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Cork fishermen have gone viral after appearing on a worldwide news broadcast to discuss Russia’s planned offshore military drills.

CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan — who hails from Kerry — tweeted a clip of the interview he conducted with the fishers in Castletownbere last night (Saturday 29 January) following Russia’s agreement to move its planned live-fire exercises out of Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Yesterday evening, Foreign Affairs and Defence Minister Simon Coveney confirmed the move. This was followed by a statement from the Russian ambassador which described the decision to relocate the exercises as “a gesture of goodwill” following requests from the Irish Government and the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Association (IS&WFPO).

The ambassador met with fishing industry representatives on Thursday (27 January) to hear their concerns surrounding the manoeuvres, which had been planned for an area in international waters on the continental shelf but within Ireland’s EEZ and close to important fishing grounds.

O’Sullivan was joined on air by Alan Carleton and Patrick Murphy, the latter of whom was at the meeting with Ambassador Yuriy Filatov in Dublin.

On the prospect of Irish trawlers coming face-to-face with the Russian navy, Murphy said: “There’s enough families around here that have lost their loved ones to the sea, and that’s enough of a danger to be facing without going out and facing a military exercise.”

He added: “We have to thank the Russians for acknowledging that we played a small part in this. That’s good for us.”

Carleton, meanwhile, expressed his relief that fish stocks in the area will no longer be impacted “as live fire will case problems with the fish”.

Asked by O’Sullivan if the move is proof that fishermen diplomacy works, Murphy resoponded: “It seems to.”

Regarding the impact on marine wildlife, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said they are pleased with the decision “which should reduce exposure of deep-diving species along the shelf edge to this exercise.

“We hope future military exercises e.g. by the UK and NATO will also considered their environmental impacts,” the group added.

Published in Fishing
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Russian military exercises planned for next week will no longer take place within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the Foreign Affairs Minister has confirmed.

In a tweet published this evening (Saturday 29 January), Simon Coveney — who is also Minister for Defence — said: “This week I wrote to my counterpart, the Minister of Defence of Russia, to request a reconsideration of naval exercises off the Irish coast. This evening I received a letter confirming the Russian exercises will be relocated outside of Ireland’s EEZ. I welcome this response.”

The planned manoeuvres, which will include live-fire exercised by Russia’s navy and air force, have been the subject of much controversy in recent days.

Originally proposed for an area some 240km southwest of Cork, in international waters but within Ireland’s EEZ, the plans sparked concerns among the Irish fishing fleet and conversationists alike over the potential impact on important fishing grounds and habitats for vulnerable marine wildlife.

A marine craft advisory over “serious safety risks” surrounding the planned military drills was published by the Department of Transport, before a “successful and positive meeting” between fishing industry representatives and the Russian ambassador on Thursday.

Published in News Update
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An Irish MEP and former Greenpeace activist has spoken of her experiences encountering the Russian military amid the controversy surrounding next week’s planned live-fire exercises within Ireland’s EEZ.

Grace O’Sullivan recalled facing a forceful response when she climbed the anchor chain of a Russian nuclear warship during an anti-nuclear protest in the 1980s.

“I was barefoot and carrying an anti-nuclear flag in an action aimed at highlighting the presence of Russian military nuclear warships in the Mediterranean Sea, close to densely populated areas,” she said.

“I was greeted with a water cannon and the crew proceeded to drop the anchor chain, attempting to submerge me.”

Acknowledging the outcome of discussions between Irish fishing industry representatives and the Russian ambassador over the planned manoeuvres 240km off the Cork coast, the Green Party MEP was blunt in her assessment of what might happen if trawlers and Russian naval vessels come into close quarters.

Grace O’Sullivan in the 1980s protesting with Greenpeace on the anchor chain of a Russian naval warship | Credit: GreenpeaceGrace O’Sullivan in the 1980s protesting with Greenpeace on the anchor chain of a Russian naval warship | Credit: Greenpeace

“As someone who has come face-to-face with the Russian military over my time as a Greenpeace activist, I know they would be less than welcoming if our fishers were to square up to them off our shores. I would certainly have concerns for fishers’ safety under those circumstances.”

She added: “In my view, fishers will not be welcomed by the Russian naval personnel, but I am an activist at heart and understand fishers’ desperation in trying to protect marine life in the area and fight to save their livelihoods and way of life.”

O’Sullivan said the planned naval drills and missile tests “are alarming on every front. Some reassurance has been given to fishers…that their fishing grounds will not be affected by next week’s Russian naval exercises. However, I remain gravely concerned at the potential negative impacts on the general marine environment in the area.”

And she said the concerns of the fishing fleet and environmentalists alike over the potential impact on the area’s marine wildlife are justified.

“It reflects general opposition amongst the Irish public to the militarisation of our waters, where the navies of Russia and other countries can operate without accountability,” the MEP from Tramore added.

“As a member of the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament, I will continue to oppose the militarisation of our seas as I have done for over 30 years and fight to hold militaries accountable for their detrimental impact on the marine environment and the safety of seafarers everywhere.”

Published in News Update

The latest Marine Notice from the Department of Transport advises of “serious safety risks” for vessels” around plans by the Russian military to conduct live-fire exercises off the Cork coast from next week.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, concerns have been raised over what’s been termed as a “major” military exercise by the Russian navy and air force in international waters in the Atlantic, some 240km off Co Cork but within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Marine Notice No 06 of 2022 — which is attached below — provides coordinates of the area where the naval manoeuvres will be conducted between next Thursday 3 and Tuesday 8 February.

“The Russian Federation has indicated that the exercises will include the use of naval artillery and launching of rockets,” the notice emphasises.

“Given the nature of the planned exercises and the presence of naval forces, vessels and crew are advised of serious safety risks in the operational area. Masters should navigate their vessel to ensure safety at all times.”

The notice comes as the Irish fishing fleet have been assured that their fishing grounds will not be affected by the military exercise.

As the Irish Examiner reports, fishing industry representatives met Russian ambassador Yury Filatov upon his invitation to discuss the planned naval and air force drills and it was agreed that there will be a “buffer zone” in place between Russian vessels and fishing trawlers, pending approval from Moscow.

Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association said following the meeting: “It has been a very good day for the Irish fishing industry.”

Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation chief Patrick Murphy added that it was up to individual fishing trawlers as to whether they will fish the affected grounds, which open on 1 February.

Concerns have also been expressed about the potential impact on marine wildlife in the area, including vulnerable deep-water whale species. Afloat.ie has more HERE.

Published in News Update
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Irish fishermen planning a peaceful protest over Russian naval exercises off the south-west Irish coast have been invited to talks by the Russian Ambassador to Ireland.

Ambassador Yuriy Filatov asked members of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) to discussions at the Russian embassy in Dublin on Thursday to hear their concerns about the proposed naval exercises planned for early February.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said Russia should call off its plans for military exercises off the Irish coast, saying it would “demonstrate goodwill” that they want to de-escalate tensions at a time of concern over a potential war in Ukraine.

The IS&WFPO announced its protest earlier last week over concerns about the potential harm to fish stocks and cetaceans from the effect of military sonar use and possible disruption from live ammunition drills in the area during the drills.

ISW&FPO chief executive Patrick MurphyISW&FPO chief executive Patrick Murphy

It is expected that the ISW&FPO delegation headed by chief executive Patrick Murphy will request that the planned area for the five-day exercise would be relocated further south west into deeper water off the Continental Shelf.

Up to 60 fishing vessels affiliated to the IS&WFPO pledged to peacefully disrupt the exercises, due to take place within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone, due to the threats to marine life and biodiversity.

Murphy said that there were currently "half a billion tonnes" of blue whiting in the area that move up along the coastline, representing "a one million tonne fishery".

"We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we're fishing there then these boats, these warships, shouldn't be having war games."

Murphy said an issue of "real concern" was that fishing gear could get tangled with a submarine.

In a comment, the Russian Embassy said it would be “reckless” for the fishing organisation to send vessels to the area within the exercise.

Ambassador Filatov said earlier this week that controversy around the exercise was "hugely overblown"..

He told a press conference that the planned exercises by Russian naval vessels were "not in any way a threat to Ireland or anybody else" and that no harm was intended by it.

Filatov said three or four ships would be involved, but he did not know if missiles or submarines would be used.

In an interview on RTÉ Radio’s Claire Byrne Show on Wednesday, Varadkar said that while he respected fishermen’s right to peaceful protest, he urged them not to be “naive” and not to put themselves at risk.

He said the Russian plans for naval exercises in the Republic’s exclusive economic zone are “not illegal” but “not welcome” and this had been conveyed to the Russian ambassador by Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said he was “ deeply concerned” about the impact on marine mammals, and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has expressed similar fears.

Published in Naval Visits
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Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan says he is “ deeply concerned” at the news that military exercises are to be conducted by Russia within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Area due to the impact on marine mammals.

In a statement last night, Noonan said he had written to both Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the Russian Ambassador to Ireland to express his concerns.

“While we do not know the nature of these exercises, we do know that underwater sounds such as active military sonar can have devastating consequences for cetaceans including some of our rarest marine mammal species, notably the deep-diving and rarely-seen Blue whale, Sperm whale and beaked whales,” Noonan said.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm NoonanMinister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan

“ It can cause significant disruption to their hearing systems and normal behaviour, and may lead to permanent or even lethal injury,” he said.

“Ireland’s marine mammals have been the focus of considerable research efforts over the last three decades and the understanding of species occurrence, abundance and distribution has improved markedly in that time,” he said.

As Afloat reported earlier, Cuvier’s beaked whales are known to inhabit the area where Russia plans a military exercise early next month

“Most recently the ObSERVE project, run jointly by my department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, mapped cetaceans through aerial and ship-based surveys over a three year period and across an extensive area of our off-shore waters,” he said.

“The second phase of this project – ObSERVE 2 – is currently ongoing,” Noonan said.

Russia's Ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said that controversy around the exercise was "hugely overblown".

He told a press conference on Monday that the planned exercises by Russian naval vessels off the southwest Irish coast were "not in any way a threat to Ireland or anybody else" and that no harm was intended by it.

Filatov said three or four ships would be involved, but he did not know if missiles or submarines would be used.

60 fishing vessels

Up to 60 fishing vessels affiliated to the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) have pledged to peacefully disrupt the exercises due to the threats to marine life and biodiversity.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland that there were currently "half a billion tonnes" of blue whiting in the area that move up along the coastline, representing "a one million tonne fishery".

"This is a very important ground where fish come to spawn... and we don't know what's going on out here.

"We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we're fishing there then these boats, these warships, shouldn't be having war games."

Murphy said an issue of "real concern" was that their fishing gear at the back of their boats could get tangled with a submarine.

In a comment to RTÉ, the Russian Embassy said it would be “reckless” for the fishing organisation to send vessels to the area within the exercise.

Head of German navy resigns

Earlier this week, the head of the German navy resigned after attracting criticism at home and abroad for saying that Ukraine would never regain the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Speaking at an event in New Delhi, India, on Friday, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach also said it was important to have Russia on side against China, and suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved “respect”.

“Is Russia really interested in having a tiny strip of Ukraine’s soil? No,” he said, in remarks which were recorded on video.

“Or to integrate it in the country? No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because he knows he can do it and he knows that it splits the European Union,” Schoenbach said.

“What he (Putin) really wants is respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost … It is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves,” he added, calling Russia an old and important country.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Irish fishing crews are planning to peacefully disrupt the planned Russian military exercise off the Cork coast next month, as RTÉ News reports.

Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said he told an official at the Russian Embassy that Irish crews “will be fishing in our traditional fishing areas and if this has an impact on their exercise this would be considered a peaceful protest”.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, concerns have been raised over the Russian missile tests that are being planned for international waters in the Atlantic some 240km off Co Cork but within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland this morning (Tuesday 25 January), Murphy added that the waters in question represent “a very important ground where fish come to spawn” and among other concerns noted the risk to fishing gear posed by any submarines that might accompany the Russian fleet.

“We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we’re fishing there then these boats, these warships shouldn’t be having war games,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it has written to Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney to express concern over the potential impact of the significant military exercise by the Russian navy and air force on marine wildlife in the area.

“Military exercises, especially the use of active sonar, are known to have a potentially huge impact on marine mammals, especially deep-diving species,” the group says.

“We are especially concerned as the slopes off the southwest including Goban Spur/Whittard Canyon are known to be important habitats for a range of deep-diving species” such as sperm whale, fin whales and Cuvier’s beaked whales, it adds.

Published in Naval Visits
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Concerns have been raised over Russia’s plans for a missile test off the coast of Ireland early next month, as TheJournal.ie reports.

What's been termed as a “major” military exercise by the Russian navy and air force will take place in international waters in the Atlantic some 240km off Co Cork but within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

It’s part of a wave of planned military exercises around the world announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration, and comes as tensions between Russia and NATO are at their peak surrounding fears of an invasion of Ukraine.

A security source tells TheJournal.ie that “with no primary radar, a limited number of maritime patrol aircraft and the majority of our naval fleet tied up”, it will be “very difficult to monitor anything on this scale”.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed to TheJournal.ie this evening (Saturday 22 January) that it has raised “concerns” with Moscow over the planned military manoeuvres.

TheJournal.ie has much more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
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A unique regatta is encouraging crews to swap the delights of Dublin Bay and other sea-level sailing grounds for the heights of the Caucasus.

The Kezenoy-am Cup is hosted by the Sailing Federation of the Chechen Republic at the highest lake in Russia, at an elevation of 1,870 metres.

Four racing days in SB20s and a variety of shore activities are organised for international participants and guests from 23 to 28 July.

Sailors will be racing for prizes that include the Challenge Cup of Kezenoy-Am and 1.2 million rubles (€16,000), and races will be umpired by Olympics and America’s Cup veteran race officer Luca Babini.

The event also includes a cultural programme with excursions in the Causasus, national dance shows and an introduction to the history and culture of Chechnya.

For more details on the Kezenoy-am Cup 2019 see the Sailing Federation of the Chechen Republic website HERE.

Published in SB20

#RussianSubs - Russian submarines have been tracked through the Irish Sea by the British military in recent days, according to Mail Online.

Two nuclear-powered Akula-class submarines were reportedly monitored by Royal Navy radar as they travelled to meet with a third sub tracked by Norway towards the English channel.

It’s understood all three were tracked by a Royal Navy sub before they went deep.

The situation comes after Russia unveiled a new stealth submersible craft amid escalating tensions over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interventions in Syria.

Mail Onine has much more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
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