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Displaying items by tag: Whale

Stories of whales attacking boats at sea and sometimes sinking them go back a long way in maritime history, and as often as not it has happened in such a sudden and frightening way that identifying the precise species has not been part of the narrative.

But since mid-September, an increasing number of reports of whale attacks off the coast of Spain and Portugal have identified the largest dolphin, the orca or "killer whale", as being responsible for a continuing spate of attacks. And with verified incidents of rudders being torn off and hulls and keels - usually of fibreglass sailing boats – being seriously damaged, the maritime authorities in northwest Spain have become so concerned that a quite extensive exclusion zone for smaller craft has been imposed off the rugged coastline between El Ferrol and Punta de Estacia de Bares.

The exclusion zone for smaller craft off the rugged coastline between El Ferrol and Punta de Estacia de BaresThe exclusion zone for smaller craft off the rugged coastline between El Ferrol and Punta de Estacia de Bares

Several theories have been put forward to explain the unusually high incidence of these events, and in response to sensationalist local headlines of "TERROR KILLER WHALE ATTACKS", noted ocean voyager and marine scientist Vera Quinlan of Galway has made the reasonable point that it is humans invading their space who have described them as "killer" whales. They are in fact the largest species of dolphins, and it takes some of the heat out of the situation to give them their proper name of orca.

Nevertheless, the danger can ultimately be very real, and theories abound, such as the behaviour being a hostile response by whales to the sudden and marked increase in engine and propellor noise after some limitations of the pandemic lockdown was lifted in Spain, with coastal leisure traffic increasing to end a period of peace which was akin to the welcome silence which until recently prevailed onshore around noisy airports.

But as to whether or not it's an inbuilt whale dislike of fibreglass is difficult to assess, as the vast majority of boats have long since been constructed in GRP.

It's also said that modern hull shapes with the keel separate from the rudder may seem to whales like some sort of threatening sea creature, while another notion is that the whales approach the boat with very friendly or indeed amorous intentions, and then take a whack at it on being found they were mistaken.

As for keeping the engine running, the fact is a number of the attacks have taken place on boats which were motor-sailing.

And finally, there are those who reckon that the colour of your underwater paint is a significant factor. Old salts will tell you that having a white or red under-body is just asking for trouble – dark blue or black anti-fouling is your only man if you want to stay onside with the ocean cousins.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Sailing in Cork took a hammering in the past week, from Storm Ellen and COVID 19, the combined effects of which destroyed a lot of work by four of the major clubs on the South Coast.

Disheartening for the sport and for club members who voluntarily put many hours of work into keeping within Government guidelines while preserving major events in the sailing calendar, but all of which effort came to naught.

Sailing Event Cancellations

Two Cork Harbour clubs, the Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven and Monkstown Bay Sailing Club, with the support of Cork Port at its new leisure boat launching facility at Ringaskiddy, made late changes to running the Laser Nationals, which were brought to an end when the Government imposed further restrictions. Those also stopped the RCYC Tricentenary Parade salute to the club's history and its planned 'At Home' this coming weekend. The RCYC had already suffered several wipe-outs of its 300th celebration plans that will now take place in 2021.

That was followed by the cancellation of Dragon Week at Kinsale which had been arranged to replace the previously cancelled international Gold Cup.

The village of Crosshaven in Cork Harbour where so many plans to celebrate Royal Cork's 300th Birthday have been postponed til 2021. Photo: Bob BatemanThe village of Crosshaven in Cork Harbour where so many plans to celebrate Royal Cork's 300th birthday have been postponed unttil 2021. Photo: Bob Bateman

Diligent Sailing Clubs

The three clubs stayed diligently within new Government restrictions though my question to Government about the contradiction in allowing more people to congregate internally than at outdoor events, a contradiction which challenges the benefits of sport and outdoor activity, goes unanswered so far. The anger expressed privately when the Golfgate scandal was revealed, was considerable and justified, in my view.

Added to this was the situation for Cove Sailing Club, hit hard by Storm Ellen causing considerable damage to its recently-opened marina.

West Cork Whale 'Boomerang'

A bad week for sailing on the South coast, so I was looking for something to lift spirits, which came when the best-known whale in Irish waters was discovered back in West Cork. This is Boomerang, pictured here in a stunning photograph by Ronan McLaughlin, provided by courtesy of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

Boomerang is back in Irish watersBoomerang is back in Irish waters Photo: Ronan McLaughlin, courtesy IWDG

Boomerang likes the waters of Cork and Waterford, but seemingly not Kerry! Identified by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, he is an adult male humpback whale, first seen off the West Cork coast nineteen years ago this month - in August of 2001.

"He is by far the best-known whale in Irish waters and his annual return most years to our local waters, is the strongest evidence we have of the importance of our inshore waters for these gentle giants," Padraig Whooley, Sightings Officer of IWDG reported on my radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION. "Interestingly," Padraig said, "Boomerang, despite over 53 sightings in almost 20 years has never once been recorded in Kerry, only Cork and Waterford."

Maybe, I wonder, he doesn't want to challenge Fungi in Dingle?

Padraig Whooley of IWDG has more about Boomerang on the Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney

As seen off Sydney on Wednesday, as whale-watching is resumed after ending of COVID-19 Lockdown.

You know how it is? Sometimes, for one second, you’re just looking the wrong way altogether.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Whales, dolphins and porpoises hold a very special place in people’s hearts and minds. It may be a very long time since our shared mammalian ancestors went their respective ways, but when we get anywhere near “the cousins” in their watery world, there’s a special feeling. Particularly so when the individual involved is Fungi the bottlenose dolphin of Dingle, with his hopes for appreciative human company being stymied for now by the pandemic restrictions, even as his usual sociable season with its requirement for an appreciative audience moves towards its midsummer heights.

Those of us who have a gut feeling that the Covid-19 is going to be gone from Ireland like snow off a ditch by the end of May, well, we keep our notions to ourselves out of respect for the continuing heroic struggle of the frontline workers, and the specialists and those who provide them with management backup. And yes, we do accept that there’s a fair chance that it will return as autumn’s damp and cold and gloom descends on us. But in the meantime, there’s going to be a summertime window of opportunity, and we’ll all go mad if we don’t use it.

2 cove baltimore2The Cove in Baltimore, where the pilot whale Albert was still an occasional presence in his final days in 1968

Meanwhile, the story of Fungi’s frustration here on Afloat.ie last week was clicking vigorously, as was Betty Armstrong’s subsequent story about a pod of orca whales in Strangford Lough. But there was an added dimension to the Fungi yarn, with our query as to whether anyone remembered Albert, the dolphin or pilot whale who used to make his home in and around Baltimore, and was into occasional interaction with moored cruising yachts. He reputedly enjoying the trick of gathering up the cruising folk’s ground tackle as they lay anchored for the night off Baltimore, and leaving them such that they woke up to find themselves anchored off Sherkin.

It was a memory which hit the spot among Afloat.ie viewers. Bells rang out, and pensioners danced in the streets - or more accurately, they leapt to their Smartphones and iPads, and we soon had enough facts and figures to form an Albert the Pilot Whale of Baltimore Club.

Brian Marten, well known for his work in the local community in West Cork and also for commissioning the re-birth of the 1893 Baltimore-built gaff cutter Eva as Guillemot by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt, is right there with chapter and verse:

3 guillemot sailing3Spirit of Baltimore: Brian Marten’s Guillemot – originally built as Eva in Baltimore in 1893 – is another successful Liam Hegarty restoration. Photo: Robbie Murphy

“Sailing around Baltimore as a schoolboy, encounters with Albert were very common - he liked to hang around the Catalogues, (between Sherkin and Heir Island, west of Turk Head, I'm sure you know them). I often saw him jump clear out of the water one or more times in that channel. I recall seeing him jump out of the water near Sherkin when I was very small, one of my earliest memories. I believe that he disappeared some time in the late 1960's, probably died of old age. I don't think a carcass was ever reported.

He most definitely was not a dolphin, being much larger, probably at least 15ft to 18ft long as I recall. I usually saw him while in my brother Alan's National 18 (Alan Marten is currently co-owner of the classic River Class sloop Gweebarra in Strangford Lough, where he is a former Commodore of Strangford Lough YC).

People said Albert was a Pilot Whale, as you mention, but that may have been hearsay. There must have marine biologists around at the time who knew exactly what type he was. I say "he", as he was always referred to as masculine. Anyway, he never had babies, though to be fair that would have required two of the species.

We would usually hear him blowing in the harbour on a quiet night while walking back to the Cove from Dinny Salter’s (now Bushe’s).”

4 bushes baltimore4West Cork oasis – Bushe’s of Baltimore was still Dinny Salter’s when Albert the Pilot Whale was part of the local scene

The proper slaking of thirsts in Baltimore was always a sensible priority, but right now the thirst is of the boats and their timberwork, and the challenge down there is to get the local fleet of traditional and classic wooden boats afloat as soon as possible after the Lockdown paralysis, which in recent weeks had been subjecting them ashore to excessive temperatures (both high and low) and searing sunshine

But as to Albert, it seems he was a Pilot Whale, and Brian’s estimate of a length of 15ft to 18ft (5.5 metres) hits the spot, whereas a bottlenose dolphin barely gets to 4 metres, though I’d say Fungi is all of that. Certainly, it means that if he were of a hostile nature, he could be a real menace, and a couple of years ago attempts to befriend and swim with a bottlenose dolphin at Doolin in County Clare went astray, with people being injured.

As for the leaping from the water, that seems to be both sheer exuberance, and the need to shake off sea lice. When a creature the size of Albert did it within the confines of Baltimore Harbour, it was quite something, but occasionally basking sharks do the same, and in recent years that inveterate ocean observer Youen Jacob of Baltimore has recorded basking sharks in the neighbourhood making their leap for freedom.

5 basking shark jumping5He’s kind of all over the place, but at least he’s doing it – the rare sight of a basking shark jumping, as recorded by Youen Jacob of Baltimore. Photo: Youen Jacob

Back in 1961 when I was cruising solo in a 23-footer off the west coast of Scotland, the word was out that basking sharks were a-leaping at the north end of Kilbrannan Sound between Arran and Kintyre. This was interesting – in the Chinese Mandarins’ interpretation of the word – as I wanted to sail up the Sound from Campbeltown to Tarbert, and sure enough off northwest Arran, there were some mighty splashes around. We – the little boat and me – were sailing along holding to the Kintyre shore thinking we were safe enough, when some eccentric biggie decided that this was exactly where he wanted to let his sea lice get off.

It seemed to me he jumped much more than the 1.2 metres which is all that basking sharks are supposed to achieve, suggesting he might have been a pilot whale. But either way, he was much too close for comfort, and I wasn’t in a species-identifying frame of mind, being just mighty glad there was only the one performance.

That night in the pub in Tarbert, the barman relished telling me that some years previously, there’d been another spate of shark-jumping in the same area. A boat only slightly larger than mine was sitting becalmed off Loch Ranza on the Arran shore, with two crew on board, when a very large basking shark or pilot whale shot blindly upwards out of the water and landed plumb on top of them, leaving only matchwood, with the bodies never found.

So maybe back in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s when Albert was making the scene around Baltimore, it was common sense to accept that he was big enough to be accidentally dangerous, and anyway any notion of making him into a tourist attraction would generally have been out of kilter with the rather solemn mood of the time.

But his memory still evokes other memories, and former Baltimore Sailing Club Commodore Gerald O’Flynn wrote:

“Regarding your article on Fungi, you made reference to Albert who resided in Baltimore Harbour and its environs for many years. The late Tom Fuller, who was the founder of Baltimore Sailing Club in 1956, often told the story of Albert. He first became aware of Albert in the early '30s, and around that time he was asked by some local fishermen to "take care of that bastard!”

But Tom always thought he was an addition to the harbour, and always liked to be told when and where we saw him. Albert was a constant presence in the 50s and 60s, when he would suddenly loom up alongside, which was quite intimidating when aboard a National 12 dinghy.

My brother Dom was the last of our family to experience him - that was when he lived in the Cove around 1968. In bad weather, he said, you could hear Albert snorting away in the sheltered Cove at night. Personally, I didn’t see or hear him after the early 60's. We always thought that he was bigger than a dolphin, but that might have been because he didn’t seem to have a dolphin’s beaked nose – it was definitely a rounded one.

I’ve been a member of the Baltimore SC since its foundation in 1956, and was Commodore in 84/85. I remember meeting you on a few occasions - one in particular with the late Hugh Kennedy, when you’d sailed in to Baltimore on a cruise to the West Cork Regatttas, and we attempted to put the world to rights one sunny afternoon.”

6 sailors 1984 baltimore6Putting the world to rights – Baltimore in the summer of 1984, with (left to right) Hugh Kennedy, Dom O’Flynn, Brendan Cassidy, and beyond him the castle, without its roof in those distant days. Photo: W M Nixon
Memories, memories. Tom Fuller was indeed a lovely man, with vision ahead of his time. Thanks to Ger O’Flynn, we now know that way back in the 1930s, there was at least one person in Baltimore who appreciated that there was potentially much more to Albert than a nuisance who consumed vast quantities of fish.

As for that remembered gathering in the sunshine in Baltimore, it was 1984, and we were in West Cork with our visit built around the Centenary of Schull Regatta which was in the midst of the West Cork Regattas when they were in more traditional form. Thus Ger and his late brother Dom (who also served as a BSC Commodore) were in the throes of preparation for Baltimore Regatta on the Bank Holiday Monday, but “urgency” acquires a more relaxed meaning in summertime in Baltimore, and though Ger had nipped away to sort some little problems when I took the photo of Hugh Kennedy, Dom O’Flynn and Brendan Cassidy of Howth undoubtedly putting the world to rights in the sunshine, everything took place as expected.

It was something of a miracle we were there at all, as mid-July bad seen us handling the Press Office at ISORA Week, then we’d set off with our little Hustler 30 Turtle for an ambitious cruise taking in southwest Wales including inveigling our way ashore on the monastic island of Caldey, a night at Lundy in the midst of the Bristol Channel, round Land’s End for a few days in Falmouth where the family were on holiday, a proper little visit to the Isles of Scilly, and then nor’west to West Cork and suddenly there we were, on the quay in Baltimore, and a full plenary session in place.

Even at Schull Centenary Regatta when the wind failed completely, it was no problem - they decided that Michael O’Leary of Dun Laoghaire with the Holland 39 classic Imp had clearly been shaping up to be the winner, so they simply moved the finishing line out to the completely becalmed Imp by dropping the outer mark on one side of Imp, then taking the committee boat round to the other, and then firing the gun to make him line honours and corrected time winner.

7 oleary crew act rwo7Still at it. Michael O’Leary (centre) in the midst of his shipmates after winning overall with the Dufour 44 Act Two in the 2019 Calves Week White Sails Division, thirty-five years after winning the Schull Centenary Regatta at the same venue with Imp

There were memories of all this last year when the same Michael O’Leary and partners were the White Sail overall winners at Calves Week in Schull with the Dufour 44 Act Two, but for me the sweetest memories of 1984 are of Cape Clear Regatta, which was organised by the late Derek Harte and his many friends with their “Cape Clear Advanced Regatta Computer”.

To everyone else, the Computer looked like a cardboard box with a tape coming out of it, with a long row of adhesive labels on the tape, each with the name of one of the entered boats. All of us got a prize of an attractive piece of locally-fired pottery. But as Teddy Crosbie had sailed a blinder with his Sadler 32, he rightly got the Pope Cup for the overall winner, and all was well with the world.

8 derek harte teddie crosbie8Derek Harte (left) presents Teddy Crosby with the Pope Cup for overall champion, Cape Clear Regatta 1984. Photo: W M Nixon

And if we have strayed more than somewhat from whether or not, once upon a time, there was a creature of significance in the seas around Baltimore called Albert, and whether or not he was a dolphin or a pilot whale or whatever, well so be it, that’s the way it is with West Cork.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#Offshore - Offshore yachts beware this summer after three British sailors had a lucky escape when their yacht collided with a whale and sank in the mid Atlantic.

According to Independent.ie, the trio from the Destiny of Scarborough were picked up by a merchant vessel some 400 miles north east of the Azores this past Sunday (21 May).

The Portuguese navy also dispatched to the location after receiving the yacht’s distress signal, but the men were safely returned to land at Aviles in Spain by the merchant ship.

Published in Offshore
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A new marine wildlife visitor centre has been launched in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull by conservation charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust – to strengthen conservation action for whales, dolphins, and porpoises, and to develop the Hebrides’ appeal as a wildlife tourism hotspot.

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Centre on Tobermory’s picturesque harbour front was formally opened this month, and will be a learning, training and volunteering hub, as well as providing a major attraction for visitors, including families and children.

The building’s transformation has been funded as part of a grant of almost £220,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund. The fully renovated and extended centre features information on sightings of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – interactive exhibitions, displays and a gift shop.

“Our new centre aims to put Mull and the Hebrides even more firmly on the map as a key destination to enjoy and discover world-class marine biodiversity – which in turn will boost conservation, and could bring significant economic and social benefits to the region,” said Alison Lomax, Director of Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

The centre was recently launched with a celebratory event attended by dozens of guests from across the UK, including conservationists, scientists, volunteers and local businesses.

The trust’s previous shop and visitor centre attracted 26,000 people in 2015 – a figure that Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust hopes will now rise significantly.

With Western Scotland’s seas being one of Europe’s most important cetacean habitats, the charity believes that developing sustainable marine wildlife eco-tourism is a major opportunity, as demonstrated by the benefits of white-tailed eagles to the local economies of Mull and Skye.

So far 24 of the world’s estimated 92 cetacean species – including many national and international conservation priority species – have been recorded in the region, and fascinating new discoveries about these populations are constantly being discovered.

The Coastal Communities Fund has also enabled the trust to carry out an innovative Sea Change project across the Hebrides over the past two years, to strengthen people’s connections to the sea in remote island communities. This has involved engagement with thousands of people, through roadshows, community visits, liaison with wildlife tourism businesses, and dozens of events.

Responsible whale watching, WiSe (Wildlife Safe) accredited, training has been provided for 23 tour boat operators, while local people have been able to develop skills through the trust’s Community Sightings Network – through which people can report sightings of cetaceans, helping to map their distribution.

Sea Change has been carried out on Mull, Coll and Tiree, Islay and Jura, Colonsay, Barra, Small Isles (Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna), Mallaig and Arisaig, North and South Uist, Harris, Lewis, Gairloch and Skye.

The Coastal Communities Fund has also funded a refurbishment of the trust’s research yacht, Silurian, aboard which marine scientists and volunteers conduct surveys monitoring cetaceans each year. More than 90,000km of Hebridean seas have been surveyed and over 18,000 individual cetaceans recorded so far – significantly extending scientists’ knowledge and understanding, and informing long-term conservation initiatives.

Paying volunteers are being recruited for the trust’s 2016 expeditions onboard Silurian, working alongside marine scientists. For details, email [email protected], call 01688 302620 or visit www.hwdt.org.

The Coastal Communities Fund was created to direct regeneration investment to seaside towns and villages to help rebalance local economies, reduce unemployment and create work opportunities for local young people.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Following our earlier photo from Baltimore Sea Safari of a Humpback Whale breaching in spectacular fashion off the West Cork coast, Kerry reader Brian O'Sullivan (of marine firm O'Sullivan's Marine) has sent Afloat.ie this latest image of further breaching off Fenit yesterday.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Electronic navigation safety technology is to be used to study the potential impacts of marine traffic on whale, dolphin and porpoise species off western Scotland in a new season of research expeditions launched by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust this week.

For the first time, scientists and trained volunteers onboard the conservation charity’s specialized research yacht Silurian will use an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder to collect detailed data on other vessels’ movements. This will be combined with sightings and underwater acoustic monitoring of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – to gain new insights into how species are affected by ships’ movements and noise.

AIS – an automatic tracking system that electronically identifies and locates nearby vessels, continuously transmitting details of their identity, position, speed and course – is more commonly used in navigation safety, allowing ships to ‘see’ each other in all conditions.

With marine traffic from a large range of industries growing, known threats or pressures for cetaceans from shipping include ship-strikes – in which vessels accidentally hit whales – and noise pollution from poorly designed or poorly maintained vessels, which can mask out whale sounds used for communication and navigation.

Dr Conor Ryan, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust Science Officer, said: “This innovative approach provides us with an opportunity to enhance our long-term research, which is providing unprecedented insights into the distribution and range of cetaceans in Scotland’s seas, as well as the challenges they face – including the unintentional consequences of human activities.

“The Hebrides may seem like a wilderness, but human impacts on the marine environment are significant – and likely to increase with expansions in marine industries, such as aquaculture and renewable installations. Strengthening scientific understanding is crucial if we are to help industries ensure that their impacts on Scotland’s remarkable whales, dolphins and porpoise populations are minimal.”

The new AIS transponder on Silurian will also allow closer public engagement with the trust’s research expeditions. By using the research vessel’s unique Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number 232004280, people will be able to follow Silurian’s progress around Scotland’s west coast in real-time via www.hwdt.org.

Equipping Silurian with AIS technology has been made possible by a grant of £94,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund. This grant has also funded a major refurbishment of the yacht, including an environmentally friendly and long-lasting copper coating for the hull that will ensure the vessel remains seaworthy for the next decade, alongside other activities.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust – based in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull – is recruiting paying volunteers for its surveys. Between May and October, there will be 12 separate expeditions, each lasting between one and two weeks. This includes two ‘Teen Teams’ reserved for 16-17 year olds.

These volunteers will work and sleep on Silurian, receiving specialist training and working with scientists – conducting visual surveys, acoustic monitoring, and cetacean identification through dorsal fin photography. They will also be able to develop sailing and navigation skills as they visit some of Britain’s most remote and wild corners.

Silurian has been the platform for Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s unique research programme since 2002, welcoming aboard over 60 volunteers annually, surveying tens of thousands of nautical miles and logging every cetacean encounter made. This year, the yacht will welcome her 800th volunteer aboard. The yacht is also used as a floating classroom for marine conservation education for schoolchildren and students.

Western Scotland’s seas are one of Europe’s most important habitats for cetaceans with 24 of the world’s estimated 92 cetacean species recorded in the region to date. Many of these are national and international conservation priority species.

As well as strengthening knowledge about cetaceans and contributing to recommendations to safeguard them, the trust’s surveys are important because cetaceans are apex predators at the top of the marine food web, and so can act as indicators of the marine environment’s overall health.

The 2016 surveys depart from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Kyle of Lochalsh or Ullapool. The new addition of Ullapool as a rendezvous point will allow the trust to carry out more surveys in the remoter corners of its study area. Areas covered depend on the weather but will range from Mull of Kintyre in the south, Cape Wrath in the north and St Kilda in the west.

Participation costs cover boat expenses, accommodation, training, food and insurance, and support the charity’s research. For details, email [email protected], call 01688 302620 or visit www.hwdt.org.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#orca – Crews from commercial and Royal Navy vessels have started training for the Orca Ocean Watch Week, an initiative by the whale and dolphin conservation charity ORCA, that is being launched at Portsmouth International Port this month.

Between 25th July and 2nd August bridge crews are being asked to report all sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises as they sail to and from Portsmouth International Port. The records they produce will help ORCA develop the clearest picture yet of just where the much loved marine mammals are living.

The enthusiastic team from ORCA have spent time training crews from a wide variety of operators, including the banana boats that come and go on a regular basis from the Caribbean and Central America. They've also spent time with the Royal Navy, briefing crews from Portsmouth based vessels.

The Royal Navy ships HMS Smiter, HMS Puncher, HMS Explorer and HMS Trumpeter will be sailing through the English Channel, down into the Northern Bay of Biscay and up into the Baltic Sea. These ships are among 11 vessels contributing to the activity from the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron that are operating all over Western Continental Europe and the British Isles.

Lieutenant Commander Phil Houghton of the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron said, "The Royal Navy and in particular 1PBS are delighted to be able to participate in OceanWatch 2015 and do what they can to support the better appreciation of the complex and vulnerable marine environment in which we operate. Only by understanding the animals and habitats around our local waters can we provide the appropriate protection for them."

Orca Ocean Watch Week will be launched on Monday 20th July by television wildlife expert Nigel Marven. Nigel will be joined at the new passenger terminal at Portsmouth International Port by a 50 foot, life-sized model of a blue whale, and school children eager to learn more about the variety of wildlife in the seas off Portsmouth.

By the time Ocean Watch Week is underway ORCA will have trained crews from over 20 vessels, including ferries, freight ships, cruise liners and small ships.

If you're interested in spotting these fantastic animals yourself, Brittany Ferries and ORCA offer Whale Watching mini cruises from Portsmouth, an increasingly popular trip across the Bay of Biscay, which is one of the most important habitats for whales and dolphins on the planet. ORCA is also working with operators at other ports along the South Coast and Scotland, attempting to get the widest coverage possible for its important survey.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#portsmouthwhales – It's not often children get the chance to put their head in the mouth of a shark, but that's just one exciting adventure they can have at Portsmouth International Port's Marine Wildlife Festival in February.

It won't be a real shark, of course, but one of 13 life sized inflatable models of whales, sharks and dolphins that will be on display in the terminal building. The biggest is 42–feet long, that's 13 metres of whale that you can stand next to. Four will be hanging from the ceiling.

The 'pop up' exhibition opens on the 11th February, with classes from schools all around Portsmouth already booked to come and take part in a "Whale Workshop". Experts from marine wildlife charity ORCA will be taking lessons, with students learning all about the whales, dolphins, porpoises, sharks, seals and turtles that can be found on a Ferry crossing from Portsmouth International Port. Passengers and locals can also come and visit at any time during the four day long exhibition.

Whale watching is becoming a popular holiday pastime, with people paying thousands for trips around the world. Yet few realise they can see a huge variety of whales and other species when sailing from Portsmouth to Spain as part of a holiday or other trip. This is because the ferries travel through the Bay of Biscay, which is a whale and dolphin hotspot thanks to the variety of depth ranging from 200 – 4,999 metres deep and the abundance of food that suits many different species. This includes the deep diving Sperm Whale and Cuvier's Beaked Whale, making it a perfect spot for passengers to go looking for these magnificent creatures.

Martin Putman, Port Manager of Portsmouth International Port, said 'Since Brittany Ferries launched its whale watching mini cruises a few years ago we've become known as a gateway port for seeing whales, dolphins and other beautiful marine mammals. Anyone heading off on holiday to Spain has the chance of a memorable encounter, and this incredible Marine Wildlife Festival gives a great idea of what you might see."

ORCA has been working hard with Brittany Ferries for 10 years, with wildlife officers onboard the 'Pont Aven' and 'Cap Finistère' recording sightings of Marine wildlife. The charity is always keen to share its knowledge with passengers, helping them to understand more about what is in the sea around them.

Anna Bunney ORCA Community Wildlife Officer said, "People don't fully appreciate how accessible a wide variety of species is right on our doorstep. There's no need to spend big money to see whales when it's often an added bonus when travelling from Portsmouth International Port. We're delighted to be a part of the Marine Wildlife Festival, bringing this rich variety of creatures to life inside the terminal building."

On display will be life-size models of a 13m long female Sperm Whale, 8m Minke Whale, 8m Basking Shark, 6m Pilot Whale, 6m Orca Whale, 3m Orca Whale Calf, 3m, Risso's Dolphin, 3m Bottlenose Dolphin, 2m Common Dolphin, 2m Striped Dolphin, 1.5m Harbour Porpoise, 2m Grey Seal male, female & calf, and a 2m Leatherback Turtle.

There will be one more loveable whale also in attendance. Pip, Portsmouth International Port's cuddly human sized mascot, will be making an appearance for photos with young children and families off on half term holidays.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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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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