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Displaying items by tag: Whale Watch Ireland

#MarineWildlife - The Papal visit brought numbers down for 2018’s Whale Watch Ireland last Saturday (25 August).

But some 950 wildlife enthusiasts still came out to 19 sites around the island of Ireland for the chance to spot some of the many whales, dolphins, porpoise and other wildlife in our waters.

Most sites reported a reduction in numbers, with only three seeing a modest increase. But it’s expected that next year’s turnout will be back to it regular size, coinciding as ever with events for Heritage Week.

Sightings were also lower this year — on average a 43% reduction on 2017’s records — with only three cetacean species spotted, namely harbour porpoise (50), common dolphins (40) and minke whales (5).

The success or otherwise of event is generally determined by the prevailing weather on the day, and thankfully most sites were treated to calm seas and clear skies which resulted in cetacean sightings at three-quarters of the sites covered at this year’s event.

Other species noted include grey seals, a basking shark and a sunfish.

Despite the lower attendance and sighting rates, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group says it is “very pleased” with this year’s results.

“And we hope that among those who attended, there will be some new members for IWDG and dedicated whale watchers who are willing to volunteer some of their time and energy in furthering our understanding of the whales and dolphins that live in Irish coastal waters.”

The IWDG reports that usual there was a mix of both Irish and overseas visitors to the watches, and for many attending this was their first encounter with a cetacean in the wild in Irish waters.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#MarineWildlife - Ireland’s annual whale watch day takes place next Saturday 25 August — and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group invites the public to join its land-based whale watches around the island of Ireland.

From 2pm to 5pm next Saturday, the IWDG’s volunteers will be raising awareness of the 25 species of cetaceans — porpoises, dolphins and whales — recorded to date in all Irish waters, and giving the public a great opportunity to look for and observe some of these wonderful marine mammals in their natural environment.

Whale Watch Ireland also provides IWDG researchers with a unique snapshot of whale and dolphin activity around the Irish coast on the day.

This annual, all-island citizen science event, organised by the IWDG in association with Inis the Energy of the Sea, is free and open to all as part of Heritage Week, co-ordinated by The Heritage Council.

All watches are land-based and will be led by experienced IWDG researchers and whale watchers, who will show you how to observe and identify some of the more commonly recorded cetacean species in Irish waters and who will be available to discuss the conservation work of the IWDG.

To make the most of the day, bring binoculars or a spotting scope, and dress appropriately for outdoor weather conditions. There are no boat trips involved and there is no guarantee that you will see whales or dolphins at your chosen site.

But at last year’s event, whales or dolphins were recorded at three-quarters of sites around the Irish coast.

The full list of watching locations, with watch leader contacts, is as follows:

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has expressed its dismay at another record year for cetacean standings around the Irish coast.

The first eight months of 2017 alone have seen 201 recorded strandings - up 30% compared to the same period in the last two years.

“As in recent years, the numbers of dead common dolphins recorded are very high, with 78 records for this species to the end of August 2017 accounting for 39% of all strandings,” says IWDG strandings officer Mick O’Connell, who notes that the numbers of dead dolphins washing ashore in late winter and spring has grown unusually high.

“Even in a series of years with particularly high numbers of this species stranding since 2011, 2017 is well ahead of the previous two ‘record’ years by the end of August — 66 in 2016 and 53 in 2013.

“These are, of course, minimum numbers as we don't know how many dead animals go unrecorded and also many unidentified dolphins which aren't identifiable to species level are likely to be common dolphins,” he adds.

The IWDG is currently working with the Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture and National Parks and Wildlife service on a post-mortem scheme for common dolphins, striped dolphins and harbour porpoises which is hoped will shed new light on what might be causing this alarming rise in cetacean deaths.

Meanwhile, there was more positive news from the recent all-Ireland whale watch at the end of August, where three-quarters of the 20 sites around the island recorded sightings.

Around 1,300 whale watchers and wildlife enthusiasts spotted eight species of cetacean between them — with the busiest site at Loop Head in Co Kerry, where 120 lucky visitors got to see two humpback whales, five minke whales, six bottlenose and a whopping 50 common dolphins.

Other marine wildlife species spotted around the coast included Risso’s dolphins, blue fin tuna, ocean sunfish and grey seals.

More recently, the IWDG’s Celtic Mist embarked on a week-long survey of the waters around North and West Kerry, and its crew shared a video of some of their sightings.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#WhaleWatchDay - The 2016 All Island Whale Watch Day takes place on Saturday 27 August as part of Heritage Week.

All are invited to join the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) at any of 20 land-based whale watches on headlands around the Irish coast from 2pm-5pm on the day.

The purpose of Whale Watch Ireland is to raise awareness of the 25 species of cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – recorded to date in Irish waters, by providing the opportunity to see them in their natural environment.

The event also provides IWDG researchers with a unique snapshot of cetacean activity off the Irish coast.

Though sightings can't be guaranteed, the early arrival of humpback whales among others this year is surely a good omen, especially for those along the south coast between West Cork and Wexford.

And with three-quarters of sites reporting whale or dolphin sightings on last year's Whale Watch Day, the odds are good for next month.

No prior experience is necessary as IWDG volunteers will be on hand to show you how to observe our biggest marine wildlife.

Anyone who wants to come out on the day should bring binoculars or a spotting scope, and dress appropriately for what can be very changeable outdoor conditions.

Details of the 20 headland watch sites are listed below; contact the relevant local organiser for more details or if you wish to help out on the day:

  • Clogherhead, Co Louth - Port Oriel Upper Car Park - Breffni Martin, 087 914 5363
  • Howth Head, North Co Dublin - Balscadden Car Park - Conal O’ Flanagan, 086 353 7900
  • Killiney Bay, South Co Dublin - Vico Road - Brian Glanville, 087 139 0665
  • Bray Head, Co Wicklow - Pitch & Putt - Justin Ivory, 087 683 3898
  • Hook Head, Co Wexford - Lighthouse - Harm Deenen, 086 348 5013
  • Ardmore, Co Waterford - Ram Head Signal Tower - Andrew Malcolm, 087 795 2061
  • Galley Head, Co Cork - Lighthouse - Pádraig Whooley, 086 385 0568
  • Hog’s Head, Co Kerry - Sea Synergy Centre, Waterville - Lucy Hunt, 087 785 0929
  • Valentia Island, Co Kerry - Bray Head Signal Tower - Sean O’Callaghan, 085 776 4918
  • Clogher Head, Co Kerry - Lay-by - Nick Massett, 087 673 6341
  • Loop Head, Co Clare - Lighthouse - Simon Berrow, 086 854 5450
  • Black Head, North Co Clare - Lighthouse - Sandra O’Donovan, 086 606 1869
  • Downpatrick Head, Co Mayo - Car park - Aoife Foley, 085 827 6984
  • Mullaghmore Head, Co Sligo - Lay-by - Miriam Crowley, 087 617 1377
  • Bloody Foreland, Co Donegal - Heights Bar car park - Gareth Doherty, 086 222 3328
  • Malin Head, Co Donegal - Signal Tower - Ronan McLaughlin, 086 389 3154
  • Ramore Head, Co Antrim - Portrush Coastal Zone - Jim Allen, 078 765 16032
  • Portmuck, Co Antrim - Car park - Ian Enlander, 028 933 72724
  • Bloody Bridge, Co Down - Car park - Dave Wall, 077 717 62355
Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Though the 'washout' weather decreased numbers attending this year's Whale Watch Ireland last Sunday 24 August, nearly half of all events that went ahead reported sightings – with two-thirds of these seeing cetaceans.

Sadly there were no whales spotted this time out, but big numbers of harbour porpoise wherever they showed hopefully proved some consolation.

Common and bottlenose dolphins were also sighted at a number of sites, as were other marine wildlife such as basking sharks, grey seals and the rare treat of an ocean sunfish.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Though the weekend's miserable wintry weather made this year's Whale Watch Ireland something of a 'washout', according to TheJournal.ie, for those who did turn out there was a good chance of seeing some of our bountiful marine wildlife in action.

Despite a number of the 20 organised events being cancelled, it's thought that some 1,500 people still braved the elements on Sunday afternoon (24 August) and had more than a 50 per cent chance of seeing a whale, dolphin or porpoise off Ireland's coast.

Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) sightings officer Pádraig Whooley says the results of this year's nationwide whale watch are still being collated.

But it's already on record that Ireland is one of the vest places on earth for the pastime.

As the Sunday Independent reports, the numbers of humpback whales visiting our waters are estimated at nearly 300 out of a global population of 80,000, following a record summer for sightings off Ireland.

And as previously reported on Afloat.ie, Ireland is now considered "one of the best locations in the northern hemisphere" to film cetaceans in action.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#WhaleWatch - All are are invited to join the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) on one of its 20 land-based whale watches from headlands around the Irish coast this Sunday 24 August for Whale Watch Ireland 2014.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the 24 species of cetaceans (porpoises, dolphins and whales) that have been recorded around the Irish coast, by giving members of the public an opportunity to observe some of these wonderful marine mammals in their natural environment.

This event also provides IWDG researchers with a unique snapshot of whale and dolphin activity around the entire Irish coast.

By taking part in this annual event, the public is actively supporting whale and dolphin conservation in Ireland and the work of the IWDG.

This annual, all-island event – organised by the IWDG in association with Inis Cologne perfume and taking place during Heritage Week – is free and open to all.

All whale watches are land-based and will be led by experienced IWDG personnel, who will show you how to observe and identify some of the more commonly seen cetacean species seen in Irish waters and will be available to answer any questions you may have on the work of the IWDG.

You should bring binoculars or a spotting scope and dress appropriately for outdoor conditions. There are no boat trips involved, and there are of course no guarantees that you will see whales or dolphins during your particular event.

Details of all 20 whale-watching events and local organisers are included on the IWDG website HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#WhaleWatch - More than half the sites hosting events for the recent All-Ireland Whale Watch Day saw at least one whale, dolphin or porpoise, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Reporting its stats from Whale Watch Ireland 2013 on Sunday 18 August, the IWDG says harbour porpoise, common dolphins and a minke whale were among the sightings nationwide at 16 events attended by a total of almost 1,200 people - a 30% increase on last year.

The best place to be was Galley Head in West Cork, where newbie and veteran whale watchers alike saw the only minke whale of the day, not to mention the largest concentration of common dolphins.

Dolphins were also visible off Downpatrick Head in Mayo despite the poor weather. But it was harbour porpoise that were in plentiful supply in the Dublin area (off Howth Head and in Killiney Bay) and Portmuck in Co Antrim.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, All-Ireland Whale Watch Day coincided with Ireland's Heritage Week events for 2013.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - This Sunday's All-Ireland Whale Watch Day has made the list of The Irish Times' 40 things to do in Heritage Week 2013.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) will be hosting free, guided and land-based whale watching events at 16 headlands around the Irish coast from 2pm to 5pm this Sunday 18 August.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the 24 cetacean species recorded in Irish waters by giving the general public the chance to see our whales and dolphins in their natural environment.

And as the group tells RTÉ News, the recent arrival of minke whales in great numbers spells "a good omen" for this Sunday's island-wide watch.

The IWDG has the full list of whale watch spots for this weekend HERE.

Whale Watch Ireland 2013 just one example of the wide range of activities taking place during Heritage Week from 17-25 August.

Other events on the water during the week include Victorian seaside celebrations in Kilkee, Co Clare on 21 August; a river walk along the Lee in Cork city centre on 24 August; lighthouse tours at Galley Head, Loop Head and Wicklow Head on 25 August; and the Galway Hooker festival, Cruinniú na mBád, this weekend 17-18 August.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Loop Head in Clare was certainly the place to be for the annual Whale Watch Ireland on Sunday 19 August, with dolphins and two species of whale spotted despite the poor weather.

According to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), which organised the national event in conjunction with National Heritage Week to promote consevation of Ireland's marine wildlife, some 80 whale watchers and curious beginners spotted 11 bottlenose dolphins, a minke whale and a large baleen whale species - the only whales seen on the day among the 16 organised coastal watches.

Overall sightings were good, even with the unfavourable conditions experienced at half the viewing sites, and which saw the event at Baginbun Head on the Hook Peninsula in Co Wexford sadly cancelled.

In total, cetateans were seen at 10 of the 16 sites, which is up on the 54% viewing rate recorded at last year's national whale watch.

The biggest attended sites this year were Killiney Bay in Dublin, where three harbour porpoises were seen by 100 viewers; Galley Head in Cork, where six porpoises were witnessed in adverse weather that still brought out 120 eager cetation spotters.

Dolphins and porpoise together entertained the modest crowds at Howth head in north Dublin, St John's Point in Donegal and Bloody Bridge in Co Down, while the biggest count of bottlenose dolphins apart from Loop Head was the 10 recorded at Portmuck in Antrim.

Published in Marine Wildlife

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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