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#discards – Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Simon Coveney TD today welcomed a new Regional Agreement (brokered by Ireland) to reduce the wasteful discarding of unwanted fish. The North Western Waters (NWW) Group of Member States (Ireland (Chair), Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom) has unanimously agreed on a Discards Plan that will cover all of the waters around Ireland as well as the Channel that will come into effect from the 1st of January 2016.

Minster Coveney said "During the negotiations for a new Common Fisheries Policy, one of my key objectives was to introduce a gradual phasing out of the discarding of fish. Today marks the real beginning of that journey where Ireland has managed to secure agreement with our Regional partners on a plan that will see a number of important fisheries covered by the new obligation to land all catches in 2016. The development of the Plan was undertaken in close consultation with stakeholders through the North West Waters Advisory Council".

The Minister went on to say that "All catches in all fisheries will have to be landed from 2019 onwards and today's agreement outlines the first steps on that journey that will allow our fleets the necessary time to gradually adjust and prepare for the full implementation of the landing obligation. The journey is not going to be easy but I am satisfied that this agreement, reached in consultation with all of the key stakeholders, is a good start. Our national Discards Implementation Group under Dr. Noel Cawley will now have a clear blueprint to help prepare our industry for the changes to come."

The phased introduction of a landing obligation for species subject to catch limits is a key element of the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), aimed at reducing catches of juvenile fish and eliminating discards. The ban on discarding will apply to the prawn (nephrops) fishery in all waters, the whiting fishery in the Celtic Sea, and the haddock fishery in the Irish Sea and in the North West area from 1 January 2016. The Member States have committed to rolling out the landing obligation to other fisheries over the period to 2019 when it will apply to all stocks.

Minister Coveney added "I am providing funding support to the fishing industry through the new EU Fisheries Operational Programme, which I am currently progressing, for the effective delivery of the new measures. I have also tasked BIM and the MI to undertake a project over the summer period to explore the potential impact of the landing obligation on commercial fishing activity and I am making up to €450,000 available for this work. This project will follow up on the work undertaken last autumn on discard simulation trials."

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#fishing – Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today appointed Dr Noel Cawley to chair a national Discards Implementation Group. The introduction of a new policy that ends the wasteful practice of discarding fish at sea is a key part of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy which was successfully negotiated to conclusion under the Irish presidency earlier this year.

Minister Coveney said "I am delighted that Dr. Cawley, with his deep knowledge of the Irish fishing industry, has agreed to chair a national Discards Implementation Group that will ensure that the Irish fishing industry are fully prepared for, and engaged in, the implementation of the discards ban." The Minister added "I know that the experience that Dr. Cawley will bring to bear on the practical issues surrounding the phasing in of the discards ban will ensure that the Irish fishing industry will be fully prepared for this fundamental reform in fishing practices".

In a further practical step in the implementation of the new CFP, Minister Coveney also hosted the first meeting of the North Western Waters Regional Group of Member States. This group of Member States (Ireland, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Spain and the UK) has come together to develop the possibilities for more co-operation and regional decision making under the new CFP.

Minister Coveney said "I was determined that Ireland would take the lead in hosting the first meeting of this Regional Group. This is the mechanism under the reformed CFP which will allow us get to real regional decision making and gets us away from the 'one size fits all' that sometimes characterised CFP decision making in the past. It is through this group which will work in close association with stakeholders that decisions affecting Irelands fishermen may be taken in the future and it is vital that we are at the heart of this new decision making process. The work of Dr. Cawley's group will be central to ensuring that the practical issues around the introduction of a discards ban, as identified by the Irish fishing industry, will be developed into long term sustainable management tools that will safeguard the future of our coastal fishing communities".

Under the regionalisation provisions, decision making can be decentralised from Brussels and future management arrangements will instead be decided together by relevant Member States. It is this Group, working with stakeholders in the Advisory Council's that will in the future manage fisheries in the water where Ireland has quotas.

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#FISHING – Commenting on the first ever Irish Discards Atlas, which was launched today, Minister Simon Coveney said "Ireland has now taken the lead in the debate on discards and this Atlas will inform the process to achieve real change and a significant reduction in discarding within the new Common Fisheries Policy". Minister Coveney emphasised that "discarding is an EU wide issue, not just an Irish issue. While the Atlas highlights discarding in the Irish fleet, all Member States fishing these stocks, do so at the same time, using similar gears and under the same market conditions. While there may be some differences, overall the discard trends will be similar for all".

The Marine Institute and BIM produced the "Discard Atlas" – which is a detailed compendium of discards by the Irish Fleet on a stock by stock and area by area basis. The Atlas also outlines a range of potential measures to help reduce discarding. The "Discard Atlas - scientific observations and potential solutions" was compiled with the support of Irish Industry, to inform the EU wide discard debate, to identify where action needs to be taken and to inform on the appropriate measures.

Commenting on the Atlas Minister Coveney said "Ireland has now taken the lead in the debate on discards and this Atlas will inform the process to achieve real change and a significant reduction in discarding within the new Common Fisheries Policy". Minister Coveney emphasised that "discarding is an EU wide issue, not just an Irish issue. While the Atlas highlights discarding in the Irish fleet, all Member States fishing these stocks, do so at the same time, using similar gears and under the same market conditions. While there may be some differences, overall the discard trends will be similar for all".

In calling for all Member States to publish their figures, the Minister said "I have consistently said that discarding is a complex issue and the debate must be informed by all the scientific facts, so we can better understand the issues and identify potential solutions". The information provided in the Atlas is based on information that is collected by all Member States. However, the international data has not been compiled into an Atlas format. Minister Coveney said " It is only when the full extent of the available international data are compiled can we collectively make informed decisions on a coherent EU wide discard policy, underpinned by a focussed suite of measures to significantly reduce and ultimately eliminate discards. The information contained in the Atlas re-enforces my long held view that we need to tackle the discard problem on a stock by stock and fishery by fishery basis, and not by a blunt simplistic blanket ban which will be difficult to enforce".

The Atlas states that in a review of world discarding, the UN noted that the northeast Atlantic has the second highest discard level in the world, estimated to be 1.3 million tonnes, the majority being attributed to EU fisheries. The extent of discarding varies and where international data are available, the picture is mixed. In the Celtic Sea, international discarding of haddock was 12,400 tonnes (56% by weight) in 2010. In the Irish Sea; an average discard rate of 30% for haddock associated with Irish vessels is in line with other countries. However, there are cases where Ireland makes a very minor contribution to overall international discarding; for example in 2010, 1,183t of Cod was discarded in the North West fishery (area Via), yet Ireland contributed to less than 1% of this.

Minister Coveney said that "I want to commend the Irish industry in their decision to support this project, and acknowledge that they have already been pro-active in bringing forward proposals to reduce discarding of, Cod, Haddock and Whiting in the Celtic Sea. I intend to build on this good work by asking the Irish Fisheries Science Research Partnership (IFSRP) to look at the matter in light of the new Atlas information and explore the possibility of coming forward with further ambitious discard mitigation measure. It is only by this type of cross industry co-operation that a comprehensive set of proposals for dealing with the EU wide discarding problem can be designed and implemented, and I call on other Member States to follow the Irish lead and publish the full details of their discards so that our common goal for the elimination of discards can be realised."

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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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