even at the lead of a group of bottlenose dolphins that’s made its way south along the Irish Sea beyond Dublin Bay.

A rare sighting of a different kind was made in West Cork this past week, where a charter boat operator witnessed what he believed was an attack on a pod of common dolphins by a killer whale.

David Edwards was 15 miles south of Galley Head last Tuesday (21 May) when he saw the orca chase after its fellow cetaceans for its lunch — and his images of the event have been confirmed by IWDG sightings officer Padraig Whooley.

Echo Live has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

A group of Ireland’s environmental NGOs are teaming up this spring for a rather unique education project lead by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. The exciting Floating Classroom initiative is combining ocean exploration with an educational schools programme which aims to raise awareness of Ireland’s marine biodiversity. Taking to the seas in the IWDG’s research vessel Celtic Mist, the team of marine biologists and ocean literacy experts will be making their way down Ireland’s south-east coast from Arklow to Cork, calling into coastal communities providing engaging workshops to schools along the way.

After an extensive refit during the winter in Grand Canal Docks, Dublin, the 56-foot ketch yacht will also be open to the public when docked at local marinas and harbours, giving the public an opportunity to see the workings of a dedicated whale and dolphin research vessel and how researchers live and work at sea.

Apart from raising awareness for Ireland’s rich marine wildlife, the team will be emphasising the importance of taking care of our seas and oceans. With challenges such as plastics pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss now frequently in the news, there is a pressing need for communities to work together to tackle environmental issues.

While pupils will be introduced to the wealth of marine and coastal wildlife on their doorstep, each school will be asked to come up with three ways in which they feel they can make a difference for their local blue environment.

The team of biologists will also be proposing ways in which the public can get involved, including citizen science projects that encourage people to report their sightings of whales, dolphins, seabirds and even shark eggs! Schools will be encouraged to get involved in other community-based initiatives too, such as beach cleans being run by organisations in their area.

Environmental NGOs involved in the Floating Classroom include the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Marine Dimensions, the Irish Wildlife Trust and the Irish Ocean Literacy Network. Funding for the Floating Classroom has been kindly received by the Irish Environmental Network through their Capacity Building Grant.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 3 of 21

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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