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#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports the good news of the rescue of two live common dolphins that stranded on a Co Kerry beach at the weekend.

IWDG volunteers found three dolphins at Tarbert on Sunday morning (8 January), one of which was already dead while the others were in shallow water, with one of them swimming into even lower waters upriver towards Tarbert village.

“We knew we had to come up with a plan as the area is surrounded with mudflats, and once the tide started to recede we would not be able to get access to or re-float the dolphin if it stranded again,” reported Joanne O’Brien.

That’s when Tarbert Rowing Club came to their aid with a small inflatable that allowed the volunteers to retrieve the bewildered dolphin and steer it in the right direction.

The IWDG has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Marine Wildlife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A young pilot whale was saved by a group of quick-thinking Wexford men after stranding on a beach at Kilmore Quay, as the New Ross Standard reports.

When Neil Bates spotted the 3m whale at Ballyteige Burrow and saw its blowhole move, he enlisted two other local men, John and Michael O'Flahery, to help refloat the animal.

And while it was it some distress for a time, it was soon out of the shallows and swimming in the direction of Hook Head.

In other marine wildlife news, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group is seeking to recruit a new general manager, based out of the Shannon Dolphin Centre in Kilrush, Co Clare.

Details are on the IWDG website HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has reiterated the need for localised stranding plans after the death of two common dolphins that stranded in Mayo's Blacksod Bay in late July.

Aoife Foley of the IWDG writes that the two dolphins were part of a pod of five that were spotted close to the shore at Mullaghroe Beach on Saturday 23 July.

A team from the Broadhaven Bay Marine Mammal Monitoring Programme joined local marine biologist Machiel Oudejans to move the dolphins, which did not appear to be injured or in obviously poor health, back into deeper waters and out to sea.

However, the following afternoon a member of the programme team saw that two of the marine mammals had stranded on the same stretch of beach, which Foley says is "notorious for common dolphin strandings in Blacksod Bay".

Despite best efforts, by Tuesday 26 July one of the animals had died and the other had to be put down by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The IWDG has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A number of dead minke whales found off the Dingle Peninsula in recent months have puzzled locals and experts alike, as TheJournal.ie reports.

The carcasses of three juvenile minkes have been spotted in the region since April, comprising 25% of all Irish minke whale standings since records began in 2000.

A fourth whale carcass was found on the shore at Killough in Co Down last week, according to BBC News.

But no one seems to know the reasons for these marine wildlife deaths, with the lack of a post-mortem scheme for whale strandings making matters even cloudier.

Mick O’Connell, strandings co-ordinator of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), believes the phenomenon is localised to the Dingle Bay area.

Yet while the species is a regular visitor to the Blasket Islands and environs, O'Connell says it's "very unusual to have so many dead ones in the one small area, in the space of 10 or 12 weeks."

The same region also saw a number of unsubstantiated dolphin deaths in recent weeks, which one fishery expert suggested might be connected with the presence of so-called 'supertrawlers' fishing in the area.

Similar concerns were raised earlier in the year when a spike in common dolphin standings, primarily in the North West – totalling 28 for January and February alone – coincided with reports of supertrawler activity off the Dongeal, Sligo and Mayo coasts.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#WhaleWatchDay - The 2016 All Island Whale Watch Day takes place on Saturday 27 August as part of Heritage Week.

All are invited to join the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) at any of 20 land-based whale watches on headlands around the Irish coast from 2pm-5pm on the day.

The purpose of Whale Watch Ireland is to raise awareness of the 25 species of cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – recorded to date in Irish waters, by providing the opportunity to see them in their natural environment.

The event also provides IWDG researchers with a unique snapshot of cetacean activity off the Irish coast.

Though sightings can't be guaranteed, the early arrival of humpback whales among others this year is surely a good omen, especially for those along the south coast between West Cork and Wexford.

And with three-quarters of sites reporting whale or dolphin sightings on last year's Whale Watch Day, the odds are good for next month.

No prior experience is necessary as IWDG volunteers will be on hand to show you how to observe our biggest marine wildlife.

Anyone who wants to come out on the day should bring binoculars or a spotting scope, and dress appropriately for what can be very changeable outdoor conditions.

Details of the 20 headland watch sites are listed below; contact the relevant local organiser for more details or if you wish to help out on the day:

  • Clogherhead, Co Louth - Port Oriel Upper Car Park - Breffni Martin, 087 914 5363
  • Howth Head, North Co Dublin - Balscadden Car Park - Conal O’ Flanagan, 086 353 7900
  • Killiney Bay, South Co Dublin - Vico Road - Brian Glanville, 087 139 0665
  • Bray Head, Co Wicklow - Pitch & Putt - Justin Ivory, 087 683 3898
  • Hook Head, Co Wexford - Lighthouse - Harm Deenen, 086 348 5013
  • Ardmore, Co Waterford - Ram Head Signal Tower - Andrew Malcolm, 087 795 2061
  • Galley Head, Co Cork - Lighthouse - Pádraig Whooley, 086 385 0568
  • Hog’s Head, Co Kerry - Sea Synergy Centre, Waterville - Lucy Hunt, 087 785 0929
  • Valentia Island, Co Kerry - Bray Head Signal Tower - Sean O’Callaghan, 085 776 4918
  • Clogher Head, Co Kerry - Lay-by - Nick Massett, 087 673 6341
  • Loop Head, Co Clare - Lighthouse - Simon Berrow, 086 854 5450
  • Black Head, North Co Clare - Lighthouse - Sandra O’Donovan, 086 606 1869
  • Downpatrick Head, Co Mayo - Car park - Aoife Foley, 085 827 6984
  • Mullaghmore Head, Co Sligo - Lay-by - Miriam Crowley, 087 617 1377
  • Bloody Foreland, Co Donegal - Heights Bar car park - Gareth Doherty, 086 222 3328
  • Malin Head, Co Donegal - Signal Tower - Ronan McLaughlin, 086 389 3154
  • Ramore Head, Co Antrim - Portrush Coastal Zone - Jim Allen, 078 765 16032
  • Portmuck, Co Antrim - Car park - Ian Enlander, 028 933 72724
  • Bloody Bridge, Co Down - Car park - Dave Wall, 077 717 62355
Published in Marine Wildlife

#BowheadWhale - The search continues in tracking down the elusive bowhead whale that's excited marine wildlife experts since it was sighted in Carlingford Lough at the weekend.

One of a species never before recorded in Irish waters in the 25 years since the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) was formed, the 20ft juvenile whale was photographed from a pilot boat at the mouth of the lough at the Helly Hunter Rocks on Sunday 29 May.

It's thought that it may be the same individual from the arctic species spotted off Cornwall in mid May, following a previous bowhead sighting at the Scilly Isles in February.

The Celtic Mist joined the hunt yesterday (Tuesday 31 May) on its circumnavigation of Ireland and failed to make any sighting, though bowhead whales are known for being difficult to spot due to their lack of a dorsal fin.

The IWDG has much more on this story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Places are going fast for a special cruise on board the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's Celtic Mist to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ireland's whale and dolphin sanctuary.

Celtic Mist will depart Fenit, Co Kerry next Saturday 7 May with a team of IWDG members and marine science experts on an almost three-month circumnavigation of Ireland, first heading north along the Wild Atlantic Way and around to the Irish Sea, calling on Dublin on 7 June to mark the 25th anniversary of the Irish Government's official declaration of this island's waters as a sanctuary for cetaceans.

The declaration came only three months after it was proposed by the then newly formed IWDG, and both have been instrumental in raising awareness of the bounty of marine wildlife in Irish waters.

Though berths on the voyage are filling fast, everyone will have the opportunity to participate by assisting in outreach events along the cruise route, or by tracking its progress online. Details on how to get involved can be found on the IWDG website HERE.

Along the way passengers on Celtic Mist may be treated to some of the incredible wildlife the sanctuary was created to protect, such as humpback whales – a number of which were spotted on an early visit to West Kerry earlier this month, likely attracted by schools of sand eels, as the IWDG reports.

In other marine wildlife news, locals near a beach close to Ballyshannon in Co Donegal have complained after a whale carcass was left rotting on rocks three days after it was reported to authorities.

According to the Irish Mirror, successive high tides had failed to shift the 25ft minke whale, though Donegal County Council says it is arranging for the animal's disposal.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 10 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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