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A Native Oyster Workshop has drawn on heritage and science to highlight the importance and future of the Native Oyster fisheries across Ireland during the Clarinbridge Oyster Festival.

Cuan Beo, a recently formed community based organization established with a mission of improving the quality of life, environment, economy and heritage around Galway Bay highlighted the need for action to restore the Native Oyster stocks across Ireland during the Native Oyster Workshop (NOW17) which was held in Clarinbridge last week Thursday 5th October 2017.

The workshop brought together Native Oyster Fishermen from the 8 remaining oyster fisheries in Ireland together with the relevant agencies responsible for their governance to develop a plan towards their restoration. The workshop heard that the native Oyster fisheries have been in decline for the past 200 years and are currently at an all-time low. Factors such as poor water quality, absence of fishery management plans, complex governance structures and overfishing have all contributed.

According to Diarmuid Kelly, Chairman of Cuan Beo, the aim of the workshop was to review the current status of the Native Oyster fisheries along the Atlantic coast of Ireland, to discuss the issues impacting on their productivity and identify a roadmap towards the effective management and restoration of Oyster Beds and to restore sustainable production output from these fisheries.

oyster farmers irelandCuan Beo committee members Diarmuid Kelly, Kelly's Oyster, Ollie Tully, Marine Institute, Seamus Breathnach BIM, Mary Gerry O'Halloran, and Colm O'Dowd Photo: Andrew Downes

While Galway and Clarinbridge is synonymous with the oyster, its ecological status is poor. The situation is similar across Europe. It is listed by OSPAR as ‘threatened and declining’ and is listed as a priority habitat in the UK and in many areas in Ireland, including Galway Bay. The native oyster is subject to conservation objectives and is seen as a significant component species in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). The workshop heard that much of the legislation is complex, misinterpreted and misunderstood.

Prof Noel Wilkins (NUI Galway) presented on the history of the native oyster beds in Galway Bay from times of super-abundance and tracking their decline to the present day. This was coupled with presentations from government agencies including the Marine Institute, the SFPA, Waters and Communities and BIM highlighting challenges relating to their restoration including licensing and governance, disease, water quality, fisheries management and displacement by invasive species. Case studies from successful fisheries were presented from Lough’s Agency in NI and Tralee Co-op.

An action plan was agreed at the workshop to create a national working group in the coming weeks. The group would not just lobby for simplification in governance but also to address assessment and up-skilling of existing co/op management in each area and the provision of support and assistance in developing management plans for each fishery. BIM agreed to coordinate the establishment of this working group.

The day-long event concluded with the official launch of Cuan Beo, by Cllr Eileen Mannion Caothairlaoch of County Galway. The launch was also attended by Seán Kyne TD Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment with responsibility for Natural Resources, Community Affairs, and Digital Development. Niall Sabongi (KLAW Restaurant Dublin) held a masterclass in oyster tasting with a selection of native oysters from the various fisheries across Ireland and the event was concluded with a lecture highlighting the importance of the oyster in Galway Bay from pre-historic times (4000BC) to the present day by Local Archaeologist and historian, Michael Gibbons.

Published in Fishing

On my PODCAST this week I am dealing with three particular subjects – the Government’s lack of interest in the United Nations honouring of seafarers this Sunday; concern in coastal communities from where there are claims that senior officials in the Department of the Marine have threatened fishermen that another cut in the size of the Irish fishing fleet will be forced upon them, with or without their agreement – and water shortages on West of Ireland offshore islands caused, their community representative association claims, by a quarter-century of neglect of the needs of these communities to enable them to continue living on the islands.

The International Maritime Organisation, which is the United Nations body for the sea, of which Ireland is a member, has not listed Ireland as officially marking Sunday next, June 25, as INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE SEAFARER, with the theme “SEAFARERS MATTER.” It is to be hoped that there will be individual efforts to remember the seafarers but it is a poor example by the State that an island nation, dependent for 95 per cent of its exports and imports on ships, shipping and seafarers, cannot officially run at least one national day in the year to show appreciation for seafarers. We will be pleased at AFLOAT to hear of events anywhere around Ireland.

DAY OF THE SEAFARER

There is a lot of concern in coastal communities about the future of the fishing industry amid fears that the Government is trying to force through another reduction in the Irish fleet, by cutting the number of boats to satisfy EU pressure, which gives a vastly bigger entitlement to catch fish in Irish waters to the bigger EU nations than Irish boats can catch in our own waters. That’s an issue I took up with the Minster for the Marine, Michael Creed, when I asked him if the Government is giving enough priority to maritime matters.

You can hear his response on the PODCAST below: 

Published in Island Nation

#RNLI - Skerries RNLI launched on Tuesday evening (30 May) after the Irish Coast Guard received reports of a distress flare fired from a trawler near Balbriggan.

The lifeboat — with helm David Knight and crew Stephen Crowley, AJ Hughes and JP Tanner — proceeded towards Balbriggan Harbour, where they soon spotted a fishing trawler with another fishing vessel alongside and went to investigate.

The fishing trawler had suffered a serious electrical problem and lost all power, lowering anchor and firing a flare to signal that they required help. The second fishing vessel had responded to the distress call and come to their assistance.

With the low tide making entrance to Balbriggan Harbour difficult, the broken-down trawler was taken under tow by the lifeboat and brought to the safety of Skerries Harbour.

Speaking after the callout, Skerries RNLI lifeboat press officer Gerry Canning said: “It doesn’t matter how prepared you are, things can go wrong at sea. Thankfully they were carrying flares and didn’t hesitate to use them to raise the alarm.

“We’d also like to say well done to the other vessel that responded immediately to the call for help.”

The incident came just days after a fishing vessel sank off Skerries, taking the life of one of its two crew, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Fishing - Migrant fishermen’s allegations of continued exploitation within the Irish fishing industry have been supported new figures that claim more than a fifth of the fleet employed undocumented workers last year.

That’s according to Fora, which cites figures from the latest annual report of the Workplace Relations Commission — indicating 28 cases out of 126 inspections where its officials found non-EEA employees without valid work permits.

The same report also notes a further 59 employments rights breaches on Irish trawlers in 2016.

This latest news comes just weeks after Labour Senator Ged Nash told the Seanad that new rules introduced to regularise migrant workers in the Irish fishing industry are not working – with many fishermen allegedly putting in more than double the hours for which they are guaranteed the minimum wage.

The scheme was introduced in the wake of the Guardian investigation into alleged widespread exploitation of migrant labour — but just 182 of the available 500 permits had been issued as of mid February this year, with five more issued by the end of March.

Meanwhile, two prosecutions have gone forward since the scheme was introduced in February 2016, but in both cases the defendants were cleared of wrongdoing.

Fora has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing

#Fishing - The Marine Institute will begin the annual Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey (IAMS 2017) off the North and North West Coasts from tomorrow (Saturday 8 June).

The 10-day operation, in fulfilment of Ireland’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) obligations, is a demersal trawl survey consisting of approximately 49 otter trawls (60 minutes) in ICES area 6a off Donegal – following on from a similar operation off the South Coast last month.

Fishing will take place within a three nautical mile radius of the positions indicated in Marine Notice 18 of 2017, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

The RV Celtic Explorer (Callsign EIGB) will be used throughout the duration of the survey. The vessel will be towing a Jackson demersal trawl during fishing operations, will display appropriate lights and signals, and will be listening on VHF Channel 16 throughout.

Commercial fishing and other marine operators are requested to keep a 3nm area around the tow points clear of any gear or apparatus during the survey period.

Full co-ordinates of the survey area, as well as details for fishing operators with static gear within the survey zone, are included in the aforementioned Marine Notice.

Published in Fishing

#Fishing - Local eel fishermen were celebrated recently at an information day hosted by Inland Fisheries Ireland in Athlone.

The fishermen, who are involved in IFI’s Scientific Eel Fisheries in different parts of the country, attended the event which aimed to provide an update on the progress made through these fisheries and to recognise the contribution of the fishermen to date.

In total, there are 11 fishermen involved in the initiative, with many experienced in fishing for eels over several years.

Since last year, they have provided support to IFI by fishing for eel in a conservation-focused manner with a view to gathering necessary data which will help protect the species into the future.

Their local expertise and historical knowledge around eels in their areaa has given invaluable support to IFI during the set up and delivery of the Scientific Eel Fishery.

IFI commenced the process of setting up a network of scientific fisheries for eel around Ireland in 2016. These scientific fisheries cover the different life stages — glass eel, elver, yellow and silver eel — and are distributed in key catchments around Ireland.

The purpose of the fisheries is to increase the knowledge around eels in Ireland ahead of the next EU review of this endangered species, and to inform the management of eel populations which are currently in decline.

Dr Cathal Gallagher, head of R&D at IFI, said: “This important partnership between eel fishermen and research has one shared objective: to improve our knowledge of the state of the eel populations and to ensure their conservation for future generations.

“Inland Fisheries Ireland appreciates the benefit of citizen science programmes such as this one which will preserve the heritage of eel fishing and at the same time deliver on the research requirements needed to report to the EU. I would like to recognise and thank all the fishermen involved for their support.”

Citizen science is growing in popularity and encompasses many different ways in which citizens who are non-scientists are involved in scientific research projects.

The involvement of fishermen in the Scientific Eel Fisheries plays an important role in respecting the tradition and heritage of eel fishing in Ireland. Many of the fishermen come from families where eel fishing has been practised across several generations with local expertise and knowledge passed down through the years.

Published in Fishing

#Brexit - Marine Minister Michael Creed will take his St Patrick's Day duties as an opportunity to extend his engagement with key EU member states on Brexit over the coming days.

Following recent formal meetings with his Spanish, Estonian and Maltese counterparts, Minister Creed scheduled meetings with his colleagues from Germany, Netherlands and Denmark to discuss common concerns about the likely impact of Brexit on the agri-food and fisheries sectors.

Speaking yesterday (Wednesday 15 March) ahead of a bilateral with German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt, Minister Creed said he intends to “emphasise the very real and serious concerns that we in Ireland have about the potential impact of Brexit on our agri-food and fisheries sectors, and to explore other member states’ assessment of the implications from their perspective.”

Noting that Brexit poses the threat of “a very negative impact on trade”, the minister highlighted in particular the many common concerns in the fisheries area.

“We are confronted with potentially very grave challenges on fisheries, primarily in relation to continued access to UK waters, where much of our fishing effort is undertaken,” he said. “I hope to discuss them in some detail, with a view to building a common platform as we seek to protect the interests of our fishing industries and communities.”

Published in Fishing

#Rescue - The Sligo-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter completed an early-morning medevac of a crewman from a Russian fishing vessel off the Mayo coast yesterday (Wednesday 8 March).

Owing to the distance involved in the rescue effort, communication support — known as ‘top cover’ — was provided for Rescue 118 by a second coastguard helicopter, the Dublin-based Rescue 116.

Both helicopters refuelled at Blacksod prior to transiting to the scene, some 180 miles north west of Erris Head.

The Russian crewman, who required urgent medical attention, was airlifted at 4.30am and transferred to Sligo University Hospital, where he was admitted shortly before 6am.

The operation was co-ordinated by the Marine Rescue Sub Centre in Malin Head.

Published in Rescue

#Fishing - Marine Minister Michael Creed’s meeting with his Spanish counterpart in Brussels yesterday (Monday 6 March) was “a very useful opportunity to identify common concerns” regarding the impact of Brexit on Europe’s fisheries.

Commenting on his discussion with Spain’s Isabel García Tejerina at the latest Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers, Minister Creed said: “We agreed that we will work towards building a common platform involving the main member states operating within the UK 200-mile fishery limits.

“The EU fishing industry is taking a similar approach, and our combined efforts will strengthen our delivery of the EU fishing priorities in the Brexit negotiations.”

Minister Creed had bilateral meetings on both the fisheries and agri-food aspects of Brexit with his counterparts from Scotland and Estonia, among others, as well as with Commissioner Phil Hogan.

Published in Fishing

#Fishing - Ireland’s stocks of Atlantic wild salmon are in a “serious position” due to the failure of the driftnet fishing ban to stem their decline.

That was the grave message from the annual Salmon Watch Ireland conference in Galway this past weekend, as The Irish Times reports.

Inland Fisheries Ireland chief executive Dr Ciaran Byrne added that conservation measures put in place a decade ago “don’t seem to have worked” as survival rates of salmon returning to Ireland’s rivers have fallen from 20% in 1980 to just 5% today.

Among the factors contributing to this decline, says Dr Byrne, are the impact of fish farming, by-catch from fishing trawlers, and climate change.

Research into the latter by Dr Ken Whelan suggests it has caused an “alarming” rise in salmon dying at sea, prompting stocks to move further north away from Ireland – and ultimately threatening the extinction of Irish salmon.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing
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