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Displaying items by tag: IWDG

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

Whale watchers have captured spectacular aerial video of a group of humpback whales spotted “socialising” off West Cork.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s science officer Seán O’Callaghan filmed the remarkable scene last month just days after the first humpback whale sighing of the year was made in the same region, sailing out of Reen Pier.

“We had perfect sea conditions to search for cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) but our efforts to spot distant large whale blows were hampered by Saharan sand that caused a thick haze at sea,” the IWDG said.

“However, we did connect with up to six humpback whales feeding and socialising in offshore waters which allowed us to collect the first set of aerial images and video that will be used to estimate the length and body condition of these iconic giants.”

The video shows four of the humpback whales interacting with each other while common dolphins swim just ahead and among them.

And it marks the first significant contribution to WhaleTrack Ireland — the IWDG’s new drone-based citizen science project, supported by Ryanair, which aims to find out what these and other marine wildlife giants are doing within and beyond Irish waters.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A team from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) was on site at Streedagh Strand in Sligo yesterday (Thursday 4 April) to investigate the third sperm whale stranding in a matter of days along Ireland’s West Coast.

As reported yesterday on Afloat.ie, the discovery of a third such whale carcass made for an “increasingly unusual stranding pattern”.

While sperm whales are relatively abundant in Ireland’s deep ocean waters, they are rarely found above 300 metres — and male specimens are far more common than the female whale found in Sligo.

The IWDG confirmed that samples were taken from the 10.4m carcass, which showed “no obvious signs of ship collision [or] entanglement, nor was the whale emaciated”.

Examination of stomach contents found no plastic debris and few food remains.

“So as is so often the case with strandings, we know more about what didn’t kill the whale than what did kill it,” the IWDG stated — adding that it is liaising with Scottish colleges after a decomposed sperm whale was found on Uist in the Outer Hebrides, due north of Ireland, in recent days.

The group also notes that multiple warships and submarines are involved in Nato’s annual Joint Warrior exercise ongoing west of the Hebrides.

Sonar activity from military vessels has been suggested as a cause of whale strandings throughout Europe in recent years, including a major event across Scottish and Irish waters last year.

“However, these whales have been dead for one to two weeks so this can’t explain these strandings, unless some active equipment was tested offshore prior to the start of this exercise,” the IWDG says.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#MarineWildlife - A third sperm whale stranding on Ireland’s west coast within just a few days is now a cause for concern, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says.

Following the discovery of two sperm whale carcasses on the same day last week — in Donegal and west of the Aran Islands, the latter believed to have beached in Connemara — a third was found washed up on Streedagh beach in Sligo at the weekend.

Images of the latest stranding suggest it is an adult female, which the IWDG describes as “a little unusual” as “generally we get adult male sperm whales off the Irish coast”.

The close proximity of the strandings is also “now a concern”, though no cause of death has yet been determined, and plastic pollution is unlikely to be the culprit.

The IWDG added it “will explore some potential options regarding this increasingly unusual stranding pattern”.

Meanwhile, RTÉ News reports that the Galway council officials hope the sperm whale carcass washed ashore in Connemara will be taken out by high tides in the coming days.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#MarineWildlife - The UK’s Natural History Museum has made available for the first time a vast trove of whale and dolphin stranding records in British and Irish waters.

The data covers the years 1913 to 1989, filling in a significant gap before the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s stranding scheme began in 1991.

Over the years many entries were submitted by the coastguard, fishermen and members of the public — including a detailed record of a harbour porpoise found in Co Cork in 1913, the very first card in the data set.

PhD candidate Ellen Coombs is combing through the records to determine what picture “one of the longest systematic cetacean stranding data sets in the world” reveals for the status of cetacean species in our waters.

And already there have been some important finds, such as occasional records of deep-diving Cuvier’s beaked whales over the decades — not to mention a double stranding of narwhals in 1949.

The data also correlates with already known trends, such as the sharp decline in blue whale records with the expansion of commercial whaling in the early 20th century.

The Natural History Museum website has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The remains of two sperm whales have been spotted around Ireland in recent days.

The first was sighted in the Atlantic Ocean some 100km west of the Aran Islands on Monday (25 March) by an Air Corps airman.

Later that same day, samples were taken from a 43ft sperm whale carcass found washed ashore at Magheroarty in Co Donegal. Highland News says it it thought to have been dead for a number of weeks.

Sperm whales are the largest predator in Irish waters and are relatively abundant in deep ocean but are rarely found above 300 metres, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

The IWDG adds that a recent study estimated there are 3.2 sperm whales per 1,000 square kilometres of Irish waters.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

#MarineWildlife - Unusual weather for this time of year may be responsible for a recent spate of whale and dolphin strandings on the Cork coast in the past week.

The Irish Examiner reports that among the eight strandings were the carcass of a sperm whale on Long Strand in West Cork and a dolphin with fishing line around its beak in Schull.

However, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s (IWDG) Mick O’Connell said that while the statistic was high within such a short timeframe, it was not necessarily a mystery.

“We normally get the same thing every year,” said the IWDG stranding officer. “It is usually more in the southwest and west, but this year, I suppose we have had more southeast winds, which probably explains it.”

O’Connell added that the strandings are “only a percentage of what is actually dead at sea” — and that post-mortems may “shed some light in their deaths”.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) is bringing stories from the Celtic Mist’s historic marine wildlife survey voyage around Iceland to libraries and other venues nationwide.

Already the IWDG has visited 10 venues across eight counties in its ‘On the Trail of the Whale’ tour, which continues tonight (Tuesday 19 February) at 7pm in Killarney Library.

In May last year a crew of marine scientists and enthusiasts set sail on the IWDG’s research yacht for a weeks-long return passage to the edge of the Arctic Circle in search of humpback whales, building “strong links with Iceland and its people” along the way.

Last month, IWDG members began sharing their experiences from the rewarding mission in images, stories and video of the voyage to audiences in libraries and other venues across the island of Ireland — beginning on 14 January at DLR LexIcon and since visiting Galway, Tralee, Monaghan town and Arklow, as well as Bangor and Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland and Dublin’s Poolbeg Yacht Club.

“Through the tour, we want to encourage people to get involved,” IWDG’s chief science officer Dr Simon Berrow told the Irish Examiner. “If even one person at every event we do gets interested [in marine life] and gets motivated, that’s fantastic.”

The Irish Examiner has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Galway residents have a great opportunity to see a wild dolphin close to the city centre with the return of regular visitor to the Nimmo’s Pier area this week.

Nicknamed Nimmo, the solitary bottlenose dolphin was first sighted in the city in April 2015 and since then has become an annual fixture, appearing and staying longer each time.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) suggests this is a sign that the area around Galway city is now a “more important core feeding habitat for Nimmo”.

In other news, the IWDG’s research vessel Celtic Mist will embark on a series of week-long surveys this summer in search of humpback whales.

IWDG members are invited to join any of the nine legs, the first of which sets sail from 9-15 June (weather permitting) between Cork and Dingle/Fenit.

For details on how to book a place on any of these voyages and for further information, contact [email protected]

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 6 of 23

Irish Fishing industry 

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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