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Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s role in certifying the Irish mussel industry as “sustainable” has earned it an “Ocean Hero” award from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The MSC, based in Britain, is an international non-profit organisation which sets “globally recognised, science-based standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability”.

The MSC UK Ocean Hero award “recognises and rewards” fisheries and organisations that have “demonstrated exemplary leadership in the field of seafood sustainability and made a unique contribution to furthering the sustainability of fisheries”.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) holds three MSC mussel certificates in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The Northern Irish and Irish rope grown mussel fisheries were certified in 2019, and the Irish bottom grown mussel fishery achieved certification in 2013.

The blue MSC label on a seafood product certifies that comes from a wild-catch fishery which has been independently certified to the MSC’s science-based standard for environmentally sustainable fishing.

The label can be found on more than 100 species of seafood in 100 countries

“BIM is an example of vision, commitment and dedication in its push for making the Irish mussel industry 100% MSC certified and sustainable,” MSC senior fisheries outreach manager for Britain and Ireland Katie Keay said.

“Environmental and social sustainability underpins the seafood industry on the island of Ireland,” BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said.

"This MSC award recognises the collaboration and cross-industry efforts of the bottom grown and rope mussel operators for a sustainable future,” he said.

The Irish mussel industry was valued at €11.7 million in 2018 according to the BIM Business of Seafood report.

The mussel industry in Ireland produces more than 15,000 tonnes of mussels a year. This method of mussel farming was introduced in the 1980s predominantly along the west coast of Ireland.

The Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO) was highly commended in the “Ocean Hero” category at the MSC awards for its management of the hake gill net fishery.

The CFPO podcast for fishermen, named “ Fathom”, kept its fishing industry informed of developments throughout the Covid-19 lockdown in Britain.

It also teamed up with Seafood Cornwall’s #FishToYourDoor initiative, which brought together fish merchants and customers to support Cornish fishermen through the Corona virus crisis.

Published in Aquaculture
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, is to host a webinar on Wednesday 9th September 2020 at 2 pm on how the role of cultural values can be integrated more in small-scale fisheries management.

The webinar, which will be chaired and facilitated by BIM and organised by the Cabfishman project, will address the role of cultural values in the management of small-scale fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic and how these values can be more adequately accounted for.

Commenting on the Cabfishman project and webinar, Richard Curtin, Senior Economist with BIM said, “The Cabfishman project is an important international project with partners from Spain, Portugal, France and the UK, addressing common issues facing the small-scale fleets along the Atlantic. A crucial element of the project is the assessment of cultural heritage associated with the sea, fishing and the small-scale fleets and how to value that contribution so it can be accounted for in decision-making and policies and that is something which we are going to explore in this webinar.”

“One of the tasks of the project is to collate examples of cultural heritage and to create an open-access library of these examples that can be added to overtime. From an Irish perspective, we have collated over 400 examples, ranging from artwork by Paul Henry and others, traditional craftsmanship such as currach making, to ancient fishing knowledge such as ‘marcanna na tallamh’.”

This webinar, organised by the Cabfishman project, financed through the INTREREG Atlantic Area Programme, aims to address several questions via the following presentations:

Speakers and topics:

  • Evaluating the cultural services of small-scale fisheries in the Atlantic Area – David Castilla (University of Huelva)
  • Do small-scale fisheries need yet another research project? From output to outcome through stakeholder involvement – Marta Ballesteros (CETMAR Foundation)
  • Do cultural values play a role in Small Scale Fisheries Management? – Norah Parke (Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation)

The webinar is open to the public to attend and fishers, managers, officials, and those with an interest in the future co-management of small-scale fisheries in Ireland are actively encouraged to attend. To register for the free event visit here

Published in Dublin Bay
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The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) National Fisheries College of Ireland in Castletownbere, Co. Cork is piloting the Skipper Full Certificate of Competency as an online course, commenced this week (6th May 2020). The Skipper Full Programme will be conducted as a nine-week online course, followed by three weeks in situ in Castletownbere once the college can open for the new academic term in accordance with COVID restrictions.

This is a popular full-time course, designed for fishermen with a Second-Hand Full Certificate of Competency, and 12 months sea time in that capacity, who wish to gain further qualifications in skippering a vessel. The course delivers tuition in a range of core navigation and safety skills that will aid successful participants to obtain a Skipper Full Certificate of Competency.

BIM took the decision to pilot the training online as it will allow students the opportunity to complete their studies this year. Speaking after the online pilot was announced, Ian Mannix, Skills Development Services Manager, BIM said, “We felt it was important in the current difficult circumstances that students should have the option to continue their training, supported by BIM and embracing new technologies and teaching methods. We are actively looking at what other programmes we can introduce online to support our students’

BIM Skills Development unit is one of BIM’s five organisational units and is focussed on enhancing the attractiveness and viability of careers in the seafood sector. This is achieved by creating fully recognised and accredited pathways for lifelong learning and career progression, featuring recognition of prior learning and portable modular qualifications.

Capt. Shane Begley, College Principal, National Fisheries College of Ireland, Castletownbere spoke of the students’ reaction saying, “Currently we have four students enrolled on the pilot programme and I’m heartened to see how quickly they have adapted to online learning. It’s fantastic to be able to facilitate their ongoing training and we look forward to providing similar support with some of our other courses”.

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency and the Irish Forum on Natural Capital co-hosted a breakfast seminar Exploring Natural Capital Solutions for the Marine Environment today in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin. Natural Capital is the available stock of renewable and non-renewable resources that support human life. Natural Capital Accounting applies a measurable value to natural capital in economic and/or ecological terms.

The aim of the seminar, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, was to raise awareness and understanding of Natural Capital Accounting and to explore how it might be used by the seafood and other marine sectors.

Speaking at the event, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM said:

“ The Irish seafood sector depends on natural resources. BIM is constantly exploring new ways to help the industry improve its performance in a way that is sustainable. This focus on the protection of our marine environment will safeguard coastal communities reliant on the sector into the future.”

Jane Stout, Chair of the Irish Forum on Natural Capital and Professor in Ecology in Trinity College Dublin spoke of the similarities between ecology and economics. She said:

“We need to bring nature into decision making. We need to recognise that nature is the fundamental stock that underpins all of our activities. This language of natural capital brings the language of nature into the language of business. It’s not about putting a price on nature. We can put a price and monetary value on nature but that’s not the whole story. It doesn’t tell us about nature’s wider contribution to the ecosystem.”

Earlier this year, BIM commissioned The Institute for the Development of Environmental-Economic Accounting (IDEEA Group) to undertake a feasibility study of the Irish seafood sector to explore whether natural capital accounting could be applied.

Carl Obst and Mark Eigenraam of the IDEEA were among the speakers at today’s event, that included economists and environmental scientists. Speaking at the seminar, Carl Obst said:

“Natural capital accounting recognises and accounts for our relationship with and dependence on the environment. By adopting the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) BM is providing national leadership in the seafood sector in Ireland.”

Published in Fishing
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, and the Irish South and West Fishermen’s Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) co-hosted a net management workshop in Castletownbere, West Cork this month. The aim of the day-long event, attended by a cross -section of the Irish seafood sector and auxiliary industries, was to track the ‘journey’ of fishing gear from its initial entry into the market to its end of life or ‘retirement’. The workshop also looked at ways to better analyse and understand the source of marine litter brought ashore by the Irish catching fleet today.

New plastics and circular economy polices underpin emerging trends in sustainability. They require member states to minimise the impact of plastics on the environment and to increase the opportunities for used plastics to be recycled and retained instead of ending up on a landfill.

As of October 2019, a total of 224 fishing vessels are registered to Fishing For Litter (FFL). The national programme, where fishing vessels voluntarily collect and take ashore all marine litter they collect during normal fishing activities at sea, forms part of the wider Clean Oceans Initiative. The application of circular economy principles is key to the new national initiative to reduce marine waste so that fishing vessels can develop new ways to record, log and make an inventory of gear and marine waste. To date, 49 vessels are registered to Fishing for Litter in the port of Castletownbere. This represents one fifth of the national fleet.

“The local determination to demonstrate their fishing gear management is outstanding. Other key stakeholders such as the harbour management, net makers are also behind the objective and are keen to help communicate and validate the responsible approach taken by the large majority in Castletownbere”, said Patrick Murphy, CEO, ISWFPO.

The EU Commission is currently developing new ways to monitor and report fishing gear, from being placed on the market to its retirement. The Commission is also exploring ways to better analyse marine litter. The final report will be available in July 2020.

BIM’s establishment of the Fishing for Litter programme in 2015, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, has given Ireland a head start. The state agency for the development of the seafood sector is also working on ways to improve the characterisation of waste and marine litter. Progress in this area will ultimately lead to stronger insights about marine waste. BIM has also been handling end of life gear aspects since 2006. However, the new EU directives and polices on plastics will give a new impetus to addressing end of life gear.

“Demonstrating the responsible management of our gear at its end of life is a priority. A full trawl gear could have up to a 10-year life span and is an expensive key piece of equipment. We are keen to work with BIM to identify how best to monitor and record our gear efficiently and to demonstrate this objectively”, explained ISWFPO chairman, Damien Turner.

In September 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It comprises 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). BIM was recently appointed an SDG champion for four of the goals, two of which are particularly relevant where plastics and marine waste are concerned; SDG 14( Life Below Water; a target of which is to help prevent and reduce marine pollution) and SDG12( application of environmentally sound management of all waste through their life cycle).

“The aim of the Champions programme is to raise awareness of the SDGs and to show through the example of the Champions that everyone in society can make a contribution to achieving the 17 Goals. The catching sector is a key contributor to ensuring that we can improve the outcomes for Life Below Water and maximise the lifecycle and recoverable costs of plastics used by the catching sector, the Clean Oceans Initiative will be instrumental in delivering on these SDGs ”, explained Catherine Barrett, BIM.

Representatives from two EU funded projects, ‘Blue Circular Economy’ and ‘Circular Seas’, tasked with creating opportunities for end of life fishing gear, also attended the workshop in Castletownbere.

Published in Fishing
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Ireland’s first accredited fishmonger qualification has been launched today in the fishing port of Howth, Co Dublin. Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, has developed the Certificate in Fishmonger Skills accredited by nationally and internationally recognised Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).

Ian Mannix, BIM described how the aim of the training is to retain and attract talent into the industry. He said:

“ Today’s consumer has come to expect their fishmonger to have a broad knowledge of seafood. They want them to be able to advise them when they are at the counter. This new programme will provide solid, fully certified training to anyone working in seafood retailing; practical skills they can then apply in the industry Moreover, improved skills in the workplace will ultimately lead to better sales and better retention of staff.”

The new training combines practical and classroom learning and includes modules on seafood labelling, nutrition and food safety. The programme also includes hands-on demonstrations in fish fileting and culinary skills and is aimed at existing staff in seafood retailing or those interested in pursuing a career in the industry.

Master fishmonger, Hal Dawson is one of the trainers on the new programme. He has worked in the seafood industry since 1972. He said:

“ The new course will provide professionalism within the industry. Having this qualification on your cv, will give fishmongers a real advantage.”

The value of seafood retail sales in 2018 was €297 million according to the BIM Business of Seafood report. Sales of loose fish experienced the sharpest increase (+8%) in comparison to pre-packed (+1%). Salmon remains the number one fish species bought by consumers in Ireland. However, there has been a marked increase in demand for lesser-known species owing to higher awareness of sustainability and provenance.

Laura Desmond, National Sales Manager, Oceanpath, completed the pilot fishmonger skills programme in 2018. She spoke of how the training has given her more experience in grading fish quality and food safety and said:

“ I started out in sales and engineering and made a switch to the fish business when my mother passed away in 2010. I now manage Reid’s Fish Market and Oceanpath. I love the freedom of my job. I’m in my car, and get to share my passion and knowledge of seafood to fishmongers working in the different stores.”

I can go into any of our stores now and ensure we’re selling the best quality fish.

The Certificate in Fishmonger Skills is taking place in Dublin and Cork early 2020. To find out more or to request an application form, please email seafoodskills.ie or go towww.bim.ie

Published in Fishing
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A marine garden containing almost 30,000 cubic litres of Atlantic seawater and brimming with sea life from different types of seaweeds to fish species native to Irish waters has been named the overall winner in the concept garden category at Bloom 2019 today. As previously reported by Afloat, the Bord Iascaigh Mhara sponsored garden, Aquamarine, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, was designed by wife and husband team Liat and Oliver Shurmann and highlights the need to protect Ireland’s marine environment against plastic waste.

BIM MARINE GARDEN WINS GOLD AT BLOOMGold Bloom winners - l-r, Tara McCarthy, CEO Bord Bia; Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM; Liat Shurmann; Oliver Shurmann and Gary Graham, Manager Bloom, Bord Bia Photo: Julien Behal

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM said: “ Marine, human and all other life is contingent upon a marine environment that’s clean and free from pollution and plastics. Every item of plastic that surrounds the garden at Bloom is a real example of marine litter that has been collected by fishermen and members of the wider fishing and seafood industry in Ireland. Sustainability is central to BIM’s strategy and it’s the driving force for men and women working in the seafood industry in Ireland.”

The fish species and water will be returned to the sea when Bloom ends on Monday and all of the materials used in the garden have been either salvaged or recycled and will be reused.

Oliver Shurmann spoke about the design of the marine garden and said: “It’s designed to look like a scientific cross-section of a landscape with layers of plastics visible underneath it. That’s what we [Liat and I] wanted to achieve. We wanted to create an atmosphere and to combine something beautiful with something that was repulsive. This will shock people. Children will see this and wonder, ‘what are we doing?’”

The garden has been designed to highlight the problem of plastics in our oceans as part of the Clean Oceans Initiative that was launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Food the Marine, Michael Creed earlier this year.

Catherine Morrison, Sustainability and Certification Manager at BIM, spoke of how the marine garden aims to raise awareness of the impact plastic is having on the marine environment and how fishermen and fish farmers in Ireland are working together to address the problem. She said:

“ It’s hard to quantify how much plastic is in our oceans but the average adult in Ireland uses roughly 60kg of plastic every year, one of the highest rates of any country in the European Union. Not all of the plastic ends up in the oceans, but the plastic that does causes a problem.” 

Aquamarine is open to visitors each day of Bloom from Thursday 30th May until Monday 3rd June.

Published in Fishing
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, is returning to Bloom next week with a marine garden that highlights the need to protect our marine environment against plastic waste. The concept garden, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, resembles a giant rockpool and has a fishing net suspended over it to demonstrate the active role the fishing and wider seafood sector in Ireland are taking to reduce plastics in our seas.

The marine garden is entirely underwater and brimming with sea life from different types of seaweeds to fish species native to Irish waters. It is the first time an underwater garden has been at Bloom or indeed any international festival of its kind.

“ Ireland is an island nation. We’re surrounded by water and almost half of us live 5km or less to the coastline. We need to work together to protect this precious resource. Sustainability must underpin our actions. Bord Iascaigh Mhara is proud to be leading a number of key projects with women and men in the fishing and wider seafood sector to reduce and reuse plastic from our marine environment and to stop it from getting there in the first place.”

BIM has been tasked to have every Irish registered fishing trawler participating in its Fishing for Litter scheme under the major new national Clean Oceans Initiative by the end of 2019. Fishing for Litter is an entirely voluntary scheme that involves fishermen collecting plastics and any other waste they haul up in their nets when out fishing and taking it ashore. BIM then works with harbour masters to manage the waste that is collected and recycled or disposed of in a responsible way.

Fishing for Litter currently operates in 12 of Ireland’s main fishing ports. To date, more than 330 tonnes of marine waste has been collected by fishermen participating in the scheme.

The garden, designed by Oliver and Liat Shurmann, of Mount Venus nurseries contains 27,000 cubic metres of sea water. All of the materials used in the garden have been salvaged or recycled and will be reused after the event.

Oliver Shurmann spoke of the inspiration behind the garden and said:

“We thought we could take a cross section of a marine landscape, say a rockpool, and highlight that as something so incredibly valuable, clean and undisturbed hence the name of the garden Aqua Marine”

Aquamarine is open to visitors each day of Bloom from Thursday 30th May until Monday 3rd June.

Published in Marine Science
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara has acquired a new inshore survey vessel for monitoring the state of mussel bed stocks on the south-west and east Irish coastlines.

The 12m-long survey vessel, named T Burke II, was built by Cork company Safehaven Marine.

The Wildcat 40 vessel is one of 19 built by Safehaven and in service worldwide, and has a maximum speed of 26 knots and 18 knots operational speed. It is fitted with crane gear to deploy sonar equipment and a bottom sampling dredge.

Safehaven Marine says its seakeeping abilities were demonstrated during rough weather trials off the south coast in 50-knot winds and five-metre seas during Storm Gareth.

It will be deployed by BIM in Dingle Bay, Co Kerry, and on the east coast from Wexford’s Carnsore Point to Carlingford, Co Louth.

The Irish mussel industry was valued at 11.7 million euro to the economy in 2018, and almost 14,000 tonnes of mussels were produced in Ireland last year.

Bottom grown mussels made up 4,800 tonnes of that total.

The sector has had Marine Stewardship Council accreditation – the “gold standard” for sustainable fisheries – since 2013. The bottom grown mussel industry is almost “entirely export-led”, according to BIM, and employs almost 200 people, directly and indirectly.

Its potential was highlighted during the recent Supreme Court action by four mussel fishermen over the “voisinage” agreement north and south of the border.

The T Burke II was launched by Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed in Kinsale, Co Cork on Monday morning with Olivia Moylan Burke.

Ms Burke is the wife of the late Dr Tomás Burke, formerly technical officer with BIM, after whom the boat is named.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Creed said that the surveys conducted by the vessel would form “an integral part of the management of the seed mussel fishery, which has been awarded the prestigious MSC sustainability certification”.

This accreditation “opens up access for our Irish mussels into the very best markets in the EU and further afield”, Mr Creed said.

BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said the surveys conducted by BIM’s technical officers would “provide invaluable data to help drive the growth of this important sector”, while also minimising its carbon footprint.

Published in Marine Trade
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency has launched a fishermen’s health manual. The short manual offers practical advice on keeping healthy at sea and on land and has been translated into five languages. The BIM Fishermen’s Health Manual has been adapted from a publication Fisherman first published by Haynes and funded by Maritime Charities Funding Group in the UK. More than 3,000 fishermen in Ireland have received the manual to date.

Jim O’Toole, BIM CEO said: “The fishing sector is a rewarding and a highly demanding industry. BIM’s focus on sustainability refers not just to the industry per se but to the people who work in the industry. This manual is by no means meant to replace professional advice from a medical practitioner. It’s about the promotion of better self-awareness and proactivity among members of the sector when it comes to their physical and mental wellbeing, all of which will help the sector to thrive for generations to come.”

The publication is written in plain language in the style of a Haynes’ car manual and the BIM adaptation of the publication has been developed with the support of Healthy Ireland Initiative.

Kate O'Flahery, Head of Health and Wellbeing at the Department of Health commented:

“Healthy Ireland welcome the publication of BIM's Fisherman's Health Manual, which addresses specific health issues involved in the Irish seafood and fishing industry. Fishing is a challenging profession and having access to detailed and practical advice will empower fishermen in Ireland to make changes, and particularly as the guide is accessible in five languages.”

Ian Banks, President of the European Men’s Health Forum, and author of the original UK publication and said:

“All fishing gear comes with a manual. The machinery is tough, it has to be considering the environment in which it has to work. Fishermen are also tough for the same reasons but there was no manual for maintenance. Well now there is, and hopefully fishermen will stay healthy no matter what those deep waters throw at them.”

The manual is available in English, Irish, Arabic, Malay, Russian and Spanish. 

Published in Fishing
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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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