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With the RNLI’s summer lifeguard service now ended for 2020, swimmers and surfers on Northern Ireland’s North Coast have been urged “to be extra vigilant”.

The warning from Coleraine Coastguard comes after three swimmers got into difficulty at Castlerock Beach on Friday (18 September).

One swimmer made it to shore while the others were helped ashore by a local surfer. All three were medically assessed by coastguard officers and the NI Ambulance Service.

The casualties were “shocked” by their ordeal “but thankfully fit and well”, Coleraine Coastguard said later.

“Conditions on our beaches can change quickly and strong currents are currently running with the high tides,” the coastguard added.

“Now that the summer lifeguard service has ended around most of our beaches, we urge people to be extra vigilant when swimming or surfing.

“If you see anyone in difficulty, don’t hesitate to dial 999 [and ask for the] coastguard.”

#RNLI - RNLI lifeguards and the inshore lifeboat crew from Portrush RNLI rescued a swimmer who got into difficulty off Portrush East Strand on Wednesday evening (27 June).

The lifeguards who patrol the Causeway Coast beaches daily between 11am and 7pm were finishing up for the day when a member of the public raised the alarm.

The male swimmer had been seen entering the water 300-400m west of the patrol zone, towards Whiterocks, when he got into difficulty and was struggling to stay afloat.

Lifeguards Josh McCaw, Albert Dallas, Marcus McKeag and Nicola McIlroy immediately ran with their boards up the beach in the direction of the casualty.

Portrush RNLI’s inshore lifeboat helmed by Ben Wilson, was on exercise at the time when the crew spotted the lifeguards and immediately made their way to the scene.

The casualty was taken onboard the lifeboat and then transferred into the care of the lifeguards.

RNLI lifeguard supervisor Karl O’Neill said the situation could have been different minutes later. “Firstly, we would like to commend the member of the public who raised the alarm when they spotted someone in difficulty and we would like to wish the swimmer well after his ordeal.

“We want to remind everyone that while our lifeguards are busy patrolling our beaches daily, it is important to remember and adhere to our key safety advice both in and outside the patrol time of 11am-7pm.

“We were fortunate yesterday evening to be still on the beach when this incident happened and thankfully it resulted in a good outcome.

“We want to encourage people that when you plan a trip to the beach to check weather and tide times before you go and if planning to go into the water, to swim at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags.

“We want everyone to enjoy this beautiful weather and to come to our beaches but we want everyone to do that with safety in mind knowing to always respect the water and to remain vigilant. 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 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Elsewhere, Valentia RNLI volunteers launched their all-weather lifeboat yesterday afternoon (Thursday 28 June) to assist a 30ft motor cruiser with two people onboard, which had suffered mechanical failure.

At 2.37pm, Valentia Coast Guard requested Valentia RNLI's all-weather lifeboat to launch to the cruiser one mile south of Skellig Rock Little, Co Kerry. Weather conditions at the time were described as good with clear visibility.

Arriving on scene, a volunteer crew member was transferred to the casualty vessel to assist with setting up a tow, and the cruiser was towed safely back into Knightstown Harbour.

Speaking following the callout, Valentia RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer Michelle Curran said: “With this stunning weather more people are taking to the water, we urge everyone to respect the water, always carry a means for calling for help and ensure all onboard know how to use it.”

Published in Rescue

#Lifeguards - The RNLI is in search of new recruits to spend the summer working on some of Northern Ireland’s most popular beaches, as applications open for 2018’s beach lifeguards and face-to-face fundraisers.

Both roles are essential in supporting the RNLI to reduce the number of people who drown on our coasts, and to help keep people safe by providing essential local safety advice to the millions of holidaymakers who visit the beaches every summer.

RNLI lifeguards patrol 11 beaches along the Causeway Coast and in Co Down including Benone, Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West, Portrush East, Whiterocks, Ballycastle, Tyrella, Murlough and Cranfield.

At the forefront of the RNLI’s lifesaving work, they responded to 235 incidents and helped 255 people in 2016. Successful applicants receive world-class training in search and rescue, lifesaving and casualty care techniques, as well as developing transferable skills.

RNLI lifeguard supervisor Karl O’Neill says: “Working as a lifeguard has got to be one of the best summer jobs – you get to call the beach your office for a start! But far more importantly than that, you are there to make sure the public enjoy it in the safest possible way.

“This is a demanding job requiring commitment, skill and a clear head. We’re looking for people with courage, determination and the ability to draw on their training and make the right decision if someone’s life is in danger. It is an incredibly rewarding role.”

The RNLI is also recruiting face-to-face fundraisers, who’ll work alongside lifeguards to provide beach visitors with important safety advice, playing a vital role in saving lives by educating the public on risks at the coast.

Applicants will need to be dynamic and act as a positive ambassador – encouraging support for this lifesaving charity is just one of the things these fundraisers will do this summer season.

Neal Somerville, RNLI face-to-face manager, says: “A good fundraiser generally has to be friendly and relaxed, but also energetic, able to talk to anyone and be passionate about what they do.

“We provide quality training which ensures new fundraisers feel confident and capable in the role. Developing new skills, working in a team at the beach for a national charity is really has to be one of Britain’s best summer jobs.”

Find out more about how you can make a difference and apply to be part of our amazing lifesaving teams at summerjobs.rnli.org or search for #BestSummerJob on Facebook and Twitter.

Published in Water Safety

#Vandalism - Vandals have caused an estimated £800 (€900) worth of damage to an RNLI lifeguard unit at Whiterocks on the Causeway Coast.

Following two of the busiest days of the summer season so far in Northern Ireland, the RNLI team at Whiterocks arrived at work yesterday morning (Wednesday 19 July) to see that their unit, located near the entrance to the North Coast beach, had been extensively damaged.

The charity’s lifeguards discovered that the vandals had left behind broken bottles and a barbecue, while the unit’s aerial mount required for VHF communications had also been damaged.

A large rock which had been thrown at the hut damaged the unit’s outer skin, piercing the inner plywood and leaving a two-inch hole in the unit, which was also covered with indecent graffiti.

RNLI lifeguard supervisor Karl O’Neill said the damage to the aerial mount had threatened vital VHF communications, while the rock damage meant the unit was no longer watertight.

“Our lifeguards rely on the aerial to communicate with each other when on patrol and to communicate with their colleagues in the coastguard in the event of an emergency,” he said. 

“Thankfully the damage has not rendered our communications off-service but should it have, and should it have happened during the last two days, which brought thousands of people to our beaches to enjoy the good weather, lives could have been put at risk.

“It is very disappointing for our lifeguards, who have been working hard to keep people safe, to turn up this morning after two busy days and see the unit they need to carry out their job has been so badly damaged. It really does dampen spirits.”

It is estimated that the repairs to the beach lifeguard unit will run into hundreds of pounds for the charity.

The RNLI is working closely with the PSNI who have appealed for anyone with any information to come forward.

“We would appeal to those doing this damage to be mindful that the RNLI is a charity,” said O’Neill. “Our lifeguards are an essential part of what is a seamless rescue service that saves lives from the beach to the open sea.

“Our lifeguards’ primary role at Whiterocks and on all lifeguarded beaches on the Causeway Coast is to make sure the beach can be enjoyed safely by the public. We want them to be able to continue to do that safely and with peace of mind.”

Published in Coastal Notes

#RNLI - It was another busy day for North Coast lifeboat volunteer crews as both Portrush RNLI lifeboats were launched for the second time in 24 hours yesterday evening (Sunday 24 July).

The all-weather and inshore lifeboats were launched at 5.30pm to reports of a casualty who had fallen onto rocks inside a cave just underneath Dunluce Castle.

Weather conditions were good with a calm sea and little wind which helped the lifeboats to reach the scene in good time. Rescue 999, the helicopter from Prestwick, was also tasked to airlift the casualty to hospital.

The Portrush inshore lifeboat (ILB), carrying a paramedic from the NI Ambulance Service, had to get as close to the shoreline as possible to recover the casualty.

Meanwhile, the all-weather boat (ALB) was waiting alongside to transfer the casualty so that the helicopter could carry out an airlift from the bigger boat.

"This operation took skill and precision and is something that lifeboat and rescue helicopter crews practice on a regular basis," said Portrush RNLI lifeboat operations manager Robin Cardwell.

"This was a textbook callout carried out with absolute precision by all involved. We hope that the casualty makes a full recovery."

Less than 24 hours previously on Saturday evening (23 July) both lifeboats were called out to reports of swimmers who were missing off the coast between Castlerock and Downhill.

Within minutes both lifeboats were on scene along with RNLI beach lifeguards on their rescue water craft. The Irish Coast Guard's Sligo-based helicopter Rescue 118 was also tasked.

The waters between the two land points were thoroughly searched with no swimmers being found. The search was stood down around 9.15pm and described as a ‘false alarm with good intent’.

Two other joint operations on the North Coast occurred earlier in the week, the first to reports of two surfers believed missing at Benone Strand on Tuesday (19 July).

Portrush's inshore lifeboat was requested by the lifeguards to assist in the search, though thankfully the surfers turned up safe and well.

The second callout on the same day around 4pm was to reports of a lost child at White Rocks beach. The coastguard and lifeguards searched the beach while the inshore lifeboat patrolled the sea just off shore. The child was found safe and well by the lifeguards.

More recently, the lifeguards themselves sprang into action on Saturday afternoon at Benone to assist a child who had been stung by a weever fish.

As part of their training the lifeguards undertake a comprehensive first aid course which equips them to deal with most situations they may encounter on a busy beach in the summer.

RNLI volunteer lifeguard press officer Liam Mullan reminded beachgoers to "always try to visit a RNLI lifeguarded beach. Remember to keep an eye on the flags and swim between the red and yellow flags.

"If you get into difficulty raise your hand and call for help. If you see someone in difficulty dial 999 and ask for the coastguard."

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Rescue - A father and son were rescued on Thursday (21 July) by Kinvara beach lifeguards after being washed overboard from their kayak.

Lifeguards Mark Buckley and Niall Hanley contacted the Irish Coast Guard shortly after 3pm when they became concerned about two kayakers who had set out earlier from Traught beach.

Valentia Coast Guard immediately launched a search operation, tasking Galway Bay RNLI, the Shannon-based coastguard helicopter Rescue 115 and the Doolin Coast Guard unit.

Less than one hour after the alert was raised, Rescue 115 located the casualties. They were then recovered by Galway Bay lifeboat, who confirmed that casualties were safe and well.

The coastguard watch officers on duty in Valentia were highly complementary of the two local lifeguards, highlighting their vigilance, timeliness of their report and for piecing together information on the casualties.

Galway Bay RNLI were also complimented for the successful rescue.

Published in Rescue

#Lifeguards - RNLI lifeguards will commence full-time summer patrol on 10 beaches in Northern Ireland from next Saturday 25 June.

Following a busy period 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.

From next weekend, the RNLI will take up full-time daily duty on all beaches continuing to Sunday 4 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.

Speaking ahead of the new season, RNLI lifeguard manager Mike Grocott is encouraging those planning a visit to the beach this summer to bear in mind some key water 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," he says.

"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."

The RNLI is running its annual national drowning prevention campaign Respect the Water throughout the summer months with the charity this year warning the public to watch out for key dangers that can catch people out in or near water.

Central to the campaign are the dangers that can lead to accidental drowning: cold water, unexpected entry into the water, and rip currents and waves.

Published in Water Safety

#Lifeguards - RNLI lifeguards are hitting the surf again and bringing their popular beach safety programmes to school children and youth groups in Northern Ireland.

Hundreds of children have already been through the programmes and learned valuable and important advice to keep safe in the water and along the shore, in a fun and interactive way.

Last summer 345,027 people visited the 10 RNLI-lifeguarded beaches on the Causeway Coast and in Co Down. Of these people 27,043 entered the water while 9,975 took part in surfing or other water leisure actives such as body boarding and kite surfing.

The lifeguards responded to 182 incidents, coming to the aid of 218 people. As well as rescues carried out in the water, lifeguards also dealt with falls, first aid and lost children.

The RNLI lifeguarding season has already begun on five beaches along the Causeway Coast and this cover will be extended for the peak summer season from Saturday 25 June through to Sunday 4 September.

In the run up to this and before schools break up for the summer, the RNLI is encouraging primary schools and youth groups to sign-up for its two beach safety education programmes.

The ‘Meet the Lifeguards’ and ‘Hit the Surf’ programmes teach young people the importance of beach safety in a fun and practical way.’

‘Meet the Lifeguards’ is an interactive session where RNLI lifeguards visit a school or youth group and teach the children key safety advice that they then put to use when they visit a beach with family and friends.

Children learn what the different beach safety flags and signs mean, the safety of using inflatables, the dangers of 'tombstoning', sun safety and how to identify natural and man-made hazards in and around the water. They will also learn about body boarding and surfing safety and how to escape a rip current. Information on tides and waves is included in the session.

The ‘Hit the Surf’ programme, meanwhile, offers a unique opportunity for school children or youth groups to get practical lessons in lifesaving and beach safety at one of the 10 RNLI-lifeguarded beaches located on the North Coast and in Co Down, or inland for the first time on the shores of Lough Erne in Cp Fermanagh.

The two-and-a-half-hour session includes a lesson on staying safe at the beach and explains the role of the RNLI and its lifeguards. It is followed by a lifesaving lesson and learning surf-based skills while building the children’s confidence in the sea. They will also learn about local hazards and the beach environment.

For more information on how to book your school onto an RNLI education programme in Northern Ireland, contact RNLI lifeguard supervisor Jenny Thompson 077 8992 4563 or email [email protected]

Published in Water Safety

#CliffFall - An RNLI beach lifeguard aided a man who fell onto rocks while walking a steep cliff path on Whiterocks beach in Portrush yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 30 March).

The call for help came after a member of the group the man was with observed him fall just before 1pm and raised the alarm.

After arriving on scene, senior RNLI lifeguard Jamie Russell immediately began to administer casualty care to the conscious man, who had fallen some 12 feet from the coastal path. He was joined on scene by a paramedic and they continued to provide assistance.

However with an incoming tide and a challenging location, it was decided that removing the casualty would require the assistance of Coleraine coastguard.

The man was secured on a stretcher and carefully moved by the group around the rocks to a waiting ambulance.

Commenting on the callout, RNLI lifeguard supervisor Karl O’Neill said: "This incident was quite a challenging one to respond to due to the nature and location of the fall.

"Thankfully the man was conscious but we did not want to risk any further discomfort or injury by moving him ourselves. I would like to thank members of Coleraine coastguard for their assistance."

Whiterocks is one of five beaches being patrolled by RNLI lifeguard during the Easter holidays, continuing till Monday 4 April, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Coastal Notes

#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
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Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

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

FAQs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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