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Displaying items by tag: Marine wildlfife

Bangor Marina on Belfast Lough in County Down welcomes visitors from far and wide, but this Mediterranean gull must be one of the most interesting, having travelled from Poland, Spain, and France before flying into Bangor.

Berth holder, wildlife expert and photographer Ronald Surgenor who works for the Ulster Wildlife Nature Reserves team, captured this wonderful photograph of the gull roosting on pontoon B. He was able to trace the bird’s movement via the red numbered ring on its leg. In 2015 the bird was ringed in Poland and over the next five years flew across Europe before flying into Bangor. A truly international visitor!

Ronald says “ Good chance it'll be around the roosting gulls for a while, always worth a quick check on the way past; the white wingtips help pick it out amongst the Black-headed gulls and their dark wingtips. I always carry the camera on the boat as you never know what you will see out on the water”.

As previously portrayed in Afloat.ie on 5th June, Bangor Harbour is a valuable haven for wildlife.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Basking sharks which were sampled off the west Kerry coast in early Spring have proved to be genetically different to all other such sharks tested in the north-east Atlantic, according to a newly published study writes Lorna Siggins.

The study on the migration routes of basking sharks also shows that the animals prefer to swim “en famille” to known feeding locations.

Researchers from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) participated in one of the most comprehensive studies of the genetics of one of the world’s largest fish.

The project findings, led by the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, were published this week in the journal, Scientific Reports.

Hunted off the south Irish coast by Norwegians until the 1980s, and off the west coast for the Achill fishery in the 1950s and 1960s, the basking shark is known among coastal communities as the “sunfish” due to its preference for swimming just below the surface.

Two Basking Sharks Image Nigel MoyterTwo Basking Sharks Photo: Nigel Moyter

It is also known as “liop an dá” (unwieldy beast with two fins) or more generally “liabhán mór”, denoting a great leviathan.

It is protected in some waters and was recently classified on the International Union for Conservation of Nature “red list” for endangered species

The plankton-eating fish is distinctive for its open mouth. It has been estimated that a seven-metre shark, cruising wide-mouthed at a speed of two knots, will filter 1,484 cubic metres of sea-water per hour.

Basking sharks can grow to more than ten metres, can dive to depths of more than a thousand metres, and feed on plankton in areas of the northeast Atlantic including the west coast of Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.

The researchers note that “up until recently very little was known” about their biology, as they only appear briefly at the sea surface each spring before “vanishing into the ocean depths”.

Through establishing a register of genetic profiles with regular swabbing, the researchers were able to identify individual basking sharks when they arrived to feed. The results revealed that the fish repeatedly returned to the same feeding sites in successive years.

Fieldwork off Donegal by GMIT’s Dr Simon Berrow and Emmet Johnston of the Irish Basking Shark Study Group led to a “breakthrough” in sampling, by collecting skin mucus samples in large groups of sharks - quickly, and with minimum disturbance.

The researchers say that one of the “most surprising” findings among the “cosmopolitan” filter feeders is that basking sharks sampled off Ireland in spring were genetically distinct from other north-east Atlantic fish, including those sampled later in the year off Co Donegal.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Humpback whales are one of the most iconic animals on the planet, ambassadors for the world’s oceans. The image of a humpback whale, with its fluke lifted clear of the water became the symbol of the environmental movement when a recording of the “Song of the Humpback” in the 1970s was credited with “opening the minds of the public to their world,” where their acrobatic breaching is one of the most sought-after wildlife images for photographers and film-makers worldwide.

Beneath the waves, male humpbacks produce a complex cetacean melodic sound to attract females, which is heard regularly amongst whales as they communicate with each other off the Irish coastline, even if not heard by humans!

Humpback whales are coming to Irish waters in increasing numbers to feed along the South and West coasts. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has documented 87 individual humpback whales in Irish waters, recognised by unique markings on their tail flukes and over one-half of these whales have been recorded in more than one year showing that they are returning to Irish waters. Some have been re-sighted in 12 of the past 17 years!

"Humpback whales are coming to Irish waters in increasing numbers to feed along the South and West coasts"

It has tracked some of them to Iceland and just announced that its research vessel, Celtic Mist (the former yacht of Charles Haughey) is going to Iceland to further investigate those links. The vessel will also carry out another, rather courageous in Iceland assignment, as Dr.Simon Berrow, Chief Scientific Officer of Group has been telling me. That assignment is to challenge the Icelandic decision to resume hunting fin whales.

Listen to Dr.Berrow detail what Celtic Mist and its crew will be doing.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Tagged under

#LoughNeagh - Friends of the Earth (FoE) is appealing a ruling against its claims that Stormont is “turning a blind eye” to sand dredging in Lough Neagh, as the News Letter reports.

The environmental group brought the issue before the High Court last summer, when it described NI Environment Minister Mark Durkan’s 2015 decision to issue an enforcement notice against sand dredging, rather than an outright ban, as bringing “Northern Ireland into ridicule”.

As much as 1.5 million tonnes of sand is dredged from the lough each year, the charity has claimed, adding that dreading companies have continued the practice as their own challenge against the enforcement notice is pending with the Planning Appeals Commission.

Sand dredging has been carried out in Lough Neagh since the 1930s, and previously no planing permission was required, though the lough was designated as a Special Protection Area for wildlife in 1999.

In November, a judge rejected FoE’s High Court challenge, but the organisation has now appealed that decision.

“We believe the judge erred in law and didn’t take into account the significance of this major nature reserve,” said the charity’s NI director James Orr.

The News Letter has more on the story HERE.

Published in Inland Waterways

#MarineWildlife - Great white sharks that could "bite a person in half" have seen the closure of a stretch of beaches north of Sydney for more than a week, as TheJournal.ie reports.

One shark in particular, thought to be some five metres in length, is the largest ever spotted in the waters off Newcastle, some 160km north of Australia's biggest city.

Similarly sized sharks have also been witnessed nearby feeding on dolphins, with one of the ocean predators described as being "as big as a car".

For safety reasons, all beaches in these areas have been closed to bathing and surfing – popular activities for Irish expats and locals alike – until 24 hours have passed with no sightings.

TheJournal.ie has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

A major study published today in the journal Nature suggests that the marine food chain could be in danger of collapse due to declining levels of phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton are the bottom rung of the food chain on which all sea life depends. 

Phytoplankon levels have dropped of by  about 40 percent since 1950, and the Candadian scientists who authored the report link the decline to warming oceans.

"Phytoplankton is the fuel on which marine ecosystems run," said lead author Daniel Boyce, a professor at Dalhousie University in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

"A decline affects everything up the food chain, including humans."

The pace of the decline is heaviest in polar and tropical regions, and was in line with the speed at which surface ocean temperatures had changed there.

Phytoplankton get their energy from the sun, and need sunlight and nutrients to grow. They are the marine equivalent of grazing pasture.

With warmer oceans becoming more stratified, a "dead zone"  can develop at the surface. Less vertical movement of water in the oceans means that  fewer nutrients are delivered from deeper layers.

The findings are worrying, the researchers said.

"Phytoplankton are a critical part of our planetary support system - they produce half the oxygen we breathe, draw down surface carbon dioxide, and ultimately support all fisheries," said co-author Boris Worm.

 

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

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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