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In asking the public to remain vigilant near water this Bank holiday weekend, Water Safety Ireland says the risks are even greater at inland waterways. Although 40,000 people live less than 100 metres from the coast and some 2 million people live within 5km of the coast (40% of the population), the majority of drownings, some 62%, actually occur inland at our rivers and lakes.

As people stay home apart from exercising within 5km, Water Safety Ireland is advising the public that to stay SAFE is to “Stay Away From the Edge” if exercising near water this October Bank Holiday and throughout the upcoming mid-term break for schools. Now that people cannot meet up apart from with one other household, the risk of not being rescued if you get into difficulty will increase because there may not be others around to see an accident unfold.

As people are urged to adhere to Government advice at gov.ie/covid19, it is equally important that people adhere to water safety advice during periods of exercise within the Level 5 restrictions, and particularly if a walking regime includes the supervision of children.

WSI is reminding parents and guardians that thirty children died from drowning in ten years. Children are naturally curious about water and constant supervision is the safest way to avoid tragedy. Drownings can occur within the home environments to which we are restricted, where familiarity can breed complacency, making danger more difficult to spot. Streams, drains, ponds, water tanks, septic tanks, slurry pits and waterside fencing should all be properly secured.

  • Be aware of the changeable weather at this time of year. Reduced temperatures increase the risk of cold shock and hypothermia which makes swimming to safety difficult or impossible.
  • Do not attempt to rescue pets from the water. Earlier this week, a gentleman had a lucky escape after falling from a cliff walk while trying to rescue his dog. In such instances, there may not be anyone around to call the Rescue Services as people comply with the need to stay at home.
  • Always wear a Lifejacket when on or near water and ensure that it has a correctly fitted crotch strap. Surfers, kite boarders, divers, kayakers and sailors should wear suitably warm and waterproof clothing.
  • Shore walkers should stay away from the edge and remain vigilant to the dangers of being stranded and to being carried away by dangerous swells
  • In emergency situations, call 112 early and ask for the Coast Guard. 
Published in Water Safety
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As the official bathing season draws to a close this month, Water Safety Ireland is calling on parents and families to dispose of their inflatable toys.

Earlier this week, Afloat’s Tom MacSweeney interviewed Water Safety Ireland chief John Leech, who explained why such inflatable toys — which often resemble canoes, lilos or cartoon animals, and are not to be confused with towable inflatables — are not suited to Ireland’s unpredictable offshore breezes.

Water Safety Ireland also said it is unfair on rescue services to have to have to respond to avoidable incidents involving these “inflatable killers”, after a summer that saw a rise in callouts involving these toys as families staycationed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Listen to the John Leech interview on Tom MacSweeney’s latest podcast for Afloat.ie HERE.

Published in Water Safety

Upon the busiest Bank Holiday weekend of the year, Water Safety Ireland is appealing for people to swim only where lifeguards are present and to adhere to social distancing guidelines at beaches.

Water temperature is approaching its highest for the bathing season (sea water is between 14C and 16C and freshwater is between 16C and 18C) so people should encourage their friends and family to join them for an open water swim, as it benefits both physical and mental health.

But care must always be taken, too. In 2019, 105 people drowned in Ireland. And lifeguards administered first aid to 3,284 people last season, highlighting the need for personal responsibility. They also located 289 lost children and rescued 260 casualties from the water nationwide.

The public should be responsible when on or near water, have a healthy respect for the dangers and ensure that all activities are safe and within one’s ability. Novice and beginners must always swim within their depth — and stay within their depth.

Beware of rip currents on all surfing beaches or those with a steep gradient. These can quickly take a person away from shore which is helpful to the surfer but can cause tragedy for those who do not understand such currents.

Lifeguards are trained to spot these currents and keep people away from danger. Should you find yourself in one, then swim parallel to the shore until you leave it, then swim back ashore.

Stranding will also be a risk for many coastal walkers, therefore a mobile phone should be carried to call 112 in an emergency and ask for the coastguard.

Parents should provide constant uninterrupted supervision, as 30 children aged 14 and under drowned within the last 10 years. Never use inflatable toys in open water as they can quickly be swept out to sea by offshore winds and currents.

Alcohol should be avoided before or during any aquatic activity. Alcohol is a factor in an average of three of every 10 drownings.

Those going afloat should always wear a lifejacket and carry a portable Marine VHF and/or a personal locator beacon.

The newly updated Safety on the Water website provides a one-stop shop for this and all other marine safety information. Afloat.ie has more HERE.

Published in Water Safety
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Water Safety Ireland has warned that children are at greater risk of drowning during the current period of Covid-19 restrictions.

The organisation points out that over half a million primary school-age children are confined to an area within 2km of their home.

And in many cases, any number of streams, rivers, canals, ponds, slurry and rainwater collection tanks, bog holes, wells, lakes and the seashore can be found within this distance.

“From our research, six out of 10 drownings occur at inland water sites and eight out of 10 drownings occur close to the victim’s home,” Water Safety Ireland says.

“It is essential that parents maintain constant, responsible and uninterrupted supervision on their children to ensure they don’t gain access to these real hazards.”

The water safety charity added that while children are at home, families can take the opportunity to teach them how to stay safe near water by using the free resources available online from the PAWS (Primary Aquatics Water Safety) programme.

In an emergency, call 112 and ask for the coastguard.

Published in Water Safety

Seventeen lives were saved from drowning by rescuers who will receive recognition at Water Safety Ireland’s National Annual Awards Ceremony at the O’Reilly Hall in UCD this afternoon (Tuesday 26 November).

Michael Ring, Minister for Rural & Community Development, will present the Seiko Just in Time Rescue Award to the rescuers in appreciation for saving so many lives.

“It is an honour to pay tribute to these deserving award recipients”, commented Minister Ring. “Without their bravery, quick thinking and selflessness, the outcomes could have been very different.

Cyril McKeon Damien McCabe and Paul Gilmartin LeitrimCyril McKeon, Damien McCabe and Paul Gilmartin – Leitrim On the 6th of May 2018, a training session almost resulted in disaster for a prospective marathon runner. While preparing for an upcoming event, the man fell into the canal at Blueway Waterway. Luckily, Cyril McKeon, Damien McCabe and Paul Gilmartin were on hand as they too were training along the canal. After hearing a splash in the water all three raced to the gentleman’s assistance. The men performed CPR and made sure ambulance personnel were called to the scene

“On average 124 people drown annually in Ireland and while one drowning is one too many, the figure would have been higher but for these courageous rescuers.”

Among the Just in Time Award recipients this year is Dr Matthew Sims, who rushed into the water with a rescue tube to help an adult brother and sister caught in a rip current at Tramore beach on 5 August this year.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One earlier today, Dr Sims said he was “just glad he was able to help”.

Others recognised this year include surfer Tom Green from Co Clare, who two months ago broke from the heats of his surfing competition to help two swimmers struggling in the water nearby; kayaker Tom Upritchard, who rescued his own father after he went overboard at Craigavon Watersport Centre on 15 August; and gardaí stationed in Dublin, Donegal and Kilkenny for various quick-thinking efforts.

Recipients also include 61 volunteers who will be presented with Long-Service Volunteer Awards, recognising a combined total of 1,275 years of personal service teaching swimming, water rescue and survival skills in communities nationwide.

“I would like to commend the efforts of Water Safety Ireland volunteers who devote their time and contribute to the year on year trend of reduced drownings”, Minister Ring added.

“The lifeguard service is also crucial to safety on our waterways and would not be possible without the teaching and assessment conducted by Water Safety Ireland Volunteers nationwide.

“This summer, lifeguards rescued 260 people from drowning, administered first aid on 3, 284 occasions and reunited with loved ones 289 lost children found wandering unsupervised near water.”

“I would ask all adults to make themselves more aware of the dangers of drowning,” said Martin O’Sullivan, chairman of Water Safety Ireland.

“Tragedy can strike in seconds but with the right knowledge, skills and attitudes everyone can avoid the hazards and take responsibility for their own safety.

“Encourage your family, friends and colleagues to read Water Safety Ireland’s guidelines at watersafety.ie so that they can enjoy Ireland’s waterways safely.”

Published in Rescue

Water Safety Ireland is warning that the risk of drownings is higher over the coming bank holiday due to cooler waters, wind chill and particularly high tides due to a new moon.

Stranding will also be a risk for many walkers as lower tides will expose even greater areas of the coastline.

Although Ireland has had no accidental drownings during any bank holiday weekend this year, water-related tragedies can happen in seconds.

And with an average total of 124 drownings every year, Water Safety Ireland is drawing attention to the dangers that will put people’s lives at risk.

The new moon will cause strong rip currents that can quickly take a person away from shore. Survival time in such scenarios is greatly reduced due to the cooler water temperatures and wind chill factor.

Those going afloat should always wear a lifejacket and carry a portable Marine VHF and/or a personal locator beacon.

  • Shore walkers should stay away from edge; beach walkers risk being stranded by incoming tides and should always carry a mobile phone.
  • Wear a lifejacket when on or near water and ensure that it has a correctly fitting crotch strap.
  • Anglers should be extremely vigilant to new moon tides when fishing from the shoreline of Atlantic swells.
  • Surfers, divers, kayakers and sailors should wear suitably warm and waterproof clothing.
  • Ensure that you are fully trained and competent for your aquatic activity.
  • Alcohol should be avoided before or during any aquatic activity.
  • In emergency situations, call 112 and ask for the coastguard.

Water Safety Ireland has swimming, lifesaving, water survival and rescue classes nationwide. For further information visit www.watersafety.ie

Published in Water Safety
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Water Safety Ireland is seeking the views of the public on a draft regulatory framework for aquatic leisure facilities in Ireland.

Following the inquest on 29 March 2017 into the tragic fatal drowning of Ronan Kennedy at the Red Barn Quality Hotel in Youghal on 14 July 2015, the Dublin Coroner made two crucial recommendations to former Minister for Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government, Simon Coveney:

  • That there should be a dedicated lifeguard on duty at all times at swimming pools and that the lifeguard should not be a person engaged in other supervisory duties; and
  • To recommend to the relevant minister that a dedicated water safety inspectorate is required to formulate regulations and ensure their implementation.

Minister Coveney tasked Water Safety Ireland to review best practice in other European countries with a view to informing the development of an appropriate regulatory framework for Ireland.

Water Safety Ireland says it believes this can be a legacy that will turn this tragic drowning in to a positive regulatory framework that will help prevent similar tragedies in the future, to be known as ‘Ronan’s Regulations’.

Details of the public consultation are available on the Water Safety Ireland website HERE.

Published in Water Safety

Water Safety Ireland (formerly Irish Water Safety) is appealing for people to swim at lifeguarded waterways this weekend where possible, as the risk of drownings is higher due to a new moon and cool waters.

The new moon will cause strong rip currents that can quickly take a person away from shore.

Survival time in such scenarios is also greatly reduced due to the cooler water temperatures that have not yet warmed up sufficiently for extended swims.

Lifeguards are trained to spot these currents and keep people away from danger.

The lifeguard season begins this weekend and there are many reasons to swim under their supervision.

Lifeguards administered first aid over 4,000 times last year. They located 300 lost children and rescued more than 300 people nationwide.

Stranding will also be a risk for many walkers as lower tides will expose even greater areas of the coastline. Walkers should always carry a mobile phone to call 112 in an emergency.

Parents should provide constant uninterrupted supervision as 30 children aged 14 and under drowned in the 10 years to 2018.

Those going afloat should always wear a lifejacket and carry a portable marine VHF and/or a personal locator beacon.

If you have not used your lifejacket or buoyancy aid since last year, then you will need to carry out the following checks:

  • Ensure CO2 cartridges have not been punctured and are firmly secured.
  • Ensure all zips, buckles, fasteners and webbing straps are functioning correctly.
  • Check that fitted lights are operating correctly.
  • Check that the valve or lifejacket is not leaking by inflating the lifejacket overnight or immersing it in water checking for air bubbles.
  • Always use your crotch strap when fitting your lifejacket.
  • Discard any faulty lifejackets by destroying them.

Detailed information on lifejackets and personal flotation devices (PFDs) is available on the Water Safety Ireland website.

Published in Water Safety
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Ballybunion's Sea and Cliff Rescue Service celebrated its 25th anniversary with an open day at its headquarters last weekend, The Kerryman reports.
The day also saw the unveiling of a special plaque from Water Safety Ireland recognising the rescuers' service to the locality.
The volunteer rescue unit was founded in 1986 by just three men: Mike Flahive, Frank O'Connor and TJ McCarron.
"It's the support of the public that's our bottom line and we're delighted with the continuing generosity of the people of North Kerry and West Limerick," said John Walsh, a member of the unit for 24 years. "Without it we simply wouldn't be here today."
The Kerryman has more on the story HERE.

Ballybunion's Sea and Cliff Rescue Service celebrated its 25th anniversary with an open day at its headquarters last weekend, The Kerryman reports.

The day also saw the unveiling of a special plaque from Water Safety Ireland recognising the rescuers' service to the locality.

The volunteer rescue unit was founded in 1986 by just three men: Mike Flahive, Frank O'Connor and TJ McCarron.

"It's the support of the public that's our bottom line and we're delighted with the continuing generosity of the people of North Kerry and West Limerick," said John Walsh, a member of the unit for 24 years.

"Without it we simply wouldn't be here today."

The Kerryman has more on the story HERE.

Published in Rescue

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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