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Displaying items by tag: marine wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Toxic chemicals banned in Europe nearly 30 years ago are still polluting the seas off the continent.

And marine scientists fear their continued presence could spell the end for the killer whale and other species in European waters, as the Irish Examiner reports.

The warning comes from newly published research on concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in marine wildlife – specifically orcas and other dolphins – in Irish, British and Mediterranean waters.

Co-authored by Dr Simon Berrow of GMIT and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, the paper in the latest issue of journal Scientific Reports claims that despite the outright ban on the use of PCBs since 1987, they persist in "dangerously high levels in European cetaceans".

High exposure to PCBs, once used in the manufacture of paints and electrical equipment, weakens the immune systems of cetaceans and has a severe effect on their breeding rates.

The paper is available online HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Marine wildlife fans in the Dublin Bay area will be on the lookout for a group of bottlenose dolphins that have been spotted between Killiney and Dun Laoghaire.

It's the first sighting of the species off South Dublin since August 2012 when a pod of three dolphins that had delighted local residents for two years, as previously reported on Afloat.ie, moved on around the coast towards Kerry and beyond.

According to Irish Whale and Dolphin Group sightings officer Pádraig Whooley, it's not clear whether this is the same group of two adults and a juvenile returning to their previously regular haunt.

But with regular reports of sightings between Scotsman's Bay, Bullock Harbour and Killiney Bay since 2 January, there will surely be plenty of opportunity to get the necessary photographic evidence.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The killer whale found beached on a Scottish island last weekend likely died after getting entangled in fishing gear for days, say experts.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the orca known as Lulu to researchers, who have been tracking her unique pod since the early 1990s, was discovered on the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides last Sunday 3 January.

Lulu's "evolutionary significant" group has been under threat for years due to the absence of calves among its number since scientists began monitoring them around the Scottish and north Irish coasts.

But according to The Press and Journal, Lulu's death was not down to natural causes – with a post-mortem report from experts at the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme claiming "convincing evidence that she had become chronically entangled" in fishing gear, with deep wounds consistent with a rope wrapping around her tail.

“There were no ropes or gear left on the carcass," said the scientists in a statement. "We’re assuming all this from the lesions we found on her body, so we don’t know if this was due to active fishing gear, abandoned or ‘ghost’ gear, or other marine debris."

The Press and Journal has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#AnimalRescue - Northern Ireland coastguard teams raced to the aid of a dog trapped on a cliff ledge in Co Down earlier this week.

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, eight coastguard volunteers fought their way across boggy ground to reach the terrier that had slipped down the cliff from the Ballyhornan Coastal Path.

But once on the scene, a winch was quickly set up to rescue the petrified pooch and return him to his owners.

A rescue of a different kind was celebrated in Co Wexford in recent days after a loggerhead turtle washed up in Kilmore Quay over the Christmas period.

According to the Wexford People, the turtle – of a species used to much warmer waters – was named Ninja by staff at the Seal Rescue Ireland sanctuary who nursed her back to health after she beached alive just before Christmas.

A second turtle found over the same period at Ballyhealy Beach sadly died.

"Ninja was our first turtle in the centre and we were extremely happy with her progress," said manager Meadow Greenwood. "Our fingers are still crossed for a full recovery and final ending of release."

Ninja has since been transferred to the longer-term marine wildlife care facilities at Galway Atlantaquaria.

Published in Rescue

#MarineWildlife - One of the last remaining members of a unique pod of killer whales has been found dead on a Scottish island.

As STV News reports, the orca known as Lulu to marine researchers was found beached on the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides on Scotland's west coast on Sunday 3 January.

Like John Doe, who is believed to have survived an altercation with a shark a year ago, Lulu was one of a familiar family of orcas that's regularly seen off Scotland and even as far west as the Donegal coast.

It's a pod that's piqued the interest of marine science due to its genetic distinctiveness from other orcas in the North Atlantic, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

But the "evolutionary significant" group's numbers have been dwindling in recent years due to the absence of calves since scientists started tracking them more than two decades ago.

"It is particularly sad to know that another one of these killer whales, unique to the British and Irish Isles, has died," said the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. "There may be as few as eight individuals remaining in this population."

STV News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Biodiversity - Climate change is putting increasing pressure on natural habitats for Irish wildlife, particularly where biodiversity is affected by human action.

That's the conclusion of the first National Biodiversity Indicators report, which sought to measure changes affecting marine wildlife and inland species alike in terms of temperature, rainfall and other factors, as The Irish Times reports.

Dr Tomás Murray, an ecologist with the National Biodiversity Data Centre who co-ordinated the report with Deirdre Lynn of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, shared his alarm that only five per cent of Ireland's known species have been assessed for their conservation status.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Marine wildlife welfare groups will received €27,000 out of more than €2.5 million awarded to 140 animal welfare organisations nationwide by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Seal Rescue Ireland, based at Courtown Harbour in Co Wexford, will receive €12,000, while €5,000 apiece will go to Galway & Claddagh Swan Rescue, the Irish Seal Sanctuary in Garristown, Co Dublin and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group in Kilrush, Co Clare.

Making the announcement at the Irish Blue Cross Clinic in Inchicore on Friday 18 December, Marine Minister Simon Coveney said that these organisations "make a tremendous contribution to the welfare of animals, in particular, by educating the public on best practice, by making effective interventions where appropriate and providing facilities for at-risk animals.

"The increase in workload for animal welfare bodies due to new animal welfare legislation, including the new dog microchipping legislation, and the continuing albeit decreasing reporting of incidences of animal neglect to the department’s animal welfare helpline, clearly demonstrates a need to assist animal welfare organisations in their important work.

"I am pleased therefore to be in a position to increase funding to animal welfare organisations for the fifth consecutive year."

The minister added that he and his department would continue to work closely with animal welfare groups. He reminded the public of the dedicated email address ([email protected]) and helpline (01 607 2379 or Call Save 0761 064408) in operation in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for members of the public to report incidents of animal cruelty. The helpline will be monitored regularly over the holiday period.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineScience - Climate change is rapidly warming lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems, according to a new study spanning six continents.

More than 60 scientists took part in the research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and announced at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Wednesday 16 December.

The study – based on global analyses including unique long-term data from the Marine Institute's catchment research facility at Newport, Co Mayo – found that lakes are warming an average of 0.34C, or 0.61F, each decade.

That's greater than the warming rate of either the oceans or the atmosphere, and it can have profound effects, the scientists say.

At the current rate, algal blooms – which can ultimately rob water of oxygen – are projected to increase 20 percent in lakes over the next century. Algal blooms that are toxic to fish and animals would increase by five percent.

These rates imply that emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, will increase four percent over the next decade.

"Lakes are important because society depends on surface water for the vast majority of human uses," said co-author Stephanie Hampton, director of Washington State University's Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach.

"Not just for drinking water, but manufacturing, for energy production, and for irrigation of our crops. Protein from freshwater fish is especially important in the developing world."

Temperature is one of the most fundamental and critical physical properties of water. It controls a host of other properties that include intricate living processes that have evolved within strict boundaries.

When the temperature swings quickly and widely from the norm, life forms in a lake can change dramatically and even disappear.

"These results suggest that large changes in our lakes are not only unavoidable, but are probably already happening," said lead author Catherine O'Reilly, associate professor of geology at Illinois State University.

Earlier research by O'Reilly has seen declining productivity in lakes with rising temperatures.

Funded in part by NASA and the National Science Foundation, the study is the largest of its kind and the first to use a combination of long-term hand measurements and temperature measurements made from satellites, offsetting the shortcomings of each method.

Study co-author Simon Hook, science division manager at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said satellite measurements provide a broad view of lake temperatures over the entire globe. But they only measure surface temperature, while hand measurements can detect changes in temperature throughout a lake. Also, satellite measurements go back only 30 years while some lake measurements can go back more than a century.

Lough Feeagh in Co Mayo was one of 235 lakes in the study that have been monitored for at least 25 years. While that's a fraction of the world's lakes, they contain more than half the world's freshwater supply.

The Marine Institute measures the surface water temperature of Lough Feeagh as part of the long term ecological monitoring of the Burrishoole catchment. The Burrishoole research station is an internationally important index site for diadromous fish monitoring, and water temperature is a crucial variable controlling growth, migration and survival of salmon, trout and eel in the catchment.

"The inclusion of data from Lough Feeagh in this study highlights the value of collecting local environmental long term data to inform global analyses," said Dr Elvira de Eyto, a biologist at the Marine Institute facility in Burrishoole and one of the studies co-authors.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan added: "The sharing of such data with global scientific networks makes an important contribution to worldwide climate change analyses, and our understanding of how the warming climate will affect our valuable aquatic resources."

The surface water of Lough Feeagh has warmed at a rate of 0.35C per decade between 1985-2009, although the rate of warming was lower than some other northern hemisphere lakes.

"We want to be careful that we don't dismiss some of these lower rates of change," said Hampton. "In warmer lakes, those temperature changes can be really important. They can be just as important as a higher rate of change in a cooler lake."

The researchers said various climate factors are associated with the warming trend. In northern climates lakes are losing their ice cover earlier, and many areas of the world have less cloud cover, exposing their waters more to the sun's warming rays.

Many lake temperatures are rising faster than the average air temperatures. Some of the greatest warming is seen at northern latitudes, where rates can average 0.72C, or 1.3F, per decade.

Warm-water, tropical lakes may be seeing less dramatic temperature increases, but increased warming of these lakes can still have large negative impacts on fish. That can be particularly important in the African Great Lakes, home to one-fourth of the planet's freshwater supply and an important source of fish for food.

In general, the researchers write: "The pervasive and rapid warming observed here signals the urgent need to incorporate climate impacts into vulnerability assessments and adaptation efforts for lakes."

Published in Marine Science

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

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

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

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

The Coleraine Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - 'Poison Ivy' the seal pup is now in good hands after she was found on the streets of Galway by council workers earlier this month.

As the Galway Independent reports, the young seal was discovered on the footpath in Salthill by litter collectors and was cared for locally by vets, members of the public and volunteers with Galway & Claddagh Swan Rescue.

She has since been transferred to the Seal Rescue Ireland sanctuary in Wexford, where she is said to be thriving after treatment for dehydration and malnourishment, an eye infection and a number of infected wounds.

It's thought that since she still had half of her lanugo fur coat, she was less than three weeks' old when found – "so there is a good chance that little Poison Ivy was separated from her mom too early," said the sanctuary's manager Meadow Greenwood.

As for the name? It's part of a comic book theme at the sanctuary, which earlier in the year played host to the like of Blackbird, a seal rescued in Co Louth, and Mystique from Co Mayo, according to the Gorey Guardian.

In other marine wildlife news, there has been anger in Northern Ireland after an otter was found killed in a trap on a riverbank in Co Antrim last weekend.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the PSNI is investigating the incident on the banks of the Sixmilewater River at Dunadry as the placement of the trap "suggests a deliberate attempt to target the otter" – a protected species at EU level.

And as a member of the Antrim and District Angling Association alleges, whether or not the trap itself is legal is irrelevant as its placement was not.

"There is a residential development backing onto that area ... A cat or a dog or a young child could have been caught in that trap."

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 12 of 54

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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