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When three Connemara islanders drowned on their way home in a currach from watching the All-Ireland football final on television in Clifden in 1974, their loss had such a devastating impact that most of the residents of Turbot evacuated four years later.

A population of 191 people living on the island just west of Clifden in the 1860s had declined to around 65 by then and most of the islanders left in 1978, all together on the same day.

The final seven quit in 1981, leaving crockery in cupboards, ashes in fireplaces and pencils and copy books on desks in the primary school.

Turbot Island, ConnermaraTurbot Island off the coast of Connemara

Now some 46 years later, the short lives of the fishermen, Patrick O’Toole (58), Patrick Stuffle (48) and Michael Wallace (62), and the fate of their islands has been commemorated with a music and video project, initiated by “new islanders” who have holiday homes on Turbot.

Original and “new” Turbot residents marked the occasion at a launch of the project in Clifden’s Abbeyglen Castle Hotel yesterday.

Peter Knox and Turbot islander John O'ToolePeter Knox and Turbot islander John O'Toole

Turbot, which is south of Omey, had made history as the first land sighted by the first successful trans-Atlantic aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown, who crash-landed in Derrygimlagh bog near Clifden on June 15th, 1919.

Years later, when Dutch advertising executive Stefan Frenkel and his wife Hanneke bought a house on Turbot, they heard how the mainstay of fishing, farming and growing vegetables had sustained it until the turf began to run out and emigration began to bleed the island dry.

The final straw was the loss of the three fishermen, who had left Eyrephort beach in bad weather for home after watching the match. It took three weeks to find their bodies.

“After the event, a Connemara resident Joseph O’Toole wrote a poem that describes all that had happened and the effect it had on the small island community,” Frenkel explains.

“His daughter Marie Joe Heanue said his father was a very good friend of the fishermen, and they often came for tea and stayed in their house when the weather was bad,” Frenkel recalls.

“ When their bodies were found, he was devastated. He wrote every evening for days, and Mary says they didn’t know what he was writing about,” Frenkel says.

Frenkel recalls that on his first visit to Turbot, islander John O’Toole “showed us the empty houses, beds.. the books and pencils still on the school desks...as if the pupils had just run out of the place yesterday”.

Landing at Turbot IslandLanding at Turbot Island

The Dutch couple spent their first summer of many there in 1995, and said they were always made welcome by original Turbot residents, now resettled on the mainland, who said they “loved to see the houses occupied again”.

Turbot was connected to ESB mains in 2003, and over the past two decades, more houses have been sold, mostly to Irish owners, and the island has had its own wedding.

Turbot Island in Connemara, IrelandThe old schoolhouse on Turbot Island

At that wedding, John O’Toole recited the poem written by Joseph O’Toole, and another “new islander”, mathematician and musician Peter Knox from Dublin, asked for the text.

He matched the lyrics to music and it has now been recorded as a video by director Barry Ryan.

“My son Kasper recorded the music in his Electric Monkey Studio in Amsterdam, with Peter Knox, two musicians, Laurens Johansson and Ian de Jong and backing vocals from my granddaughter Leaf,” Frenkel, who financed the project, says.

“We hope Turbot Men, which will be free to view on YouTube, will become a new Irish ballad.”

Published in Island News
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Ferries from Galway City to the Aran Islands will after a lenghtly absence make their return to Galway Docks – with the announcement that Island Ferries will begin operating the service from next year.

According to the Connacht Tribune from May 2020, a vessel that is currently under construction in the Far East will become the largest domestic ferry on the Irish Coast and “will bring a new experience for passengers, never seen on Galway Bay before”.

That’s according to CEO of the Port of Galway, Conor O’Dowd, who said the new ferry was just one of a raft of exciting developments for the port – including the delivery of a new crane allowing for increased business and long-awaited progress on plans to extend the port.

For more on this ferry service development click here

Afloat.ie adds that existing passenger services are operated west of Galway City from Rossaveal in Connemara in addition to those based out of Doolin in Co. Clare.

The last State run operated Galway-Aran ferry service ended in the summer of 1988 when Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) used the custom Dublin-built Naomh Éanna completed at the Liffey Dockyard in 1958 to provide the joint passenger and freight service. As previously reported the veteran vessel is undergoing restoration to serve as a floating luxury hotel on the Liffey. 

Another custom built ferry Oileáin Árann built in 1992 but privately operated by Doolin based O'Brien Shipping served the direct city-islands route. Notably, this was the final ship to provide this link until sold to Samskip an Icelandic based company. 

A cargo-only service currently maintains sailings between Galway and all three Aran Islands. This is operated by Lasta Mara Teoranta's cargoship Bláth na Mara. 

Published in Ferry

#ferries - A new service has been launched by Bus Éireann in partnership with Doolin Ferry Company for people to explore the Wild Atlantic Way, reports GalwayDaily.

The new Route 350 which operates from Galway offers a combined bus and ferry service exploring the sights of the Wild Atlantic Way with tour of the Cliffs of Moher or a day ticket out to Inis Oírr.

Customers can avail of two combined ticket options which each cost €38.50 for both the bus ticket and either a 1-hour ferry tour of the Cliffs or a trip out to Inis Oírr.

The bus route also offers a regular service from Galway, through Doolin and on to Ennis that runs up to six times daily.

Bus Éireann describe the new route as a “great value day trip option to visit Ireland’s most popular tours destinations along the very popular Wild Atlantic Way.”

To read more and where to buy tickets, click here. 

Published in Ferry

#AranIslands - An Oireachtas committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht were addressed (yesterday) by a group of representatives from Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands as a dispute over a ferry service to the island continues.

RTE News reports that Cathy Ní Ghoill, from the co-op on Inis Mór, said islanders have been battling for four years to keep basic services like air and ferry connections, and a change of policy is needed.

Local secondary school principal Micheál Ó Cualáin said a reliable air and ferry service was essential to bring teachers to and from the mainland.

For more on this ongoing story, click here.

Published in Island News

#AranIslands – As talks today to resolve the ongoing Aran Islands ferries dispute over passenger levies with Galway County Council, Afloat.ie takes a snapshot of a separate but freight-only operator providing vital supplies to islanders, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The affected Island Ferries Teoranta passenger ferry service: Rossaveel-Kilronan on Inis Mór, the largest of the Oileán Árann / Aran Islands was due to end last week, however, as Afloat previously covered the service is still operating as “a gesture of goodwill to the Islanders”.The ferry service will remain in place until 17 January 2017 however this date remains under review subject to how the discussions progress on the council-imposed passenger levy for the non-PSO ferry route to Inis Mór. In recent years this route has been subject to a sharp rise in fares.

As for the freight-only operator, Lasta Mara Teoranta, the company since 2005 has the Government contract to carry cargo not just serving Inishmor but also Inis Meain and Inis Oirr. These services are an essential lifeline for islanders. Lasta Mara is the main cargo company serving the Aran Islands by operating from the mainland based in Galway Port using MV Bláth na Mara (1983/330grt).

All the daily needs of the islanders are carried in containers on board Bláth na Mara from food stuffs (chill and frozen), to household goods, furniture and fuel. As for larger items such as vehicles and old fashioned form of transport that includes horses (given the tourist jaunting carts) and other lifestock are also conveyed on the coastal freighter. 

A ‘roll-on roll-off’ i.e. ro-ro service from Rossaveel, Connemara is also provided by Lasta Mara using the MV Chateau-Thierry (see report photo) a former US Army tank landing craft. As previously reported the vessel brought emergency electrical generators due to power-cuts earlier this year.

Otherwise Chateau-Thierry's routine heavy goods cargoes are in the form of trucks, diggers and heavy plant and machinery. Such construction related vehicles were transported by Chateau Thierry from the mainland to Kilronan Harbour during the building of the new harbour. These vehicles rolled off the bow loading ramp onto the sandy beach at Kilronan, the capital of the Aran Islands. 

The costs to pay for Kilronan's new outer harbour (see engineering award) are derived through the passenger levies which are at centre stage of the ferry dispute.

As for the cargo service in order to maintain all perishable cargoes remain frozen before departing Galway Port, the outer pier is where a warehouse is equipped adjacent to where Bláth na Mara berths. The Galway-Aran Islands routes should also be noted as Ireland’s longest distance domestic (island serving) commercial cargo service.

It is on such trading routes that the old traditional joint passenger /cargo service had run up to 1988. This was carried out by the State owned Coras Iompair Eireann (CIE) group’s vessel Naomh Éanna.

The veteran vessel built by Dublin Liffey Drydock Company in 1958 ran on the route for four decades. Since the service closed Naomh Eanna has remained languishing in the capital’s Grand Canal Dock Basin. In recent years she was transferred to a disused graving dock having been saved from scrapping. Against this backdrop there have been plans to restore the historic Irish built ship. 

 

Published in Ports & Shipping

#AranIslands - Talks are to resume on Friday writes Galway Independent in a bid to ensure the continuation of the ferry service to Inis Mór, Aran Islands. 

The Island Ferries service ceased last Wednesday and was due to remain out of action until 17 March next year after the family-run company said it “had been left with no further option but to take such drastic action”.

The service however resumed on Friday evening, following talks between the company, Galway County Council and the Department of the Gaeltacht. The service will now remain in place until 4 January 2017, in “a gesture of goodwill to the Islanders”. This date will be kept under review as discussions continue.

Kevin Kelly, Acting Chief Executive of Galway County Council, said the talks, which centre on passenger levies, are complex but there is a “meaningful engagement process in place”.

“We are working as good as we can to conclude this within the timeframe. It is important that there is progress being made and that all parties feel that the overall approach has the possibility of reaching a successful conclusion.”

Published in Island News

#AranIslands - Ferry services to Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands will resume this evening, while talks continue to find a long term solution with regard to a year-round service.

The Connacht Tribune writes that Island Ferries, Gaeltacht Minister Sean Kyne and County CEO Kevin Kelly met for talks this morning as Inis Mór residents faced into a second day without a ferry service. 

The Island Ferries service ceased on Wednesday, and was due to remain out of action until March. 

Last evening, County Councillors gave CEO Kevin Kelly a mandate to meet with Island Ferries on their behalf.

Today’s meeting was also attended by Gaeltacht Minister Sean Kyne and as Afloat previously covered he had called for the Naval Service to provide a short-term service to residents.

In a statement to NewsBreak, Galway County Council has confirmed that Island Ferries, as a gesture of goodwill, will resume its service to Inis Mor from 5 this evening until January 4th.
In the interim, talks will continue in a bid to ensure a year-round service for islanders and visitors.

Published in Island News

#AranIslands - The use of the Irish Naval Service to provide a short-term service to residents on Inis Mór (largest of the Oileán Árann /Aran Islands) is being explored by Gaeltacht Minister Sean Kyne.

As Galway Bay FM reports the proposal follows the planned withdrawal of the winter service to the largest Aran Island until March 2017, with the last ferry set to depart at 6pm this evening (yesterday, 30th November).

Operator Island Ferries Teoranta has reaffirmed it’s intention to suspend the service – citing the ‘negative fiscal conditions’ created by the local authority with the introduction of passenger levies.

For more on the developing story, click here.

Afloat.ie adds that vital sea transportation links to Inis Mór are still been maintained albeit by a cargo-only operator, Lasta Mara Teoranta. This company serves the three islands from the mainland not just out of Rossaveel in Connemara but also Galway Port.

As of this morning Afloat.ie monitored their coastal freighter MV Bláth na Mara that departed Inis Oirr bound for Galway Port's outer pier. This is the final leg of a round trip that previously included calls firstly to Inis Mór followed by Inis Meáin.

Another crises that faced islanders was in August when Lasta Mara's other freight ro-ro vessel MV Chateau-Thierry came to the aid of two of three islands with generators that were used to restore electricity. This followed power-cuts caused by a damaged subsea cable connecting the mainland. 

Published in Island News
Tagged under

#NewBuilds – A pair of newbuild ferries for Northern Ireland waters, one destined for an island route, the other an estuary link, are both undergoing trails prior to entering service, writes Jehan Ashmore.

A month ago today, Strangford 2 arrived onto Strangford Lough. The new car-ferry is to serve the estuary crossing linking Strangford and Portaferry. The towns are separated by strong tidal waters known as the ‘Narrows’.

Responding to Afloat.ie, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said “the Strangford 2 is currently being used for crew training and familiarisation which will continue for several weeks.”

Strangford 2 has a 28 vehicle/260 passenger capacity and was built by Cammell Laird, Birkenhead on Merseyside. As previously reported, the newbuild is to enter service this autumn, joining the 2001 built Portaferry 2. 

The second newbuild, Spirit of Rathlin with a 6 vehicle /140 passenger configuration was built by Arklow Marine Services for the Ballycastle-Rathlin Island route. AMS having built Rathlin Express which is operated by the Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd. 

As to the operator of the new Co. Antrim car-ferry, the Dfi commented, “the Department is finalising the procurement process and will hope to announce a preferred bidder shortly.”

In late September Spirit of Rathlin was launched into the River Avoca having been lowered by floating heavy-lift crane, Lara 1 which had sailed from Liverpool.

Afloat has tracked the estuary-bound car-ferry which in recent days was on sea-trials out as far as the Arklow Bank off the Co .Wicklow coast.

Published in Ferry

#SkelligMichael - The Department of Heritage has approved a film shoot by drone at Skellig Michael, despite the use of drones being prohibited on the island.

According to The Irish Times, a guide on the Unesco world heritage site has raised concerns that permission for the Fáilte Ireland shoot would make a general ban on the use of drone aircraft by visitors difficult to enforce.

“How can we instruct the public not to fly drones if it will be clear that a tourism body has been permitted to do this extensively?” said the guide, who claimed anonymity.

Previously, an experienced guide spoke out over the controversial Star Wars shoots on the island last year.

The filming for box office hit The Force Awakens and next year’s Episode VIII attracted worldwide attention to the Co Kerry islands, which have since been promoted as a tourism attraction for Star Wars fans by Fáilte Ireland.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News
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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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