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Displaying items by tag: marine wildlife

#BaskingSharks - Conservationist Andrew Power was in the right place at the right time on Monday morning (11 April) when he witnessed a group of up to 20 basking sharks feeding off Kilkee, Co Clare.

"You could see the inside of their huge mouths very clearly under the water as they were feeding," Power told RTÉ News of the three-hour breakfast. "They swam close to the rocks going in circles. It was incredible."



The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports that another sighting was made at the same time off Slea Head in Co Kerry – adding to a list of inshore sightings along the South West coast since 31 March, when the first basking shark spotting of 2016 was reported off West Cork.

Regular visitors to our shores, the second largest fish in the ocean were last seen in numbers back in September, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

And the sheer size of this group is surely a boost for the 'shark park' initiative mooted for the Wild Atlantic Way last summer.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#DopeyDick - A killer whale who gained notoriety after swimming up the River Foyle in the late 1970s has been rediscovered enjoying his retirement off the west coast of Scotland, as the Derry Journal reports.

It's more than 38 years since the orca astounded the people of Derry by swimming up the estuary and hanging around the city for a number of days, earning the name 'Dopey Dick' for shrugging off attempts to lure him back to the safety of open water.

His whereabouts thereafter were unknown -- till cetacean experts with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust compared old photographs of his Derry visit with more recent images of the unique orca community that makes its home off the western Scottish coast, and identified a positive match.

Comet, as the orca is properly known, is estimated to be at least 58 years old, double the usual life expectancy for the species.

But that's not so surprising for the orca pod referred to as the 'West Coast Community', which has been a regular visitor to Irish waters over the years, and has interested marine wildlife specialists for decades due to its "evolutionary significant" qualities.

Sadly that group's numbers have been dwindling, with fellow orca Lulu becoming the latest victim after its believed she was entangled in fishing gear early this year, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Sharks have been filmed devouring a whale carcass at the ocean's surface in waters close to Britain and Ireland for the first time.

The results of the documentary expedition were broadcast last Friday as part of the UTV series Britain's Whales, available for catch-up the rest of this week.

As the Plymouth Herald reports, the groundbreaking experiment was headed by West Country marine biologist Dr Nicholas Higgs along with presenters Ellie Harrison and Ben Fogle, who sailed out to the Celtic Deep between Ireland, Cornwall and Wales with the carcass of a humpback whale in tow.

Their documentary crew were then able to film an "unprecedented" feeding frenzy by hundreds of blue sharks before the carcass was sunk for further study to examine the various creatures, from sharks to tiny 'zombie worms', that thrive on dead cetaceans as they drop to the ocean floor.

"I would never have predicted that you'd have this many sharks eating this much of the whale at the surface," said Dr Higgs. The Plymouth Herald has more on the story HERE.



In other cetacean news, Japan has disappointed global authorities by confirming hundreds of whale kills on its most recent expedition to the Antarctic.

Some 333 minke whales, including pregnant females, were poached between since December and last Friday (25 March), according to the Guardian.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Ireland recently joined an international demarche expressing "serious concern" at Japan's decision to resume whaling for what it claims are scientific purposes, claims that are not supported by the International Whaling Commission.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Dolphin watchers around the UK and Ireland are keen to hear from anyone who may have spotted 'bad boy' dolphin Clet in recent weeks, as the Plymouth Herald reports.

Known as much for his distinctive dorsal fin and his aggression towards swimmers, the solo dolphin was first seen in Irish waters in the summer of 2014, and later befriended fellow 'dolphins-non-grata' Sandy, AKA Dusty, as his travels took him from West Cork to the Aran Islands.

By December that year he had moved on to the west coast of Scotland, and he was last sighted seven months ago off Portland, near Weymouth on Britain's south coast, where he had been spotted numerous times a year ago.

His disappearance since last August has worried marine wildlife observers including the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, who have been tracking his progress since his first confirmed sightings in Brittany five years ago, though he was known to French fishermen since 2008.

The Plymouth Herald has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineScience - Marine scientists on board the RV Celtic Explorer have posted their first blog entry from this year's blue whiting acoustic survey voyage.

Setting sail from Cork on St Patrick's Day last week, the team – comprising acousticians, biologists and marine wildlife observers – are preparing to cover a massive area between the West of Ireland and the west coast of Scotland, including Rockall, as part of a flotilla of international research vessels from the Netherlands, Norway and the Faroe Islands.

The [email protected] blog has more on the mission HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineWildlife - Dolphin and porpoise monitoring off the North Coast got a boost this week thanks to a £15,000 NI government grant for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), as Causeway Coastal Community reports.

“This is good news for the IWDG and for those with a passion for marine wildlife," said Northern Ireland's Environment Minister Mark Durkan on funding for the acoustic monitoring project, which will focus on cetacean populations off Portrush and the nearby Giant's Causeway.

The project also includes an outreach programme with local schools and communities to get local people invested in the protection of marine wildlife on their shores. Causeway Coastal Community has more on the story HERE.

Minister Durkan is also the subject of calls to add the waters off Islandmagee to recently recommended Marine Conservation Zones for Northern Ireland over fears that a new gas power station could create a marine 'dead zone' in the area.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#BelfastLough - Belfast Harbour has announced the completion of its latest waterside apartments - but you may have to look close to see them, as they were created for some very special residents.

Indeed, as you can see from the tweet below, the wooden nesting boxes installed beneath a harbour pier are just the right size for the harbour's nesting guillemots.

Here's to a happy new home for some of Belfast's most striking marine wildlife!

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Islandmagee locals are appealing to Northern Ireland's Environment Minister to add their waters to the list of recently proposed Marine Conservation Zones.

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, the call comes over fears that a planned Gaelectric gas power station could create a 'dead zone' in the North Channel caused by brine runoff from the plant.

Gaeletric maintains that even under a worst-case scenario, any impact of brine pumped into the sea on marine wildlife and plantlife would be low.

But the Islandmagee Community Residents Association argues that the development poses a threat to a "delicate and biodiverse" ecosystem in the area, which is home to vulnerable colonies of puffins as well as black guillemots and razorbills, among others.

As reported in December on Afloat.ie, Rathlin, Waterfoot, Outer Belfast Lough and Carlingford Lough were put forward for consideration as Marine Conservation Zones, the public consultation for which closed last Friday 11 March.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Cork County Council has heard a proposal for a dedicated whale and dolphin trail along the county's coastline, as the Southern Star reports.

The Old Head of Kinsale, Mizen Head, Galley Head and Baltimore have already been identified as key locations for interpretive panels along the trail, the plans for which have had input from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) and Fáilte Ireland, to tie in with the latter's Wild Atlantic Way initiative.

"A lot of people might think this is trivial, but it’s a huge tourism attraction around the world and whale watching in Co Cork is the best in Europe," said Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan. "It’s about time we realised this as it could have huge economic impact for the region."

The Southern Star has more on the story HERE.

Number 6
Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Strandings of common dolphins for the first two months of the year are at their second highest since records began in 2002, says the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

A total of 28 confirmed standings were recorded in the IWDG's strandings database in January and February of this year, just below 2013's worst figures so far when 31 were reported.

That compares to an average of fewer than six reports for the same period each year between 2002 and 2010.

The current decade has seen a significant jump in recorded figures, with 18 reports of dolphin standings in 2011 compared to just two in the same months in 2010.

Many of the dolphins found this year were recorded in the North West, a great number of them drowned according to post-mortem results, while others showed signs of being tangled in fishing gear, which suggests they were bycatch in the nets of supertrawlers that ply the seas off Donegal, Sligo and Mayo.

"While there is no conclusive proof of what vessels are involved, the evidence points to the presence of large (c.100m) foreign registered freezer trawlers fishing in Irish offshore waters."

That's according to the IWDG's strandings officer Mick O'Connell, who warns that "the number of bycaught dolphins that actually get washed ashore and recorded as stranded may be only a small percentage of the actual number of dead animals."

The IWDG reiterates the call for independent observers to be placed on supertrawlers in Irish waters, following controversy over the visit of one of the world's largest fishing boats last November.

In other news, Scotland's Press and Journal reports that a humpback whale was killed after getting trapped in fishing ropes in the Outer Hebrides.

The juvenile whale was found dead on the Isle of Barra this week with the "classic signs of having suffered entanglement."

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 9 of 53

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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