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Skerries RNLI’s volunteer crew were tasked on Saturday afternoon (28 November) after a call to emergency services reported concerns over a group of sea swimmers off Donabate.

The Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson was launched shortly before 3pm to investigate the group’s reported position, drifting north from Donabte Beach.

Also tasked were Skerries Coast Guard and the Irish Coast Guard’s Dublin-based helicopter Rescue 116, whose crew made contact with the swimmers and determined they were not in any difficulty. All rescue crews were then stood down.

Speaking later, Skerries RNLI press officer Gerry Canning said: “There has been a marked increase in the number of people taking up sea swimming this year, and as a result there have been increased demands on all the search and rescue organisations.

“Thankfully in this case it was a false alarm, but it’s a good opportunity to remind people to be aware of the additional challenges that apply to sea swimming at this time of the year.”

Published in Water Safety
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Union Hall RNLI volunteer Brian Crowley has received an Excellence in Volunteering Award from the RNLI for his hard work, dedication to and promotion of the charity that saves lives at sea.

Unfortunately due to pandemic restrictions, the lifeboat station could not present him with his award in person but hopes to mark this achievement next year.

“This is such an achievement as Brian is volunteering with the RNLI for ‘only’ 66 years so far,” said Pamela Deasey, Union Hall RNLI’s press officer.

“He was asked then to join by Mrs Bridges in Glandore, and he said ‘Yes’ straight away. As a young man growing up in Union Hall, he was aware of the dangers of the sea, and he wanted to raise awareness and help raise vital funds for the service.”

Brian was well-known throughout West Cork at the time as he used to co-own the ever popular Crowley’s Hall in Union Hall, where many a West Cork couple met — his first undertaking as fundraiser was a dance which was a tremendous success.

He became secretary of Leap, Glandore and Union Hall branch in 1976 as well as filling in a lot of other roles, until the current branch set up in 1997.

“Words like dependable, trustworthy, selfless and courageous are the ethos of the RNLI and Brian has proved to be a great ambassador having these qualities in abundance,” Pamela added.

“This is not Brian’s first award, as he also received his silver badge for fundraising in 1985 and a gold badge in 2003. He has many a story to tell about all his years service and all the tremendous characters he has met along his way.”

Speaking following news of the award, Mick McKenna, chair of fundraising at Union Hall RNLI, said: “Everyone at Union Hall RNLI would like to firstly congratulate Brian for this much deserved award, and secondly thank him for all his time, efforts and dedication throughout all these years, in helping to raise vital funds for the RNLI. We are all extremely proud of his achievements.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Sligo Bay RNLI’s volunteers were called to the rescue of four swimmers in difficulty off Rosses Point yesterday afternoon, Sunday 22 November.

The four women, who were all seasoned swimmers, were caught in a swell when trying to get back ashore.

A number of onlookers on the beach called for the emergency services and both Sligo Bay RNLI’s lifeboat and the Irish Coast Guard’s Sligo-based helicopter Rescue 118 were dispatched to the scene.

One of the four swimmers managed to get ashore unaided in the meantime, while one other was rescued by the volunteer lifeboat crew who administered casualty care en route to the lifeboat station where she was passed into the care of an ambulance crew.

The other two casualties were airlifted to safety by the crew of Rescue 118. All four swimmers were taken to Sligo General Hospital for assessment, as Sligo Bay RNLI reports.

Aisling Gillen, Sligo Bay RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat press officer, said: “We received a lovely message from one of the swimmers last night to thank us for saving their lives which was very kind and we would like to wish them all well.

“Seasoned open water swimmers have a great deal of experience and do observe proper safety precautions. However, the dangers this time of the year far outweigh the challenges that apply in summer. Cold water and currents can tire a swimmer quickly and make it harder to return to shore.”

One hour after this incident, the Sligo Bay lifeboat crew received a second call — this time to a surfer in difficulty at Strandhill, but who was able to make his own way ashore as the lifeboat stood by.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The RNLI says its volunteer crews faced an “unprecedented” summer as statistics reveal a big increase in callouts to people in distress compared to the same time last year.

Based on provisional incident reports from lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, the RNLI says there was a 64% jump in the number of recreational water users its crews aided.

RNLI lifeguards around the UK also reported an increase in the number of visitors to beaches around the coast as coronavirus lockdown measures eased between June and August.

The newly released figures cover people who got into difficulty while bodyboarding, using inflatables, kayaking, or canoeing, kitesurfing, paddle boarding, rowing, surfing, swimming, waterskiing, windsurfing and dinghy sailing.

This summer, 177 water users were aided while kayaking or canoeing, an increase of 84 people in comparison to 2019.

The number of people who needed help from RNLI lifeboat crews after getting into difficulties on inflatables more than doubled, the charity adds.

Stand-up paddle boarding, and increasingly popular sport, saw a 40% rise in lifeboat launches and the number of casualties assisted almost tripled.

Lifeboat crew callouts to swimmers were up by 14%. And launches to people who got into trouble while walking or running at the coast over the summer increased by 46%, with 175 more people aided in comparison to last year.

The RNLI’s head of water safety, Gareth Morrison, said: “Our volunteer crews have been on call throughout the pandemic. This year, they faced a summer like no other.

“When lockdown restrictions eased, we saw people flock to the beaches to enjoy our coastlines instead of holidaying abroad. But that resulted in a huge number of people getting into difficulty around our coasts, with our lifesavers facing an incredibly busy summer.

“If you find yourself in trouble at the coast this winter, call 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

The RNLI has spent £1.2 million (€1.34 million) this year on PPE to keep its lifesavers and the public safe during the coronavirus crisis, including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and 4,700 litres of hand sanitiser.

Additionally, RNLI shops were closed, and fundraising events were cancelled, costing the charity that saves lives at sea potentially millions in lost income.

The RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives, and that support is needed now more than ever. To support its Christmas Appeal visit RNLI.org/Xmas

Kilkeel RNLI launched to the rescue a windsurfer who got into difficulty off Cranfield Point on Saturday (14 November).

The volunteer crew set out on their inshore lifeboat at 3.25pm on Saturday as part of a multi-agency tasking that also involved Kilkeel Coastguard, Greenore Coast Guard and the Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 from Dublin.

Onshore, Kilkeel Coastguard had spotted the sail of the windsurfer just north of Carlingford Lough’s shipping channel and directed lifeboat helm Gerry Smyth towards the casualty, who had been one of a group of eight.

The other seven members of the group had made it safely to shore. In Force 5-6 winds and in a moderate sea, the casualty and his gear were taken onboard.

The exhausted casualty was checked by the lifeboat crew for injury, water inhalation and the effects of the cold conditions. He was then made comfortable and brought safely ashore. The lifeboat returned at 4.15pm where the grateful surfer was met by Kilkeel Coastguard.

Speaking following the callout, Kilkeel’s lifeboat operations manager John Fisher said: “The crew did everything in a thoroughly professional manner and we would like to wish the casualty well.

“Because of Covid-19, the crew have been restricted in their training exercises but this afternoon they demonstrated their skills with this rescue also highlighting how well multiple agencies work together.”

The crew readied to launch for a second time over the weekend at 2.15pm yesterday (Sunday 15 November) following a call that an EPIRB had been activated.

However, after an extensive local onshore search it was found that the EPIRB was faulty and was located in a boat owner’s garage.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A fishing boat has sunk after a collision with a cargo ship off England’s North Tyneside coast.

The incident occurred at 3.40pm on Sunday afternoon (9 November) just under a mile (1.6km) north of the Tyne piers.

The skipper of the 9.9m North Shields-based trawler made a distress call after the collision with a 17,000-tonne, 81m cargo ship that had recently sailed from Blyth.

The fishing vessel was badly damaged and started taking on water, leading to flooding in the engine room, as Tynemouth RNLI reports.

Tynemouth's all-weather lifeboat with a crew of six volunteers reached the scene just five minutes after launch and attempted to save the vessel with a salvage pump.

A number of other nearby vessels also responded to the distress call. The offshore support vessel Ocean Marlin launched a daughter boat in case the fishermen needed immediate evacuation.

As the water levels inside the boat dropped, the decision was made by the lifeboat coxswain to tow the trawler back to Royal Quays Marina in North Shields, where she could be quickly lifted out of the water.

Unfortunately, once under way at a very slow speed, it became clear the boat was so badly damaged that the movement increased the water ingress.

In a final attempt to save the fishing boat, Tynemouth RNLI's inshore lifeboat was launched with an extra salvage pump. But while it was en route the trawler started to lose stability it was quickly evacuated.

The all-weather lifeboat took the fishermen back to safety at North Shields while the crew of the inshore lifeboat stayed on scene where the fishing vessel sank soon after.

Later the all-weather lifeboat returned to recover the fishing vessel's life raft, which had automatically detached and inflated but was immersed in seawater and would have become a hazard to shipping if left afloat.

A search for any other floating debris was carried out but none was found.

“This was a potentially life-threatening situation and our volunteers responded as quickly as possible,” Tynemouth RNLI spokesperson Adrian Don told Chronicle Live.

“Thanks must also go to the other vessels in the area that responded to the situation.”

Published in Ports & Shipping
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Kilrush RNLI’s volunteer crew were called out yesterday morning (Sunday 8 November) to a report of a capsized catamaran drifting near Corlis Point on the Shannon Estuary.

The lifeboat crew launched within minutes of the 11.30am call and quickly reached the five-metre sailing catamaran on the Co Clare shore of the estuary.

Due to technical issues, the two on board the catamaran were unable to right the vessel and were drifting with the tide.

Both were found to be unharmed, and the lifeboat crew assisted in righting the vessel before escorting it back to Poulnasherry Bay, from where it had launched.

This was the second callout of the week for Kilrush RNLI, who previously launched on Wednesday (4 November) to a speedboat which was adrift between Glin and Tarbert on the Shannon Estuary and was a danger to navigation. Volunteers located and towed the vessel, which had no occupants, to Tarbert Island.

Charlie Glynn, Kilrush RNLI helm, says: “During Covid-19 restrictions, Kilrush RNLI’s readiness to launch has not changed and [we] continue to be fully operational and on call 24/7.”

Published in Shannon Estuary

A new children’s book focusing on the local history and mythology of the North West Connemara region has been launched this week in Co Galway.

And a portion of the proceeds is being donated to the Clifden RNLI lifeboats for their dedication to saving lives at sea.

Local author and youth worker Marie Feeney has produced From Our Ancient Land to Bountiful Sea, an informative and often humorous collection of local history and folklore tales with illustrations by Gary Kendellen.

These tales include accounts of the famous engineer Alexander Nimmo, who designed many piers and bridges in the Connemara area, and a blend of local history and myths that will appeal to locals and visitors alike.

Marie’s first book The Cleggan Disaster comprehensively and poignantly detailed the tragic drowning of 45 men from the fishing communities of Cleggan, Claddaghduff and Inishbofin and the Inishkeas, and also benefitted the local RNLI lifeboats.

Author Marie Feeney with her children Ronan, Diarmuid and Michaela at Sallerna Beach in Cleggan, Co Galway (Photo: Marie Feeney)Author Marie Feeney with her children Ronan, Diarmuid and Michaela at Sallerna Beach in Cleggan, Co Galway | Photo: Marie Feeney

On the launch of her new book, Marie said: “The coastline of Connemara, while exceptionally beautiful is also treacherous and mostly utilised by people who use it either for pleasure or their livelihood.

“Thankfully in our community, we have a dedicated RNLI volunteer team who provide an invaluable service by saving lives each year, sometimes in the most challenging environments.

“The philosophy of the RNLI is astounding. The purpose to save lives, their vision to save everyone, their volunteer ethos, their charitable and community base. Every life matters, and of course their maritime expertise is crucial.”

From Our Ancient Land to Bountiful Sea is now on sale locally in Connemara at The Clifden Bookshop, Letterfrack Country Shop, Gala Cleggan and Sweeney’s Claddaghduff. The book is also available online at the inConnemara Bookshop.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Indepdendent.ie reports that a member of a well-known Galway fishing family has died after an incident on a vessel in Galway Bay this afternoon (Monday 2 November).

The alarm was raised at lunchtime by a man on board the boat which was located at the time between Blackrock and Silverstrand west of Galway city.

Galway RNLI were tasked to the scene by the Irish Coast Guard, and the lifeboat crew brought the casualty back to Galway Docks from where he was transported by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

Published in Fishing
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As Storm Aiden brought its gale-force winds and driving rain from Ireland to western Scotland, Oban RNLI launched to assist a fishing vessel in distress in Loch Etive.

The 22ft fishing boat, with four on board, had broken down west of Airds Point and managed to secure to a fish farm mooring while they awaited assistance yesterday afternoon, Saturday 31 October.

Meanwhile, the lifeboat launched amid heavy seas and 60mph gusts and reached the scene within half an hour to set up a tow to Taynulit pier, from where the fishermen had set out earlier in the day.

On arrival, however, the pier was submerged by the extremely high tide, and with no other shelter in the area it was decided to secure the fishing vessel to a mooring in Airds Bay and bring its crew ashore at Dunstaffnage with the lifeboat.

Oban RNLI coxswain Ally Cerexhe said: “Although the lochs may appear to provide some shelter, the strong winds and high tides still pose the same risk.”

Published in Scottish Waters
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Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

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

FAQs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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