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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has warned the public to stay away from the final resting place of a humpback whale carcass that washed ashore in West Cork last month.

And according to the Southern Star, poor weather forecast for later this week has dampened hopes to potentially retrieve the marine wildlife remains for public display.

The carcass of the juvenile humpback whale is only the ninth recorded stranding of the species in Ireland, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

First spotted in the waters of Roaringwater Bay, it eventually came to rest on the rocky shore at the foot of steep bank at Colla West near Schull, where IWDG volunteers have examined the remains over the weeks since.

Plans had been mooted to preserve the skeleton as a potential tourism draw for the area, the IWDG’s Pádraig Whooley said, though this would be “at great expense”.

“Although the plan was tentative, if successful, it would be a wonderful opportunity because the only other humpback whale on display is in the Natural History Museum, and that dates back to 1893,” he added.

The Southern Star has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

RTÉ News reports on West Cork farmers’ dismay at the decision to reduce the operating hours of the cable car link to Dursey Island where they graze their livestock.

The winter schedule, which sees the service shut down at 4.30pm daily, usually ends at the beginning of March but has been extended by Cork County Council amid the continued national Level 5 lockdown.

However, mainland farmers argue that the reduced service leaves them little time to manage their animals ahead of the calving and lambing season.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News
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A 19th-century house in West Cork that once comprised six coastguard cottages is now on the market for €1.95 million.

As the Irish Examiner reports, Rocket House — named for the lifesaving rocket launch that once stood on the grounds — sits in the picturesque environs of Castletownshend on ‘Ireland’s Riviera’.

And it comes at a bargain price for this class of property, as it previously sold to overseas buyers for more than €3.5 million.

That’s quite a deal for a house whose history includes rescues from the Lusitania among other notable disasters off a notorious stretch of coastline.

The Irish Examiner has much more on the home and its history HERE.

Published in Waterfront Property

A woman was rescued from a sea inlet in West Cork after a more than 90-minute ordeal yesterday evening, Thursday 25 February.

The casualty had got caught in the swelling tide just off the slipway at Dunworley Beach near Butlerstown before 5pm.

Fortunately her shouts for help were heard above the sinkhole leading to the inlet a local walker, who immediately called the rescue services.

Courtmacsherry RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat attended the scene alongside the Irish Coast Guard’s helicopter Rescue 115 from Shannon and the land-based Old Head/Seven Heads coastguard unit, who rigged up their ropes to climb down the sinkhole and reach the casualty.

The woman was then successfully raised up the sink hole cliff face to the care of a waiting HSE ambulance crew.

Courtmacsherry RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer Vincent O'Donovan said: “It was great to see the total dedication of so many voluntary people from all the rescue services today and everyday in these difficult Covid times, who drop all and rush to the aid of others in difficulties.”

O'Donovan reiterated the importance of calling the rescue services at 112 or 999 quickly once any incident like this occurs, as they are always at the ready 24 hours a day — and every minute is so important to any person in difficulty.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Seabed survey operations in the Kinsale, Greensands, Ballycotton and Seven Heads gas fields off West Cork are set to commence from tomorrow, Sunday 6 December.

PSE Kinsale Energy will undertake the decommissioning works on and around the relevant subsea infrastructure over the next week, weather permitting, from the RV Celtic Voyager (Callsign EIQN).

The surveys will extend over an area of 2.5km radius (including the area required by the vessel to turn) from each well head, towing a submerged cable of up to 500m behind the vessel.

Full coordinates for these survey operations and a map of the area are included in Marine Notice No 56 of 2020, a PDF of which can be downloaded below.

Published in Marine Warning
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You can take the boy out of West Cork, but you can't take West Cork - and its boats and sailing - out of the boy. That's especially so if he's one of the O'Keeffes, whose great names in sailing - such as Paddy O'Keeffe of Bantry and Maurice O'Keeffe of Schull - live on afloat through present generations, and in the restored and much-loved classics which they sailed in their day.

An intriguing example of the "Reach of the O'Keeffes" is Don O'Keeffe of the Schull branch. He may have fetched up in Wisconsin in the American Midwest, but by so doing and making a successful career there since 1987 in motor-yacht design, he reminds us that not only are the Great Lakes much more extensive than many of the salty seas that most of the rest of us so proudly sail, but his home port of Manitowoc has also been the setting – since 1968 – of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, an institution which has steadily developed and expanded to put anything comparable in Ireland very much in the shade.

The quality of the WMM's dynamic interaction with the local community and the world beyond is well illustrated in this museum-produced video of a project that Don O'Keeffe recently brought to completion:

It tells us a lot, and very eloquently too, for Don has a lovely way with words. But for those who seek even more background, his 25ft 6ins Heir Island Lobster Boat Fiona is based on the lines – taken off by the Traditional Boats of Ireland Project – of the 1893-built Hanorah, which was re-built in 2003 in Oldcourt as part of a course run by owner Nigel Towse of Sherkin Island, and master boatbuilder Liam Hegarty.

traditional lines of Hanorah have been replicated in Don O'Keeffe's new boat Fiona in WisconsinThe traditional lines of Hanorah have been replicated in Don O'Keeffe's new boat Fiona in Wisconsin. Plans: Traditional Boats of Ireland

Hanorah (left) and new-build sister-ship Saoirse Muirreann (Cormac Levis) in perfect summer sailing conditionsHanorah (left) and new-build sister-ship Saoirse Muirreann (Cormac Levis) in perfect summer sailing conditions off Sherkin Island. Photo: Robby Murphy

In recent years we've had two links to Don O'Keeffe, as this most recent Wisconsin project came to us through Simon O'Keeffe of Schull, Don's nephew, who currently has a project under way with Tiernan Roe of Ballydehob to restore the famous gaff cutter Lady Min, which Simon's great grandfather Maurice O'Keeffe designed and built at Schull in 1902. 

The Lady Min – currently under restoration with Tiernan Roe of Ballydehob The Lady Min – currently under restoration with Tiernan Roe of Ballydehob – was designed and built by Maurice O'Keeffe of Schull in 1902.

But while Maurice O'Keeffe is now best known for his personal creation of the Lady Min 118 years ago, across the hills in Bantry Paddy O'Keeffe was linked to several notable boats, most notably the Albert Strange-designed yawl Sheila II which later was sailed to New Zealand in the 1950s, the handsome Robert Clark-designed 16-tonner John Dory, and designer-builder John B Kearney's own pet boat, the 1925-built 38ft yawl Mavis, which went to America in 1956.

We have of course been following the saga of the restoration of Mavis in Camden, Maine by Ron Hawkins. But while she finally sailed again in September of this year, when she was launched for the first time in her restored form back in 2015, as Ron Hawkins shepherded her down the harbour with a little outboard-driven tender alongside, at the helm of Mavis was Don O'Keeffe no less, keeping in touch with the boats of his youth and the special sailing to be found in West Cork.

The newly-restored John B Kearney 1925 yawl MavisThe newly-restored John B Kearney 1925 yawl Mavis – owned for some years by Paddy O'Keeffe of Bantry – is shepherd to her mooring in Camden, Maine by restorer Ron Hawkins, with Don O'Keeffe on the tiller.

Published in Historic Boats

The Irish Coast Guard has revealed further details over an incident involving the activation of an emergency positioning beacon off West Cork last month.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Baltimore RNLI was called out to search or the EPIRB which activated two nautical miles west of the Calf Islands on the afternoon of Wednesday 19 August.

Despite an extensive operation which also involved Schull Coast Guard, a coastguard helicopter and the Naval Service vessel LÉ Samuel Beckett, nothing was found and the search was stood down by early evening.

‘…it is highly unusual to have detections of the type that was encountered on 19 August’

In response to further enquiries from Afloat.ie, the Irish Coast Guard said the EPIRB in question, which was last detected at Coosnagulling on the southwest of Long Island, “did not appear to be fully functional and the homing signal was not active.

“It was not registered in Ireland and registration details were not available. It was not of Irish origin.”

Confirming that the search was terminated with “no further action being deemed necessary”, the IRCG added: “Accidental activations of EPIRBs are not unusual but it is highly unusual to have detections of the type that was encountered on 19 August.

“Every effort was made to locate the device both inland and on the coast but as outlined above, the search proved to be unsuccessful given the operational gaps in the information that was available.”

Published in Water Safety

The West Cork harbour of Crookhaven took a hammering earlier this week in Storm Francis with at least one sailing boat lost from its mooring on Tuesday.

Footage online shows the village pontoon swaying in the Force 11 gusts (see vid via Facebook below) as Cork County battled with a Status Yellow Weather Alert.

As Afloat previously reported, Baltimore's all-weather lifeboat was called to two yachts in difficulty in Crookhaven. The two vessels, one with four onboard and the other with two, were dragging their moorings in the strong Force 9 winds, gusting up to Force 11, and rough sea conditions with a five-metre swell.

It's not the only West Cork Harbour affected either in this month's storms. More boats were damaged at nearby Baltimore.

In a tough month for Cork sailing, as Tom MacSweeney reports, the new Cove Sailing Club marina in Cork Harbour was damaged in the earlier Storm Ellen.

Published in News Update
Tagged under

Historial Castle Island in Roaringwater Bay off the coast of Schull, West Cork is on the market for offers in excess of €1m.

The island is located immediately east of the entrance to Schull Harbour and south-west of Horse Island. It is readily accessed from either Schull Harbour or Rossbrin Cove.

It is one of very few privately owned islands in the area.

The island, which extends to approximately 123.85 acres or c. 50.12 hectares, was home to a small community of approximately fifteen families who were last resident on the Island up to the year 1870.

A substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stagesA substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stages

According to the auctioneer Dominic Daly, the ruins of the original three clusters of houses which made up the community are situated in three distinct locations the first at the pier where the original O’Mahony Castle stands and the other two at each end of the island. Lazy beds can be detected near one of the clusters of houses which look out across Roaringwater Bay and onward to Fastnet lighthouse a naturally beautiful landscape. Currently, the island is in use for agricultural purposes. Tillage was undertaken there in the past. It is now used for grazing.

There is a substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stages. A number of adjoining islands in Roaringwater Bay are inhabited – some with small communities (Long Island, Heir Island, Sherkin Island, Cape Clear Island) and others by single families (West Skeam Island, Horse Island).

Castle Island, Roaringwater BayCastle Island, Roaringwater Bay

Castle Island is home to one of a number of ruined O’Mahony Castles – one of a string along the coastline, all within sight of each other and sited strategically to control the waters of Roaringwater Bay and their abundant resources. The O’Mahony’s became extremely wealthy in their day, charging for fishing and fish processing facilities and for supplies and fresh water. They also formed strong alliances with the Spanish and French fishing fleet and any visitors who worked these waters an alliance that came to the attention of the English crown, which lead to the O’Mahony’s demise in the area.

It is a great opportunity for anyone interested in all water sports particularly sailing and fishing. It also benefits from the warm Gulf Stream and mild south westerly winds. The island can offer total solitude with substantial scope to develop it’s considerable amenities. There are extensive amenities in the area with multiple Harbours in Schull and Baltimore and also good shelter in Rossbin & Crookhaven as well as Cape Clear. In the far distance, the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse can be seen.

West Cork is a predominantly tourist area. It has rugged peninsulas, sandy beaches and bustling market towns. Future use of the island could be for private occupancy or tourism-related development or outdoor pursuits and/or agricultural use.

More details from auctioneer Dominic Daly here

Published in Waterfront Property
Tagged under

The first race of the West Cork sailing season took place on Saturday in murky conditions with intermittent foggy spells and light rain making it a tough return to sailing for the Schull harbour sailing fleet.

The seven yachts had a tough double beat up Long Island Sound in a freshening southwest wind. In a time of necessary adherence to social distancing, the club ran a ferry service limiting the transfer of each crew as a single pod.

The seven boat fleet had a tough windward leg up Long Island SoundThe seven boat fleet had tough windward legs up Long Island Sound

The traditional apres sail prize presentation is currently cancelled with Tony O Brien's Excelsior on his first outing with the club receiving his victory news online.

The Schull Harbour Race Committee for the first race of the 2020 seasonPreparing to go afloat at Schull Harbour for the first race of the 2020 season

Published in Racing
Tagged under
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Irish Fishing industry 

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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