Displaying items by tag: Northern Ireland
#MarineWildlife - Seals are not threatening commercial fishing stocks in Irish waters, with the possible exception of wild Atlantic salmon, according to new research led by Queen's University Belfast.
The findings show that seals are having no significant impact on populations of the most popular species of fish caught for commercial purposes along the south and west coasts of Ireland from Galway to Waterford.
The first comprehensive study of its kind, the conclusions of this research – led by QUB in collaboration with University College Cork and the Marine Institute – suggest that the seals do not compete with fishermen over the stocks.
"We need to emphasise that this work in no way says that seals cause no problems for the fishing industry," said lead researcher Dr Keith Farnsworld of QUB. "They do create significant problems for static fishing gear, such as the fixed nets used by estuarine salmon fishers, and they may also impact on numbers of wild salmon, although most salmon eaten on these islands is farmed.
"What we are saying is that for most commercially fished species off the south and west coasts of Ireland – herring, mackerel, cod, haddock, whiting and 30 other species – seals are having no significant negative effect on numbers.
"This is because the seals are eating much smaller fish than the larger, mature specimens that fishermen are required by law to catch. So seals are often eating the same species of fish as we buy in the supermarkets, but younger versions of them. And there are hundreds more younger fish than mature fish in any given species.
"In fact, we found evidence that seals may actually be doing the fishermen a favour, by eating some species that prey on the valuable stocks the fishermen are after."
Prof David Reid of the Marine Institute added that "what this work shows is that the only way to really resolve questions like this one is to be able to actually look at the detail, and work out what is going on.
"This work used material as diverse as the gut contents of the seals and the fish, through seal 'scat', to samples taken from commercial catches and research vessel surveys, and elaborate mathematical models.
"The idea of seals being direct competitors with the fishing boats for the fish out there intuitively seems pretty obvious. But actually, in this case, it is not really true. They both 'eat' fish. But not the same fish, and they do not compete with each other.
"This is not to say," he added, "that seals do not compete with fishermen in other ways. In other recent work we showed that fishermen who use set nets round the coast of Ireland can lose fish straight out of their nets to seals. But as with this study, we needed to go into the detail, and get our hands dirty to prove that."
The findings of this new research are based on data from an area roughly 100 miles off south and west Ireland, encompassing the coastlines of counties Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Clare and Galway. The data was collected from seal droppings of both grey and common seals and collated by researchers from University College Cork.
Supplementary information was obtained from the Marine Institute and the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).
The data was then interpreted by researchers at QUB's Institute for Global Food Security. Their conclusions have been published today in The Journal of Applied Ecology.
The study will be good news to the ears of seal fans in Northern Ireland, whose grey seal population is having a bumper year in 2015, as BBC News reports.
Co Down in particular is reporting strong numbers at such seal-friendly locations as the Copeland Islands and Strangford Lough, where 107 seal pups were counted this year – a sign of good health for the ecosystem as a whole.
BBC News has more on the story HERE.
#Tragedy - A couple from Northern Ireland have drowned in South Africa just days after their wedding, as RTÉ News reports.
The bodies of 28-year-old John Rodgers and his 26-year-old wife Lynette from Holywood, Co Down were found on Friday evening (24 October) some 200 metres apart in shallow surf on a beach near Plettenberg Bay in South Africa's Western Cape province.
It's believed that they got into difficulty while swimming on what was the first day of their honeymoon. Strong rip currents are common in an area known for rough seas.
RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.
#Lifeguards - As RNLI lifeguards prepare to bring the 2015 season to a close this weekend in Northern Ireland, the charity that saves lives at sea has appealed to anyone planning a trip to the beach during the autumn and winter months to keep safe.
The season will draw to an end this Sunday 27 September, and RNLI lifeguard manager Mike Grocott is keen to remind anyone going to the beach post season to be aware that the lifeguards won’t be on patrol but that the same beach safety advice applies.
"While we can expect our beaches to be generally quieter in the coming months, there will be people using the water for activities such as surfing and kitesurfing.
"In the absence of RNLI lifeguards during this period, we would encourage anyone going to the beach to check weather and tide times, let someone know when you are due back, and carry a means of communication.
"If you see someone in trouble, please call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. People can also get advice at their local RNLI lifeboat station."
During the 2015 season there was RNLI lifeguard cover on 10 beaches on the Causeway Coast and in Co Down: Benone, Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West, Portrush East, Whiterocks, Tyrella, Murlough and Cranfield.
Five of the busier beaches were patrolled during the Easter period and at weekends from then till the middle of June before the full time season commenced on all 10 beaches running to 6 September. Lifeguards have maintained a presence at the busier beaches at weekends during September and will finish on Sunday evening.
Reflecting on the season, Grocott said the lifeguards had dealt with a variety of incidents. "Despite the weather being unkind for most of the summer, we did see a lot of visitors to our beaches and RNLI lifeguards dealt with a range of things including rescues and major first aids involving body boarders, paddle boarders and kite surfers.
"They also responded to people who got into difficulty on the beach itself including a teenager who collapsed and a man who was struggling to breathe in his car.
"There were a number of unusual incidents to deal with this summer too, including responding to a sand dune fire, red flagging beaches in a severe thunder and lightning storm and dealing with the discovery of mortar bombs. Our lifeguards are highly skilled and trained and thanks to that they knew how to handle such incidents professionally when they occurred."
The lifeguards also provided safety cover and engaged with the public at key events during the summer including the Portrush Raft Race, the Tall Ships in Belfast, the Portrush Airshow, and the Glens of Antrim triathlon.
"We worked closely with our lifeboat crews at Portrush, Newcastle, Kilkeel and Red Bay, too, to respond to incidents and provide safety cover when required."
RNLI lifeguards also delivered education programmes to primary school children across Northern Ireland. Programmes such as Hit the Surf enabled the lifeguards to impart important beach safety advice through theoretic and practical lessons in lifesaving and surf-based skills, local hazards and the beach environment.
Following weeks of intensive training in preparation for the new season, the lifeguards will be keeping visitors safe on seven beaches along the Causeway Coast and three in Co Down.
The beaches include Benone, Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West, Portrush East, Whiterocks, Tyrella, Murlough and Cranfield.
Five of the busier beaches had lifeguard cover during the Easter period which was followed by a weekend patrol on six beaches throughout April, May and June.
During weekend patrol on Sunday 14 June, RNLI lifeguards on Portstewart Strand dealt with their first major first aid incident of the summer.
At around 4.30pm, lifeguard Mairead McKeague was on duty at the water’s edge and patrolling the area between the red and yellow flags when she spotted a teenage boy at the east of the beach who had slipped on rocks and hit his head.
McKeague alerted senior lifeguard Damian McCauley and lifeguard Clara Doran, who responded immediately while she maintained patrol of the beach.
Lifeguard James Shannon, meanwhile, acted as the communications liaison between the RNLI and their colleagues in the coastguard and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service who also responded.
On scene within five minutes, McCauley and Doran proceeded to carry out first aid and treat the casualty for a head wound. They were joined five minutes later by a NIAS Rapid Response Paramedic and the Coleraine Coastguard Rescue Team, who proceeded to transport the casualty to their vehicle.
Speaking following the incident, RNLI lifeguard supervisor Tim Doran said: "Our lifeguards worked well together, spotting the incident quickly, communicating with each other and reacting swiftly to administer first aid to the casualty.
"They used their lifeguard training and skills to good effect with this incident serving as an example of the vigilant work our lifeguards do in responding to events that happen on the beach as well as those that occur in the water."
From Saturday 20 June, the RNLI took up full-time daily duty on all 10 beaches continuing to Sunday 6 September, when weekend duty will then resume on selected beaches throughout September.
Lifeguards will be on the beach daily between 11am and 7pm on the Causeway Coast and between 10am and 6pm in Co Down.
Ahead of the new season, the RNLI has reminded visitors to the beach to ask the lifeguards for water safety advice, and to call on a lifeguard if they see anyone in difficulty.
RNLI lifeguard manager Mike Grocott also encouraged visitors to bear in mind some key safety messages.
"The RNLI’s advice for anyone planning a trip to the beach is to check weather and tide times before you go and if planning to go into the water, swim at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags.
"Avoid using inflatables in strong winds or rough seas. If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help and if you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can’t see a lifeguard, call 909 or 112 and ask for the coastguard."
Throughout the summer, the lifeguards will deal with a range of incidents.
"While the same safety advice applies to all our beaches, we do tend to see patterns of activity that are more specific to some beaches than others," said Grocott.
"Whiterocks, for example, is most affected by last winter’s storm damage and there is a lot of coastal erosion there. It is also a beach known for its waves and swells so it is popular with surfers and body boarders.
"Benone, Portstewart and Portrush East, meanwhile, are large beaches which we know will attract a lot of people throughout the summer. We can also expect to be exceptionally busy on vank holiday weekends, during the fortnight holiday period in July and if and when the weather peaks.
"Having a good knowledge of the profile of our beaches and the types of activities that are popular on each of them helps to guide how we carry out our lifeguard training before the season begins so our lifeguards can be prepared for all the incidents they will encounter."
And as the Lurgan Mail reports, Team Ireland will be fielding a local in Lurgan man Chris Laverty against stiff competition from as far afield as Russia on 23-24 May.
Pike, perch and stocked rainbow trout will be the anglers' quarry in two four-hour blocks on Saturday and Sunday – but they won't be taking any home as it's strictly a catch-and-release contest using barbless hooks.
The Lurgan Mail has more on the story HERE.
#Angling - Are developers causing difficulties for disabled anglers in Co Antrim?
That's what the Six Mike Water Trust's Michael Martin has alleged, as Farming Life reports, with claims that housing developments on the Kirbys’ Lane river walk are "destroying the river corridor" at the disabled angling stand.
What's more, a proposed development for 400 homes on the Six Mile Water's flood plain downstream in an area home to a variety of aquatic wildlife is "surely... a contravention to EEC Water Framework and Habitats Directives."
Farming Life has more on the story HERE.
After undergoing intensive training in preparation, the charity’s lifeguards will be keeping visitors safe on Tyrella Beach in Co Down and on Benone Strand, Portstewart Strand, East and West Strands in Portrush and Whiterocks on the Causeway Coast.
Lifeguards will begin their patrols on Good Friday (3 April) between 11am and 7pm on the Causeway Coast and between 10am and 6pm in Co Down and continue daily to Sunday 12 April.
Cover will be provided every weekend until the end of June ahead of the summer season, when a daily duty will get underway on all 10 RNLI lifeguarded beaches in Northern Ireland.
"Our lifeguards are looking forward to going on patrol and meeting people who come to the beach," said RNLi lifeguard manager Mick Grocott. "We would encourage visitors to speak to our lifeguards, ask for safety advice, and most importantly call on them should they find themselves in difficulty."
Winter storms changed the profile of all the beaches with extensive damage at Whiterocks, Portrush East and Portstewart where there are high and unstable sand cliffs.
The RNLI’s advice for anyone planning a trip to the beach is to: check weather and tide times before you go and if planning to go into the water; only go swimming at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags; and avoid using inflatables in strong winds or rough seas.
If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help and if you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can’t see a lifeguard, call 909 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
The news comes some months after the European Commission put pressure on Westminster to designate more protected areas for the smallest of Ireland's cetaceans, whose swimming grounds are being encroached by offshore wind farm development.
And the new proposals for Northern Irish waters also include protections for important seabird colonies as well as an area of seagrass that's vital to local biodiversity.
But the overall scale of the UK's MCZ plans, reduced from more than 100 proposed zones to a total of 50 over the past two years, has been criticised by conservation groups for betraying a 'lack of ambition'.
The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.
#WaterSafety - The RNLI is advising anyone planning on visiting its lifeguarded beaches on the North Coast to stay well away from dangerous cliff edges that have been impacted by recent weather conditions.
Winter storms have dramatically changed the profile of beaches at Whiterocks, Portrush East and Portstewart, creating high sand cliffs that are unstable. RNLI lifeguard manager Mike Grocott is asking the public to be mindful of the changes ahead of making a visit.
"Winter storms have taken their toll on the make-up of some of the beaches this year, particularly at Whiterocks, Portrush East and Portstewart, and many people returning to these favourite spots may be surprised at how different everything looks.
"This includes significant erosion of the sand dunes where gentle slopes have washed away leaving sheer sand cliffs, some of which are up to 18 feet high.
"Access points have been altered and on some beaches the shifting sand has left deep channels that in turn create strong rip currents.
"We would encourage anyone planning a trip to one of these beaches to put safety first and be mindful that these sand cliffs are falling away and may be unstable. The best advice is to stay away from the sand cliff edges and bases."
Meanwhile, RNLI lifeguards are busy preparing for a new season where they will be patrolling 10 beaches in Northern Ireland during the summer. Last year RNLI lifeguards responded to 251 incidents, assisting 284 people.
Running from March to June, Meet the Lifeguards and Hit the Surf aim to educate pupils in P5-P7 on the importance of beach safety in a fun and practical way.
Meet the Lifeguards gives pupils the opportunity to participate in an informative and interactive session when RNLI lifeguards visit their school. The 45-minute presentation focuses on equipping pupils with key safety advice that they can put to use when they visit a beach with family and friends.
Pupils will learn more about the RNLI, the charity that saves lives at sea and the role of the RNLI lifeguard on the beach. They will be educated on what the different beach safety flags and signs mean; the safety of using inflatables while swimming; and how to identify natural and man-made hazards. They will also learn about body boarding and surfing safety, rip currents and how to escape them and safety information on tides and waves.
Hit the Surf, meanwhile, offers a unique opportunity for school children to get practical lessons in lifesaving and beach safety at one of the 10 RNLI lifeguarded beaches located on the north coast and in Co Down.
The session, which lasts two-and-a-half hours, includes a theory lesson on staying safe at the beach and the role of the RNLI and its lifeguards. It's followed by practical lessons in lifesaving and surf-based skills while building pupils confidence in the sea. The pupils will also learn about local hazards and the beach environment.
RNLI lifeguard supervisor Tim Doran is encouraging schools to get involved. "Education and prevention are an important part of the RNLI’s work and programmes such as Meet the Lifeguards and Hit the Surf enable us as lifeguards to deliver important beach safety advice in a way that is both informative and engaging," he says.
"We hope that pupils can then take what they learn, share it with family and friends and use it to have fun in a safe way when they visit a beach."
Last year, RNLI lifeguards in Northern Ireland responded to 251 incidents, assisting 284 people.
"With the profile of the beaches changing after winter storms, the RNLI lifeguards were kept busy in 2014," says Doran. "With rip currents and changing landscapes, the lifeguards engaged in a large amount of preventative work, speaking to beach users and advising of the safest places to swim."
For more information on how to book your school onto an RNLI education programme, please contact 028 7087 8492 or email [email protected]