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110 years ago Robert Lloyd Praeger brought a group of eminent European scientists to Clare Island to map the flora, fauna, geology and archaeology of the small, exposed Atlantic island off the coast of Mayo. The Royal Irish Academy’s New Survey of Clare Island, a unique multidisciplinary endeavour that together with Praeger’s first Clare Island Survey provides an invaluable body of research informing future conservation of the natural and built heritage of Ireland and Europe.

In a new book, New Survey of Clare Island. Volume 9: Birds, published on Monday, 17 August to celebrate Heritage Week 2020, the editor Tom Kelly traces the story of the birds from Clare Island.

One of the most dramatic changes has been the arrival on Clare Island of the formidable and spectacular seabird the Great Skua—or Bonxie—which now breeds further south in Ireland than it does in Great Britain. This unexpected change—a species moving south rather than vice versa—at a time of global warming remains to be explained.

Great SkuaA Great Skua Photo: Richard T. Mills

Clare Island became separated from Ireland about 8,000 years ago by rising sea levels brought about by the melting of the massive ice sheets that formed during the last Ice Age. Although this dramatic event would have had a minimal impact on the birds that made the island their home.

The Lapland bunting and the snow bunting probably arrived first, followed by more sedentary species including the rock ptarmigan and gyrfalcon as well as many wildfowl and wading bird species.

In the three millennia that followed the formation of Clare Island, mature woodland developed allowing a woodland bird community to develop.

clare island bird bookThe Clare Island survey

Neolithic man arrived about 4,000yBP (years Before Present). Over the succeeding 3,500 years or so, the woodland element was gradually removed and about 400 years ago the modern agricultural landscape was established. The woodland bird community on Clare Island has become mostly extinct probably because its habitat gradually disappeared over the millennia, In addition, the famines of the early to mid-nineteenth century had an impact on the ecology of the inhabited offshore islands. The abandonment of land as a result of famine, and the peoples who occupied that land, is well known to cause the departure of synanthropic bird species.

Nevertheless, agricultural activity and the expansion of grasslands created opportunities for seed-eating species and ground-nesting forms such as the skylark and meadow pipit and migrants such as the northern wheatear and corncrake, and the extraction of peat created opportunities for wetland species. Well-known species such as the house sparrow, European robin, song thrush and perhaps the barn swallow have colonised the island.

Published in Island News

Oceans given human-induced change, writes GreenNews.ie, may have been affected as much as half of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, a new study has revealed.

A new article in Nature Climate Change predicted through climate modelling that 20 to 55 per cent of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian basins would have an “emergent anthropogenic signal” in 2020 and that figure would climb to between 40 and 65 per cent by the middle of this century.

The current model projects that the percentage will fall between 55 and 80 per cent in 2080.

Oceanic change (Atlantic see: BBC News) as a result of the climate crisis affects both temperature and salinity, which results in “widespread and irreversible impacts”, according to the authors of the study.

While the most pronounced change is found in the upper ocean, research has indicated that changes in water masses at depth have been identified and “will probably strengthen in the future”, they added.

The first indications of global ocean heat content change was identified in the early 2000s and studies have continued to investigate trends ever since.

Anthropogenic change remains undetected in “vast regions of the World Ocean”, according to the study, but the authors note that the lack of recorded change could be due to poor observational coverage.

Further maintenance and augmentation of an ocean observing system capable of detecting and monitoring persistent anthropogenic changes therefore is needed in order to monitor the ocean, the study concluded.

For more on the effects of a changing ocean click here and scroll down. 

Published in Marine Science

Small freshwater animals are breaking down microplastics into nanoplastic fragments which can enter the food chain, according to new research by University College Cork (UCC).

In less than four days, the freshwater amphipod, Gammarus duebeni, is able to fragment microplastics into different shapes and sizes, including nanoplastics, the research has found.

These invertebrate animals inhabit Irish streams and are part of a larger group found around the world in freshwater and ocean environments.

Microplastics are plastic pieces smaller than 5 mm, and nanoplastics created by the crustaceans within hours are at least five thousand times smaller in size.

Breakdown of plastics had been thought to occur mainly through very slow processes in the marine environment such as sunlight or wave action.

The findings have “ substantial consequences for the understanding of the environmental fate of microplastics”, study leader Dr Alicia Mateos-Cárdenas, of UCC’s School of BEES and Environmental Research Institute says:

The study also has consequences in terms of the impacts of plastics, she said.

While microplastics can become stuck in the gut of seabirds and fish, current understanding suggests that the smaller nanoplastic particles could penetrate cells and tissues where their effects could be much harder to predict, she noted.

“These invertebrates are very important in ecosystems because they are prey for fish and birds, hence any nanoplastic fragments that they produce may be entering food chains” Dr Mateos-Cárdenas added, urging further “urgently needed” research.

The study was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, and published in the journal Scientific Reports this week, here

Published in Marine Wildlife

Photographers of Ireland’s rich marine environment are invited to enter images for a contest being run by the Irish Wildlife Trust.

To mark both World Oceans Day this month and easing of travel restrictions to within county boundaries, the trust is inviting submissions of images from the public.

Underwater photographs are “particularly welcomed” while coastal images celebrating Ireland’s marine wildlife are also accepted, it says.

The trust says that if entrants know their photo was taken within a marine protected area, this should be made clear. It has published a map of the protected areas which were designated under EU legislation.

"Marine protected areas are the best tool we have to protect and restore precious natural habitats for future generations, so we really want to highlight the beautiful ecosystems they protect,”IWT project officer Regina Classen says.

The trust says the winner will be chosen by the public through a voting system on the IWT website from July 1st until July 7th.

The photograph with the most ‘likes’ will be announced on July 8th and sent a marine themed t-shirtand a copy of ‘Ireland’s Hidden Depths’ by Paul Kay. The winner’s photograph will also be published in the IWT quarterly wildlife magazine.

Full instructions on how to participate can be found here and this map shows the location of marine protected areas.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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There’s concern in West Kerry and worldwide among his fans and friends that Fungie the Dingle Dolphin is becoming depressed. He is being made gloomy by the lack of company and an audience for his usual summer season starring role, which would be playing to empty houses were he to put it on under the current Lockdown. Thus the word is that Dingle is organising a rota of boats to keep him company from time to time, but whether that will be remotely as good as the usual capacity crowd he gets in high summer remains to be seen.

Whale and dolphin specialists may sniffily tell us that it’s completely unnatural and maybe unhealthy for a lone bottlenose dolphin like Fungie to develop such a special relationship with a waterborne enraptured audiences of adoring fans. But if you’ve ever been in the midst of the milling fleet of boats as it wheels frenetically around Fungie as he goes through his many routines, you’ll realise that here is one very intelligent rockstar putting on a life-enhancing performance, and the fact that he has been joyously doing it since 1983 suggests that ill-health – whether physical or mental – had not been on the agenda until the current freakish situation.

In terms of rockstar/audience interaction, it certainly beats the experience being at Electric Picnic or Slane Castle on a damp midge-ridden evening every time. Our own best experience of it came after the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race way back in 1995, when we joined the gathering fleet in the afternoon sunshine out in the harbour mouth, and suddenly he was among us. Fungie was leaping and pirouetting with such style and speed and enthusiasm that we’re convinced he went straight over our 35-footer between the mast and the backstay, because we certainly were very close indeed to the godlike presence.

meeting fungie2Well hello there…….close encounters with Fungie are never forgotten. Photo Dingle Dolphin
In the heightened mood, people become semi-demented, and one of our crew – he had better remain nameless – jumped in with the group already in the water trying to share the Fuungie experience to the uttermost. Some greater power seems to protect it all, because so far as is known, none of the head-cases who jump in has yet been struck by the flailing propellors of the heaving fleet.

So if there is one special early exemption from lockdown, it should be made for the Fungie experience in Dingle. He has taught us a lot, so much so that the very idea of eating whalemeat now seems like cannibalism, while it has been shown that the bonds that form from special relationships between dolphins and humans are not to be trifled with.

Twenty years or so ago, a “scientific” international research group formed an intimate bond with a dolphin, and when the experiment was over they simply went away and left him on his own in the sea. Becoming terminally depressed after the ending of the fun they’d had, he took his own life by descending to the seabed and not coming up for air.

That now seems an absolute disgrace caused by contemptible thoughtlessness, and the fact that we see it as such is heightened by our awareness of Fungie. This responsiveness to the sensitivities and fascination of special sea creatures is relatively new, for it’s now generally forgotten that very many years ago, Baltimore in West Cork was home to a semi-resident dolphin or pilot whale known as Albert.

This would have been in the 1920s to 1940s period, and Albert aroused mixed feelings. He would escort boats in and out through the harbour mouth, and when a visiting cruising boat had anchored off the village, he would occasionally rub up against the hull, supposedly to clear himself of sea lice, though his intentions were equally likely to have been amorous.

baltimore harbour aerialHigh summer in Baltimore, West Cork. Nearly a hundred years ago, Baltimore’s resident dolphin or pilot whale - known as Albert - was rumoured to have moved anchored cruising boats from their carefully selected location off the village (foreground) all the way across the harbour to Sherkin Island during the night. Photo: Tom Vaughan
Another of his tricks was to trip the anchor of carefully-anchored boats. Nowadays when it only needs a quick jab of astern with the auxiliary engine to dig the anchor in again, that wouldn’t be too much of a hassle. But in the old days when many craft were engine-less, it was a real pain to have to stick up some sail to make some way astern.

However, that was as nothing compared to the experience of at least two visiting crews, who went to sleep with their boats anchored serenely close in off Baltimore and woke in the morning to find themselves anchored over at Sherkin. Albert had taken it upon himself to move them quietly across Baltimore Harbour.

Nowadays people would be queuing up and paying good money for the extraordinary experience of having their boat moved almost a mile during the night by a friendly hyper-clever big dolphin. But back in the ancient times, visitors to Baltimore were earnestly warned of the hazards posed by Albert, he was looked on as very much of a mixed blessing, and most certainly not as a very special visitor attraction.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

Preparing to remove materials from a grounded ghost ship by helicopter on Tuesday is in the hands of Cork County Council as they could pose a pollution risk.

The council according to Green News.ie, is preparing to airlift barrels of machine oil from the abandoned cargo ship (Alta) stranded on rocks near Ballycotton in east Cork as part of its pollution mitigation efforts.

It has said that the coastal operation to reduce the risk of an oil spill from the ghost ship was ongoing during the weekend and that a helicopter is going to be used to facilitate the process.

The 77m long cargoship, MV Alta was abandoned since September 2018 and was drifting across the Atlantic until it was grounded in Ballycotton during Storm Denis. The US Coast Guard had rescued the ship’s 10 crew members from the Atlantic Ocean in 2018.

The Council had previously said that very little diesel was left in the vessel’s fuel tanks and that its environmental scientists are satisfied that there is no visible pollution within the Ballycotton Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or nearby Natural Heritage Areas.

Following further investigation, the local authority discovered barrels of machine oil and diesel stowed in various parts of the MV Alta. A marine contractor has now boarded the ship to bring barrels onto the deck to facilitate their safe removal, according to the Council.

Click HERE for more on this story.

Published in Coastal Notes

Fuel in small amounts has been found in tanks belonging to the grounded cargo ship, MV Alta, but there is no cargo on board.

That is according to an initial report by marine contractors who boarded the vessel at low tide this morning.

It followed a request from Cork County Council and the Irish Coast Guard.

The 80-metre vessel ran aground west of Ballycotton, Co Cork during Storm Dennis on Sunday.

It had been drifting in the Atlantic for more than a year after it was abandoned by its crew.

RTE News has more here to report on the grounding. 

Published in Ports & Shipping

The warmest year for the ocean in all of human history took place last year, according to a new study.

According to GreenNews.ie, research from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics also found that the past five years produced the warmest ocean temperatures on record.

The Atlantic Ocean has absorbed a large amount of heat, while the Southern Ocean that encircles Antarctica has taken up “most of the global warming heat” since 1970, the study finds.

Marine heatwave events were also found in the Mediterranean Sea and continue to pose a significant risk to marine biodiversity and fisheries, the study adds.

For further reading click this link. 

Published in Marine Science

The Friends of Glenua 2019/20 Winter Lectures, in aid of the RNLI, resumes on Thursday 16 January at the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club, Dublin.

An entry contribution of €5 is in aid of the RNLI and the subject of the lecture is: “Secrets of the Basking Shark-in search of a sea-monster”

The speaker is Emmett Johnston.

The basking shark is the second largest shark in the world, growing to almost 11 metres and weighing up to 4 tonnes. With huge gaping mouth and lethargic surface swimming behaviour, this giant creature is often seen in Irish waters during summer months.

Having a liver yielding up to 400 gallons of valuable oil, basking sharks were slaughtered in their thousands in Ireland for over a 200 years. Now they are little more than a curiosity for fishermen and sailor alike but mysteries abound. Where, for instance, do they go in winter?

In the last decade, Irish marine scientists have pioneered the hunt for solutions with new research methods and unthreatening technologies, such as pop-up electronic tags and satellites. They have uncovered new truths about one of the world’s most elusive creatures, a true oceanic citizen, an animal that carries no passport and respects no boundaries.

Emmett Johnston is an ecologist with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and a co-founder of the Irish Basking Shark Study Group. Since 2009 he has led the development of basking shark centred research, conservation and community initiatives in Irish and International waters. He is also an active member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

In his lecture, Emmett will tell the story of Ireland’s long relationship with this iconic marine creature and how recent advances in marines science are helping marine ecologists to gain new insights into how animal behaviour studies can inform the conservation of our natural world.

Published in Dublin Bay

As you make your passage west through Belfast Harbour to the Marina you probably don’t realise that on your port side near the cruise liner terminal is gem of a wildlife sanctuary just a hundred metres away writes Betty Armstrong.

And it’s walkable from the Marina via Airport Road.

It’s called Belfast’s Window on Wildlife (Wow), run by the conservation charity RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), and from a huge window in the refurbished visitor centre overlooking a freshwater lagoon, you can see a huge variety of birds and ducks. There are also several Polish Konik ponies which graze the area around the lagoon, creating ideal conditions for ground-nesting birds.

"Over 200 different species have been recorded"

Over 200 different species have been recorded long with lots of butterflies, mammals, fish and plants. Binoculars are available though the birds and ducks are so close they’re hardly needed.

This time of year brings mostly ducks from the Arctic regions and Eastern Europe - wigeons, teals, shovelers and shelducks. And WOW will also sometimes even get shorebirds visiting from Siberia and North America.

From the Belfast Harbour Marina in Titanic Quarter it’s about a 45-minute walk but it’s also safe to cycle. Bikes can be hired just across the River Lagan by the footbridge.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 1 of 53

The Irish Navy Fleet

The Naval Service is the State's principal seagoing agency. The Naval Service operates jointly with the Army and Air Corps.

The fleet comprises one Helicopter Patrol Vessel (HPV), three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), two Large Patrol Vessel (LPV) and two Coastal Patrol Vessels (CPV). Each vessel is equipped with state of the art machinery, weapons, communications and navigation systems.

LÉ EITHNE P31

LE Eithne was built in Verlome Dockyard in Cork and was commissioned into service in 1984. She patrols the Irish EEZ and over the years she has completed numerous foreign deployments.

Type Helicopter Patrol Vessel
Length 80.0m
Beam 12m
Draught 4.3m
Main Engines 2 X Ruston 12RKC Diesels6, 800 HP2 Shafts
Speed 18 knots
Range 7000 Nautical Miles @ 15 knots
Crew 55 (6 Officers)
Commissioned 7 December 1984

LÉ ORLA P41

L.É. Orla was formerly the HMS SWIFT a British Royal Navy patrol vessel stationed in the waters of Hong Kong. She was purchased by the Irish State in 1988. She scored a notable operational success in 1993 when she conducted the biggest drug seizure in the history of the state at the time, with her interception and boarding at sea of the 65ft ketch, Brime.

Type Coastal Patrol Vessel
Length 62.6m
Beam 10m
Draught 2.7m
Main Engines 2 X Crossley SEMT- Pielstick Diesels 14,400 HP 2 Shafts
Speed 25 + Knots
Range 2500 Nautical Miles @ 17 knots
Crew 39 (5 Officers)

LÉ CIARA P42

L.É. Ciara was formerly the HMS SWALLOW a British Royal Navy patrol vessel stationed in the waters of Hong Kong. She was purchased by the Irish State in 1988. She scored a notable operational success in Nov 1999 when she conducted the second biggest drug seizure in the history of the state at that time, with her interception and boarding at sea of MV POSIDONIA of the south-west coast of Ireland.

Type Coastal Patrol Vessel
Length 62.6m
Beam 10m
Draught 2.7m
Main Engines 2 X Crossley SEMT- Pielstick Diesels 14,400 HP 2 Shafts
Speed 25 + Knots
Range 2500 Nautical Miles @ 17 knots
Crew 39 (5 Officers)

LÉ ROISIN P51

L.É. Roisin (the first of the Roisín class of vessel) was built in Appledore Shipyards in the UK for the Naval Service in 2001. She was built to a design that optimises her patrol performance in Irish waters (which are some of the roughest in the world), all year round. For that reason a greater length overall (78.8m) was chosen, giving her a long sleek appearance and allowing the opportunity to improve the conditions on board for her crew. 

Type Long Offshore Patrol Vessel
Length 78.84m
Beam 14m
Draught 3.8m
Main Engines 2 X Twin 16 cly V26 Wartsila 26 medium speed Diesels
5000 KW at 1,000 RPM 2 Shafts
Speed 23 knots
Range 6000 Nautical Miles @ 15 knots
Crew 44 (6 Officers)
Commissioned 18 September 2001

LÉ NIAMH P52

L.É. Niamh (the second of the Róisín class) was built in Appledore Shipyard in the UK for the Naval Service in 2001. She is an improved version of her sister ship, L.É.Roisin

Type Long Offshore Patrol Vessel
Length 78.84m
Beam 14m
Draught 3.8m
Main Engines 2 X Twin 16 cly V26 Wartsila 26 medium speed Diesels
5000 KW at 1,000 RPM 2 Shafts
Speed 23 knots
Range 6000 Nautical Miles @ 15 knots
Crew 44 (6 Officers)
Commissioned 18 September 2001

LÉ SAMUEL BECKETT P61

LÉ Samuel Beckett is an Offshore Patrol Vessel built and fitted out to the highest international standards in terms of safety, equipment fit, technological innovation and crew comfort. She is also designed to cope with the rigours of the North-East Atlantic.

Type Offshore Patrol Vessel
Length 90.0m
Beam 14m
Draught 3.8m
Main Engines 2 x Wärtsilä diesel engines and Power Take In, 2 x shafts, 10000kw
Speed 23 knots
Range 6000 Nautical Miles @ 15 knots
Crew 44 (6 Officers)

LÉ JAMES JOYCE P62

LÉ James Joyce is an Offshore Patrol Vessel and represents an updated and lengthened version of the original RÓISÍN Class OPVs which were also designed and built to the Irish Navy specifications by Babcock Marine Appledore and she is truly a state of the art ship. She was commissioned into the naval fleet in September 2015. Since then she has been constantly engaged in Maritime Security and Defence patrolling of the Irish coast. She has also deployed to the Defence Forces mission in the Mediterranean from July to end of September 2016, rescuing 2491 persons and recovering the bodies of 21 deceased

Type Offshore Patrol Vessel
Length 90.0m
Beam 14m
Draught 3.8m
Main Engines 2 x Wärtsilä diesel engines and Power Take In, 2 x shafts, 10000kw
Speed 23 knots
Range 6000 Nautical Miles @ 15 knots
Crew 44 (6 Officers)

LÉ WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS P63

L.É. William Butler Yeats was commissioned into the naval fleet in October 2016. Since then she has been constantly engaged in Maritime Security and Defence patrolling of the Irish coast. She has also deployed to the Defence Forces mission in the Mediterranean from July to October 2017, rescuing 704 persons and recovering the bodies of three deceased.

Type Offshore Patrol Vessel
Length 90.0m
Beam 14m
Draught 3.8m
Main Engines 2 x Wärtsilä diesel engines and Power Take In, 2 x shafts, 10000kw
Speed 23 knots
Range 6000 Nautical Miles @ 15 knots
Crew 44 (6 Officers)

LÉ GEORGE BERNARD SHAW P64

LÉ George Bernard Shaw (pennant number P64) is the fourth and final ship of the P60 class vessels built for the Naval Service in Babcock Marine Appledore, Devon. The ship was accepted into State service in October 2018, and, following a military fit-out, commenced Maritime Defence and Security Operations at sea.

Type Offshore Patrol Vessel
Length 90.0m
Beam 14m
Draught 3.8m
Main Engines 2 x Wärtsilä diesel engines and Power Take In, 2 x shafts, 10000kw
Speed 23 knots
Range 6000 Nautical Miles @ 15 knots
Crew 44 (6 Officers)

Ship information courtesy of the Defence Forces

About the Irish Navy

The Navy maintains a constant presence 24 hours a day, 365 days a year throughout Ireland’s enormous and rich maritime jurisdiction, upholding Ireland’s sovereign rights. The Naval Service is tasked with a variety of roles including defending territorial seas, deterring intrusive or aggressive acts, conducting maritime surveillance, maintaining an armed naval presence, ensuring right of passage, protecting marine assets, countering port blockades; people or arms smuggling, illegal drugs interdiction, and providing the primary diving team in the State.

The Service supports Army operations in the littoral and by sea lift, has undertaken supply and reconnaissance missions to overseas peace support operations and participates in foreign visits all over the world in support of Irish Trade and Diplomacy.  The eight ships of the Naval Service are flexible and adaptable State assets. Although relatively small when compared to their international counterparts and the environment within which they operate, their patrol outputs have outperformed international norms.

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