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Displaying items by tag: Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

#CELTIC MIST - The wait is almost over for the relaunch of the Celtic Mist, as The Irish Times reports on the completion of its 'make-under'.

Tomorrow 12 August will see the ketch formerly sailed by late Taoiseach Charles Haughey officially begin its new life as a research vessel for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Apart from extensive work to the interior of the vessel to transform crew accommodation and make space for scientific instruments, the hull of the Celtic Mist has been beautifully repainted in different shades of blue, with details such as a dolphin on its bow and a fun whale along the beam contributed by Kerry artist Michael O'Leary.

Among the new gizmos installed on the yacht - which sailed a leg of last year's Tall Ships Races - is an automatic identification system that will allow internet users to track its position online.

Conor Haughey, whose family gifted the yacht to the IWDG for its marine wildlife conservation work, is expected to attend the relaunch ceremony at Kilrush marina at 2pm, hosted by Afloat.ie's own Tom MacSweeney with a blessing by Fr Michael Sheedy of Kilrush.

Published in Tall Ships

#MARINE WILDLIFE - A stranded dolphin has been successfully refloated for the first time ever in Ireland thanks to the efforts of volunteers with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

As the Irish Examiner reports, the group was alerted by a woman who saw the 3.5-metre bottlenose dolphin on a beach at Béal on the Shannon Estuary in north Kerry on 1 June.

Volunteers on the scene discovered the female dolphin's skin was still moist, which indicated it had only recently stranded.

After checking for injuries, the team decided not to wait for special whale pontoons to arrive from Kilrush and instead used a local farmer's tractor and low loader to lift the dolphin out of the sand.

The dolphin was slowly moved back to the water, where she was stabilised before she regained composure and was able to swim away.

Images of the dolphin's dorsal fin were captured by the volunteers for the IWDG's records, which enabled researchers to confirm subsequent sightings among a pod of some 140 dolphins swimming in the estuary - with the latest spotting on 27 June on a dolphin-watching boat trip, where she appeared to be in good health.

In a statement, the IWDG said: "The loss of one dolphin, especially an adult female, could have a significant impact on this population, thus highlighting the importance of the prompt action on the shore at Béal."

Published in Marine Wildlife

#CELTIC MIST - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's (IWDG) new research vessel is finally set for its official launch three weeks from this coming Sunday.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Celtic Mist - the yacht formerly sailed by late Taoiseach Charles Haughey - was gifted by the Haughey family to the IWDG to assist in its marine wildlife conservation work.

The boat relocated to its new home berth in the Shannon Estuary at Kilrush, Co Clare in July last year - after one last hurrah in its former guise by completing a leg of last summer's Tall Ships Races from Waterford to Greenock in Scotland.

Celtic Mist entered dry dock last November for its necessary refit as a maritime research vessel, while the IWDG sought funding to complete the more than €60,000 project.

With a year gone by since the IWDG first took over the yacht, she is finally back on the water and undergoing the last few finishing touches before her first mission - which may involve tracking the elusive blue whale in Irish waters.

Internally, she is a very different vessel to the one that Charles Haughey sailed, with the aft cabin stropped out and replaced by berths for skipper and crew.

According to IWDG co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow, there is also "a science area where towed and dipping hydrophones and environmental logging software will be run."

The engine room, meanwhile, has been "completely cleaned out and painted including opening and de-greasing of the fuel tanks".

Berrow adds that there is "still considerable work to be done", explaining that the masts and rigging require inspection, aside from all the "painting, sanding, varnishing and more painting to be completed".

The plumbling and electrics also need to be finished, but Berrow says the refitting team is "making rapid progress".

All are welcome to the official launch of the Celtic Mist on Sunday 12 August at 2pm at Kilrush Creek Marina in Co Clare. For more details visit the yacht's official website at www.rvcelticmist.ie.

Published in Tall Ships

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Ten different cetacean species were accounted for among 143 sightings validated by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) for the month of June.

"It’s tempting to overinterpret sightings from a single month’s snapshot," said IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley. "But we are confident that these 143 sightings... represent a reasonable sample size."

The number is less than half of the 315 records for the same month in 2009, which Whooley says "illustrates how big an influence the weather is on our ability to detect cetaceans".

Basking shark sightings are particularly down after the worst June weather on record. "There is strong evidence that the 2012 shark season is as good as over," said Whooley, noting that this year's sightings peaked as early as April.

There was a flurry of minke and humpback whale sightings off Dublin and the Kish Bank in mid-June - possibly related to the rare sighting of a minke whale breaching in the Irish Sea.

However, the vast majority of activity for these large marine mammals is off the south and southwest, with Slea Head and Dingle Bay enjoying the highest diversity.

Orcas, minke whales, humpbacks and a "blubber biomass" of six fin whales were all spotted off the Kerry coast in June, not to mention the month's largest concentration of dolphins - some 400 common dolphins spotted off Clogher Head on 10 June.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has much more on the June findings HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The mystery creature washed up on a Co Clare beach last month has been confirmed to be a long-finned pilot whale, and not a narwhal as had been alleged.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the situation was a source of puzzlement for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) as the carcass was removed from Liscannor beach before their scientists could examine the remains.

Experts had been hoping to verify an eyewitness report that the carcass was indeed that of a narwhal, an Arctic cetacean renowned for its unicorn-like tusk. It would have been the first recorded sighting of a narwhal in Irish waters.

But RTÉ News reports that images sent to the IWDG confirm at last the identity of the animal as a long-finned pilot whale.

It marks the fourth reported stranding of a pilot whale in Co Clare and the 16th around Ireland this year alone.

The IWDG added that it was "always sceptical that the whale was a narwhal", and said Clare County Council did not deserve the criticism it received for removing the carcass over public health concerns.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Researchers with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) have arrived in Cape Verde to continue their studies on the North Atlantic humpback whale.

In what is the fourth expedition by the IWDG to the islands off the west coast of Africa, Conor Ryan and Darren Craig will be collecting biopsy samples to study the whale's genetics and analyse for persistant organic pollutants in their habitat. They will also be recording whale song and collecting photo ID images.

According to the IMDG: "All these techniques are helping us to build up a picture of how isolated this population is, about the geographic range of these whales, and how large the population is."

Regular updates from the duo, including photos of local flora and fauna and marine wildlife, will be posted on their research weblog HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has confirmed a new humpback whale sighting, this time in Northern Ireland.

According to the IWDG, this is the third consecutive year that a humpback whale has been spotted in Northern Irish waters, with this sighting being only the fourth ever validated record for the species in the North.

IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley described it as "an important development [that] highlights a trend towards increased sightings of this large baleen whale species in Irish waters."

He also remarked on the "unusual" location of the sighting in the fast-running waters of the Strangford Narrows at the Ards Peninsula.

The discovery comes just a week after confirmed sighting of two humpback whales at the opposite end of the island of Ireland, off Galley Head in West Cork, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - This past weekend saw confirmation that two humpback whales have made an unseasonal visit to Irish waters.

As previously noted on Afloat.ie, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) had received reports of a sighting of the large cetaceans by birdwatchers off Galley Head in West Cork - an event described as "unusual" by sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley.

But as the Irish Independent reports, those sightings have now been confirmed after IWDG members spotted the humpback pair near The Stags at Castlehaven harbour.

The team was able to get close enough to collect skin samples as well as photo identification, which confirmed that one of the duo is completely new to these waters.

Whooley commented: "Why these two young humpbacks are here during spring, when years of data shows them to be absent in these months, is a mystery."

The Irish Independent has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The mystery disappearance of an allegedly rare whale carcass from a Co Clare beach last week has been solved.

As The Irish Times reports, Clare County Council admitted yesterday that the "badly decomposed whale" was removed from Liscannor beach "due to public health concerns".

The vanishing of the creature had been a source of puzzlement to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), after scientists dispatched to examine the carcass found no trace on arrival.

Experts had been hoping to verify whether the carcass was indeed that of a narwhal, an Arctic cetacean renowned for its unicorn-like tusk.It would have been the first recorded sighting of a narwhal in Irish waters.

Max Halliday from Shannon, who reported the find to the IWDG, said he was "convinced that what I saw is a narwhal. It had the long tusk protruding from its head, but its head was badly damaged. I am absolutely mad that I didn't take a photo."

According to the Irish Independent, the IWDG had appealed to those responsible for removing the whale to get in touch so the remains could be transferred to the Natural History Museum.

But it has since emerged that the creature was taken to a rendering plant in Derry by a team contracted by the council.

A spokesperson for Clare County Council said no remains of a tusk were found in the removal operation.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - At least two humpback whales have been spotted by birdwatchers off Galley Head in West Cork, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

"This is the first time since the large whale project commenced in 1999 that humpback whales have been recorded along the Irish south or coast during April, which has been up till now the one month in which large whales have consistently been absent from our inshore waters," said IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley.

The timing of this sighting was described by Whooley as "unusual". He also confirmed that one of the whales was recorded off Hook Head in Co Wexford in late January and early February of this year, which dispells the hypothesis that large whales leave Irish waters after the herring season in the southeast.

Meanwhile, Whooley sounded a word of caution for anyone hoping to spot the humpbacks for themselves, as the "sheer numbers of basking sharks about" often result in false sightings.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has more on the story, including images, HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Page 5 of 12

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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