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Arklow RNLI’s volunteer crew launched their lifeboat within minutes of receiving a report that a sailing vessel was in danger and aground at Clogga Bay last Tuesday afternoon, 20 April.

Upon entering the bay south of Arklow Harbour, the crew on the Trent class lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr quickly identified the casualty vessel — a 24ft sailing yacht with one person aboard — and made best speed to the area.

Coxswain Ned Dillon and crew made their way up as close to the casualty vessel as possible. Given it was aground in shallow waters, the lifeboat’s inflatable XP boat was deployed for the crew to check the casualty vessel and pass on a towline.

The lifeboat then proceeded to slowly pull the sailing vessel to deeper water. Once it was established the boat was dry and not taking on water, it was taken under tow back to Arklow within 40 minutes.

Following the callout, Dillon said: “Thanks to our crew, this was an excellent successful service, where we got to deploy and use very many of the safety critical tools and lifesaving equipment we carry aboard the lifeboat.

“In all my years I’ve never seen all these items being deployed at once and never so successfully. It’s a real testament to our crew and the excellent training we get from RNLI.”

Bringing the casualty vessel ashore in Arklow HarbourBringing the casualty vessel ashore in Arklow Harbour Credit: RNLI/Mark Corcoran

In other recent RNLI news, the Skerries lifeboat was tasked on Monday evening (26 April) after a report of a person stranded on Shenick Island and trying to make their way ashore in the rising tide.

On approach to the island, the lifeboat crew were notified by the coastguard that the individual has made it safety to the beach at Skerries.

But as a number of other people were spotted on the island, the lifeboat put two crew ashore to check on their wellbeing and confirmed they were not planning on returning to shore until the next day.

It followed a busy weekend for Skerries RNLI which saw the North Co Dublin volunteers rescue nine people in two separate incidents.

In the Aran Islands, meanwhile, a late-night medevac for a woman on Inis Mór saw the local lifeboat crew paged in the early hours of yesterday, Tuesday 27 April.

The patient was transferred safely aboard the lifeboat by the volunteer crew, following all strict COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The lifeboat then headed straight for Rossaveal Harbour and the waiting ambulance.

Speaking after the callout, Aran Islands RNLI coxswain John O’Donnell said: “Time is always of the essence and the volunteer crew are ready to go when called upon. We would like to wish the patient well.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Skerries RNLI rescued five children and four adults after responding to two separate incidents over the weekend.

Shortly after 6pm on Saturday evening (24 April), the pagers sounded following multiple 999 calls reporting that three children in the water trying to return from Shenick Island to the south beach after being cut off by the rising tide.

The Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat was launched and made its way around the headland at Red Island before heading for Shenick.

As the lifeboat approached the island, they could see the children making their way along the sand bar back towards the island.

A sea kayaker had seen the situation unfolding and landed on the island to convince the children to come out of the water and back to dry land.

The lifeboat was carefully manoeuvred into the shallow waters before the volunteer crew assisted the children, who were very cold but otherwise unharmed into the lifeboat and safely ashore where they were reunited with their parents.

Skerries RNLI towing the stricken motorboat to safetySkerries RNLI towing the stricken motorboat to safety Credit: RNLI/Gerry Canning

Then on Sunday morning (25 April), shortly before 11.30am, the lifeboat was passing Rush Harbour en route to Malahide Marina to carry out a planned training exercise when the crew received a tasking to a motorboat that had suffered engine failure near the north beach in Skerries.

The lifeboat altered course and quickly navigated back to Skerries where after a short search they located the casualty vessel, a 17ft motorboat with four adults and two children on board, anchored off the north beach.

A tow was established and the vessel was brought safely alongside the harbour in Skerries.

Speaking about the callouts, press officer Gerry Canning said: “It’s been a very busy few weeks for the station, but our volunteers are always ready to respond.

“We’d like to remind everyone out enjoying the coast in the good weather to check the tides, and always carry a means of calling for help. If you see someone in trouble, dial 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Skerries RNLI’s volunteers launched their inshore lifeboat on Wednesday evening (21 April) as part of a multi-agency response to reports of a swimmer in difficulty near the Martello tower in Balbriggan.

The Atlantic 85 lifeboat Louis Simson was launched within minutes of the crew being paged just before 7pm and proceeded directly to the area indicated.

On arrival the crew found the Dublin-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 already on scene and winching a man from the water.

The casualty was the lowered onto the beach and into the care of an ambulance crew and members of Dublin Fire Brigade who administered first aid before he was transferred to hospital.

Meanwhile, further reports came in that other swimmers had entered the water to assist the casualty and a subsequent emergency call raised concerns that there may still be someone in the water.

Rescue 116, Skerries RNLI and the Skerries Coast Guard unit coordinated to carry out a search of the immediate area covering the water and the shoreline.

The lifeboat investigated a number of objects at the request of Rescue 116, including a lifebuoy which they recovered into the lifeboat.

When Dublin Coast Guard was satisfied that the area had been thoroughly searched and there were no further swimmers in danger, the lifeboat was stood down and returned to station.

Speaking about the callout, press officer Gerry Canning said: “When a person is in trouble in the water, every second counts. Rescue 116 were on scene very quickly and it was an excellent response from all of the emergency services who worked brilliantly together.

“Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the man taken from the water and we hope he makes a full recovery.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Skerries RNLI launched Saturday evening (17 April) following reports of two windsurfers struggling to return to shore near Gormanstown Beach.

Shortly before 6.30pm, Dublin Coast Guard tasked Skerries RNLI following a call from a concerned member of the public.

They had reported that two windsurfers were around a mile offshore at Gormanstown and were struggling to make their way back to the beach.

The volunteer crew launched the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson and navigated to the position indicated by the caller.

Arriving on scene, they quickly spotted the windsurfers and approached them to speak to them. The windsurfers confirmed that they were not in any difficulty but were planning on returning to shore anyway.

The lifeboat stood by while they made their way back to the beach safely. Conditions had a Force 1 southerly wind blowing and a smooth sea.

Speaking about the callout, volunteer lifeboat press officer Gerry Canning said: “Thankfully on this occasion there was no assistance required and it was a false alarm with good intent.

“The member of the public was genuinely concerned for their safety and did the right thing in dialling 999 and asking for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Skerries RNLI rescued two stand-up paddle boarders after strong currents and Force 6 offshore winds prevented them from making their way back to shore.

Shortly before 2.30pm yesterday afternoon (Sunday 28 March), a retired Skerries RNLI volunteer noticed a man and woman struggling to make their way ashore on their paddle boards near Red Island in Skerries.

He alerted the lifeboat operations manager and following a brief discussion it was decided that the pair were not making any progress.

Dublin Coast Guard were contacted and the decision was taken to page the volunteer crew and launch the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson.

The crew rounded the headland at Red Island and arrived on scene in a matter of minutes, funding the man and woman both extremely tired from fighting against the wind and tide.

They were taken on board the lifeboat along with their paddle boards. A first-aid assessment was carried out but aside from being exhausted they did not require any further medical assistance, and the pair were returned safely to the beach at the lifeboat station.

Speaking about the callout, volunteer lifeboat press officer Gerry Canning said: “It doesn’t matter how good your equipment is, or how prepared you are, things can still go wrong at sea.

“We would remind anyone going to sea to carry a means of contacting the shore for help, even if you do not intend to go far. Something as simple as a phone in a waterproof pouch can make all the difference.”

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Skerries RNLI carried out a medical evacuation of a crewman from a survey vessel six miles north of Skerries last night, Wednesday 10 March.

Shortly after 8pm, the lifeboat crew were tasked by Dublin Coast Guard following a call from the skipper of the vessel requesting assistance for a crew member who had been feeling unwell for a number of hours and was showing no signs of improvement.

On arrival at the survey vessel amid Force 5-6 winds, the lifeboat was carefully manoeuvred into position on the starboard side where a boarding ladder was lowered for the casualty to disembark.

The lifeboat crew carried out an initial assessment of the casualty and tried to keep him as comfortable as possible on the way back to the station and the care of the waiting paramedics, who transferred him to hospital for further assessment.

Speaking about the callout, volunteer lifeboat press officer Gerry Canning said: “It wasn’t a particularly pleasant evening to be out on a lifeboat, but our volunteers are always ready to go when they get the call.

“It was great to have the ambulance waiting on arrival and we wish the gentleman a speedy recovery.”

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Skerries RNLI’s volunteer crew had a busy weekend responding to calls to stranded walkers on Friday (22 January) and a missing swimmer today (Sunday 24 January).

Shortly before 4.30pm on Friday afternoon, Dublin Coast Guard tasked Skerries RNLI following a call from An Garda Síochána reporting that a number of people had been cut off by the rising tide on Barnageeragh beach.

The lifeboat was launched and proceeded to the area indicated, where the crew quickly spotted one adult and three children at the base of the cliff above the waterline.

While the casualties were uninjured, conditions underfoot in the area were very poor due to a large number of submerged rocks covered in seaweed and algae.

Following a consultation with members of the Skerries Coast Guard unit who were at the top of the cliff, it was decided that due to the falling temperatures and rapidly fading light, the safest option would be to request the assistance of the Dublin-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116.

A crew member stayed with the casualties to reassure them and keep them calm until the helicopter arrived and winched them aboard.

Then today, Sunday 24 January, the volunteer crew were paged shortly after 12.30pm following a call from a concerned family member when a swimmer in Skerries had not returned at the expected time.

The lifeboat launched immediately and made its way around the headland to the swimming platform known locally as The Springers.

Upon arrival it was quickly established that the swimmer had since made it safely ashore. They were well equipped for cold water swimming and required no assistance. The lifeboat was stood down and returned to the station.

Speaking about the callouts, which came a week after the town’s first of the year, Skerries RNLI’s Gerry Canning said: “Friday afternoon was a fantastic example of how well all the emergency services work together, with full-time emergency service personnel and volunteers working alongside each other seamlessly to get the best possible outcome.

“Thankfully the call for the swimmer on Sunday was a false alarm with good intent. We encourage anyone who thinks someone may be in difficulty in or near the sea to dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. The earlier they make that call the better.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Skerries RNLI carried out their first rescue of the new year in the early hours of yesterday morning (Saturday 16 January), towing a razor fishing boat with two men on board to safety.

Shortly before midnight on Friday, Dublin Coast Guard requested Skerries RNLI to launch their Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat following a distress call from a razor fishing vessel that had suffered mechanical failure off the north Co Dublin coastal town.

The lifeboat was launched and the volunteer crew navigated to the GPS position provided by the vessel. A tow was established and the vessel was towed back to the safety of the harbour in Skerries.

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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.”

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A father and son were rescued by Skerries RNLI after they were stranded on Shenick Island by the rising tide yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 27 October).

Pagers sounded for the lifeboat volunteers at 3pm and within minutes the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson was headed to the scene for a search of the north Co Dublin coastline.

They soon spotted two people — a father and his teenage son — on the beach near the submerged bar between the island and the mainland.

The lifeboat was manoeuvred into the shallow waters, close enough to send a crew member ashore to further assess the situation.

Following the advice of the crew, the father and son were brought aboard the lifeboat and taken back to the south beach in Skerries where they had left their belongings.

Speaking about the callout, Skerries RNLI press officer Gerry Canning said: “We appreciate that people are keen to get out and explore the coastline near them at this time.

“However, we would remind everyone to always keep a means of contacting the shore with them and to check the local tides before setting out.”

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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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