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#MarineWildlife - Four new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) for Northern Ireland have been put forward for consultation, as the Coleraine Times reports.

Rathlin, Waterfoot, Outer Belfast Lough and Carlingford Lough are the proposed locations, variously home to marine species from the black guillemot to the white sea slug, as well as vulnerable geomorphological features like sea arches.

"We all have a stake in preserving and protecting our marine environment for future generations so I urge people to let us know their views on these proposed sites and species," said NI Environment Minister Mark Durkan, who launched the consultation today (Monday 14 December).

Members of the public in Northern Ireland have until 11 March 2016 to express their views, with full details on the consultation available online.

The Coleraine Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#LoughErne - Traditional boatbuilding on Lough Erne is set for a revival thanks to a £3 million lottery grant that will also support wildlife conservation on the Co Fermanagh waterway.

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, the £2.9 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant to the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership will be used to conserve heritage buildings in disrepair, preserve and improve wildlife habitats and support the management of some 500sqkm of the county's lakelands.

The reintroduction of traditional crafts is also a goal of the new funding, with the hopes of attracting more tourism to a region already popular with anglers.

In other marine wildlife news, Belfast Live reports that as many as 29 whales, dolphins and porpoises have washed up on Northern Ireland's beaches in the last four years.

The most prominent of these is the 43-foot fin whale washed up on Portstewart Strand over a month ago.

Published in Inland Waterways

#MarineWildlife - Seals are not threatening commercial fishing stocks in Irish waters, with the possible exception of wild Atlantic salmon, according to new research led by Queen's University Belfast.

The findings show that seals are having no significant impact on populations of the most popular species of fish caught for commercial purposes along the south and west coasts of Ireland from Galway to Waterford.

The first comprehensive study of its kind, the conclusions of this research – led by QUB in collaboration with University College Cork and the Marine Institute – suggest that the seals do not compete with fishermen over the stocks.

The issue of seals in Irish waters has been controversial in recent years, and there have been calls from some quarters for culls of the common marine mammals.

"We need to emphasise that this work in no way says that seals cause no problems for the fishing industry," said lead researcher Dr Keith Farnsworld of QUB. "They do create significant problems for static fishing gear, such as the fixed nets used by estuarine salmon fishers, and they may also impact on numbers of wild salmon, although most salmon eaten on these islands is farmed.

"What we are saying is that for most commercially fished species off the south and west coasts of Ireland – herring, mackerel, cod, haddock, whiting and 30 other species – seals are having no significant negative effect on numbers.

"This is because the seals are eating much smaller fish than the larger, mature specimens that fishermen are required by law to catch. So seals are often eating the same species of fish as we buy in the supermarkets, but younger versions of them. And there are hundreds more younger fish than mature fish in any given species.

"In fact, we found evidence that seals may actually be doing the fishermen a favour, by eating some species that prey on the valuable stocks the fishermen are after."

Prof David Reid of the Marine Institute added that "what this work shows is that the only way to really resolve questions like this one is to be able to actually look at the detail, and work out what is going on.

"This work used material as diverse as the gut contents of the seals and the fish, through seal 'scat', to samples taken from commercial catches and research vessel surveys, and elaborate mathematical models.

"The idea of seals being direct competitors with the fishing boats for the fish out there intuitively seems pretty obvious. But actually, in this case, it is not really true. They both 'eat' fish. But not the same fish, and they do not compete with each other.

"This is not to say," he added, "that seals do not compete with fishermen in other ways. In other recent work we showed that fishermen who use set nets round the coast of Ireland can lose fish straight out of their nets to seals. But as with this study, we needed to go into the detail, and get our hands dirty to prove that."

The findings of this new research are based on data from an area roughly 100 miles off south and west Ireland, encompassing the coastlines of counties Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Clare and Galway. The data was collected from seal droppings of both grey and common seals and collated by researchers from University College Cork.

Supplementary information was obtained from the Marine Institute and the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

The data was then interpreted by researchers at QUB's Institute for Global Food Security. Their conclusions have been published today in The Journal of Applied Ecology.

The study will be good news to the ears of seal fans in Northern Ireland, whose grey seal population is having a bumper year in 2015, as BBC News reports.

Co Down in particular is reporting strong numbers at such seal-friendly locations as the Copeland Islands and Strangford Lough, where 107 seal pups were counted this year – a sign of good health for the ecosystem as a whole.

BBC News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Tragedy - A couple from Northern Ireland have drowned in South Africa just days after their wedding, as RTÉ News reports.

The bodies of 28-year-old John Rodgers and his 26-year-old wife Lynette from Holywood, Co Down were found on Friday evening (24 October) some 200 metres apart in shallow surf on a beach near Plettenberg Bay in South Africa's Western Cape province.

It's believed that they got into difficulty while swimming on what was the first day of their honeymoon. Strong rip currents are common in an area known for rough seas.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update

#Lifeguards - As RNLI lifeguards prepare to bring the 2015 season to a close this weekend in Northern Ireland, the charity that saves lives at sea has appealed to anyone planning a trip to the beach during the autumn and winter months to keep safe.

The season will draw to an end this Sunday 27 September, and RNLI lifeguard manager Mike Grocott is keen to remind anyone going to the beach post season to be aware that the lifeguards won’t be on patrol but that the same beach safety advice applies.

"While we can expect our beaches to be generally quieter in the coming months, there will be people using the water for activities such as surfing and kitesurfing.

"In the absence of RNLI lifeguards during this period, we would encourage anyone going to the beach to check weather and tide times, let someone know when you are due back, and carry a means of communication.

"If you see someone in trouble, please call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. People can also get advice at their local RNLI lifeboat station."

During the 2015 season there was RNLI lifeguard cover on 10 beaches on the Causeway Coast and in Co Down: Benone, Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West, Portrush East, Whiterocks, Tyrella, Murlough and Cranfield.

Five of the busier beaches were patrolled during the Easter period and at weekends from then till the middle of June before the full time season commenced on all 10 beaches running to 6 September. Lifeguards have maintained a presence at the busier beaches at weekends during September and will finish on Sunday evening.

Reflecting on the season, Grocott said the lifeguards had dealt with a variety of incidents. "Despite the weather being unkind for most of the summer, we did see a lot of visitors to our beaches and RNLI lifeguards dealt with a range of things including rescues and major first aids involving body boarders, paddle boarders and kite surfers.

"They also responded to people who got into difficulty on the beach itself including a teenager who collapsed and a man who was struggling to breathe in his car.

"There were a number of unusual incidents to deal with this summer too, including responding to a sand dune fire, red flagging beaches in a severe thunder and lightning storm and dealing with the discovery of mortar bombs. Our lifeguards are highly skilled and trained and thanks to that they knew how to handle such incidents professionally when they occurred."

The lifeguards also provided safety cover and engaged with the public at key events during the summer including the Portrush Raft Race, the Tall Ships in Belfast, the Portrush Airshow, and the Glens of Antrim triathlon.

"We worked closely with our lifeboat crews at Portrush, Newcastle, Kilkeel and Red Bay, too, to respond to incidents and provide safety cover when required."

RNLI lifeguards also delivered education programmes to primary school children across Northern Ireland. Programmes such as Hit the Surf enabled the lifeguards to impart important beach safety advice through theoretic and practical lessons in lifesaving and surf-based skills, local hazards and the beach environment.

Published in Water Safety

#WaterSafety - RNLI lifeguards commenced full-time summer patrol on 10 beaches in Northern Ireland at the weekend.

Following weeks of intensive training in preparation for the new season, the lifeguards will be keeping visitors safe on seven beaches along the Causeway Coast and three in Co Down.



The beaches include Benone, Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West, Portrush East, Whiterocks, Tyrella, Murlough and Cranfield. 



Five of the busier beaches had lifeguard cover during the Easter period which was followed by a weekend patrol on six beaches throughout April, May and June. 



During weekend patrol on Sunday 14 June, RNLI lifeguards on Portstewart Strand dealt with their first major first aid incident of the summer.



At around 4.30pm, lifeguard Mairead McKeague was on duty at the water’s edge and patrolling the area between the red and yellow flags when she spotted a teenage boy at the east of the beach who had slipped on rocks and hit his head.



McKeague alerted senior lifeguard Damian McCauley and lifeguard Clara Doran, who responded immediately while she maintained patrol of the beach.



Lifeguard James Shannon, meanwhile, acted as the communications liaison between the RNLI and their colleagues in the coastguard and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service who also responded.



On scene within five minutes, McCauley and Doran proceeded to carry out first aid and treat the casualty for a head wound. They were joined five minutes later by a NIAS Rapid Response Paramedic and the Coleraine Coastguard Rescue Team, who proceeded to transport the casualty to their vehicle.



Speaking following the incident, RNLI lifeguard supervisor Tim Doran said: "Our lifeguards worked well together, spotting the incident quickly, communicating with each other and reacting swiftly to administer first aid to the casualty.

"They used their lifeguard training and skills to good effect with this incident serving as an example of the vigilant work our lifeguards do in responding to events that happen on the beach as well as those that occur in the water." 



From Saturday 20 June, the RNLI took up full-time daily duty on all 10 beaches continuing to Sunday 6 September, when weekend duty will then resume on selected beaches throughout September.



Lifeguards will be on the beach daily between 11am and 7pm on the Causeway Coast and between 10am and 6pm in Co Down. 



Ahead of the new season, the RNLI has reminded visitors to the beach to ask the lifeguards for water safety advice, and to call on a lifeguard if they see anyone in difficulty.



RNLI lifeguard manager Mike Grocott also encouraged visitors to bear in mind some key safety messages.

"The RNLI’s advice for anyone planning a trip to the beach is to check weather and tide times before you go and if planning to go into the water, swim at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags.

"Avoid using inflatables in strong winds or rough seas. If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help and if you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can’t see a lifeguard, call 909 or 112 and ask for the coastguard."



Throughout the summer, the lifeguards will deal with a range of incidents.

"While the same safety advice applies to all our beaches, we do tend to see patterns of activity that are more specific to some beaches than others," said Grocott.

"Whiterocks, for example, is most affected by last winter’s storm damage and there is a lot of coastal erosion there. It is also a beach known for its waves and swells so it is popular with surfers and body boarders.

"Benone, Portstewart and Portrush East, meanwhile, are large beaches which we know will attract a lot of people throughout the summer. We can also expect to be exceptionally busy on vank holiday weekends, during the fortnight holiday period in July and if and when the weather peaks.



"Having a good knowledge of the profile of our beaches and the types of activities that are popular on each of them helps to guide how we carry out our lifeguard training before the season begins so our lifeguards can be prepared for all the incidents they will encounter."

Published in Water Safety

#Angling - Many of the world's top anglers will be at the Craigavon Lakes this weekend for the 13th World Championships in predator bank fishing with lures.

And as the Lurgan Mail reports, Team Ireland will be fielding a local in Lurgan man Chris Laverty against stiff competition from as far afield as Russia on 23-24 May.

Pike, perch and stocked rainbow trout will be the anglers' quarry in two four-hour blocks on Saturday and Sunday – but they won't be taking any home as it's strictly a catch-and-release contest using barbless hooks.

The Lurgan Mail has more on the story HERE.

Published in Angling

#Angling - Are developers causing difficulties for disabled anglers in Co Antrim?

That's what the Six Mike Water Trust's Michael Martin has alleged, as Farming Life reports, with claims that housing developments on the Kirbys’ Lane river walk are "destroying the river corridor" at the disabled angling stand.

What's more, a proposed development for 400 homes on the Six Mile Water's flood plain downstream in an area home to a variety of aquatic wildlife is "surely... a contravention to EEC Water Framework and Habitats Directives."

Farming Life has more on the story HERE.

Published in Angling

#WaterSafety - RNLI lifeguards will be making a welcome return to a number of selected beaches on the Causeway Coast and in Co Down next weekend ahead of the Easter holidays.

After undergoing intensive training in preparation, the charity’s lifeguards will be keeping visitors safe on Tyrella Beach in Co Down and on Benone Strand, Portstewart Strand, East and West Strands in Portrush and Whiterocks on the Causeway Coast.



Lifeguards will begin their patrols on Good Friday (3 April) between 11am and 7pm on the Causeway Coast and between 10am and 6pm in Co Down and continue daily to Sunday 12 April.



Cover will be provided every weekend until the end of June ahead of the summer season, when a daily duty will get underway on all 10 RNLI lifeguarded beaches in Northern Ireland.

"Our lifeguards are looking forward to going on patrol and meeting people who come to the beach," said RNLi lifeguard manager Mick Grocott. "We would encourage visitors to speak to our lifeguards, ask for safety advice, and most importantly call on them should they find themselves in difficulty." 



Ahead of Easter, the RNLI has reiterated its advice to people planning a beach trip to stay well away from dangerous cliff edges which have been impacted by recent weather conditions.



Winter storms changed the profile of all the beaches with extensive damage at Whiterocks, Portrush East and Portstewart where there are high and unstable sand cliffs.



The RNLI’s advice for anyone planning a trip to the beach is to: check weather and tide times before you go and if planning to go into the water; only go swimming at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags; and avoid using inflatables in strong winds or rough seas.

If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help and if you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can’t see a lifeguard, call 909 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.



For more safety information on the beach you plan to visit, you can download the RNLI’s Beachfinder app to find lifeguarded beaches and more information.

Published in Inland Waterways

#MarineWildlife - New marine protections for Northern Ireland's waters could provide a further sanctuary for our smallest marine mammal, the harbour porpoise.

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, the proposed Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) for the area between Belfast Lough and Carlingford Lough would join the Causeway Coast zone protected in 2012.

The news comes some months after the European Commission put pressure on Westminster to designate more protected areas for the smallest of Ireland's cetaceans, whose swimming grounds are being encroached by offshore wind farm development.

And the new proposals for Northern Irish waters also include protections for important seabird colonies as well as an area of seagrass that's vital to local biodiversity.

But the overall scale of the UK's MCZ plans, reduced from more than 100 proposed zones to a total of 50 over the past two years, has been criticised by conservation groups for betraying a 'lack of ambition'.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 6 of 27

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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