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The European Commission has given Ireland three months to conduct an inquiry into its application of EU Common Fisheries Policy rules writes Lorna Siggins

The administrative inquiry must “evaluate” Ireland’s “capacity to apply the rules” which govern management of fish catches within EU waters off this coast.

The European Commission says that its official request arises from “the severe and significant weaknesses detected in the Irish control system during an audit carried out by the Commission in Ireland in 2018”.

The EU audit identified shortcomings related to the “effective control of the weighing of catches of small pelagic (mackerel/herring) species, and issues related to underreporting of catches of these species”, the Commission says.

It also identified the “inadequate and ineffective sanctioning system for offences committed by operators and the lack of control and enforcement of bluefin tuna catches by recreational vessels”, it says in a statement.

The audit of monitoring - which is conducted by the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) - was carried out by EU officials in March, 2018, in the largest fishing port of Killybegs, Co Donegal.

The auditors scrutinised weighing systems in seven fish factories in Killybegs, and analysed monitoring of the fleet of large pelagic vessels, some of which were found to have under-recorded storage capacity in 2014 and 2015.

The audit also identified the State’s failure to control a recreational fishery for bluefin tuna.

It found evidence that some tourist trips advertised over the internet resulted in bluefin tuna being “kept, landed and offered for sale” in breach of regulations.

Warnings of weaknesses in relation to pelagic monitoring had been flagged in a review of Ireland’s fishery control regime commissioned back in 2007 by the then Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

The 2007 review by consultants had advised that weighing of pelagic fish should primarily be undertaken at the quayside. It said weighing in factories should only continue where “strict additional control assurances” were implemented.

The Commission says Ireland’s administrative inquiry should “focus on the collection of information on these specific findings to enable the Commission to further evaluate Ireland's capacity to apply the rules of the CFP, and to assess the potential consequences of any failure to do so”.

It says the three month deadline may be extended “for a reasonable delay by the Commission, on a duly reasoned request from Ireland”.

“ After that period, the Commission will analyse the information provided by Ireland and identify if any further steps or actions are needed,”it says.

In a letter some months ago to Dr Cecil Beamish of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the European Commission’s fisheries directorate, DG Mare, said that a “follow up” by Ireland to address the audit findings was “imperative” as a “matter of urgency”.

Ireland defended its approach in its response to last year’s audit, but made a number of commitments – including hiring more SFPA staff and developing a protocol with the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The SFPA noted difficulties with weighing fish at the pier, as this can affect quality, and therefore value, and the method is opposed by the industry for this reason.

It said that it “operates a broad matrix of official controls”, but conceded that “total control is not possible and no single step ensures zero-risk of under declaration”.

The SFPA referred comments to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. The department said the Commission's request had just been received and "is being examined".

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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., today was presented with the ‘Strategy for the Irish Inshore Fisheries Sector 2019-2023’. The strategy is the first industry-led blueprint for the Inshore Sector and was presented to the Minister by the Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum.

The Strategy presented today follows an extensive development process involving the National and Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums which have been instrumental in supporting initiatives that seek to encourage a more sustainable, profitable and well-managed inshore fisheries sector. An inclusive approach was taken to identifying key issues and priorities for the sector, including a Steering Group with industry and State partners, a dedicated workshop and public consultation.

Welcoming the Strategy, Minister Creed commented:

“I am delighted to receive the ‘Strategy for the Inshore Fisheries Sector 2019-2023’. The Strategy marks a major milestone in the work of the Inshore Fisheries Forums who, since their inception, have developed initiatives seeking to protect the future of a sector which is extremely important for Irish coastal communities. I would like to thank the Forums for their support in the development of the Strategy and I look forward to seeing the outcomes it achieves.”

The Strategy sets a number of objectives that will frame the work of the Inshore Forums as industry representatives and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) as the development agency, providing a clear direction for the development of the inshore sector over the next number of years. BIM will lead the implementation plan, in partnership with the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, to deliver the actions to underpin a sustainable future for the sector. The strategy will target financial support available under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to where it can be most effectively used.

The Minister also announced that he has approved an increase to the minimum conservation reference size for brown crab. This new conservation measure, which was initiated by members of the fishing industry in the South East, will increase the minimum size of brown crab that can be landed by Irish sea-fishing boats from ICES areas VI and VII to 140mm. The Minister invited the National Inshore Fisheries Forum and the marine agencies to submit views on an appropriate lead-in period for the new measure.

Minister Creed said:

“I am pleased to announce the approval of this conservation measure, particularly as it was initiated and developed by inshore fishermen who recognise the importance of cultivating a sustainable fishery. I would like to thank the Inshore Fisheries Forums and their members for continuing their proactive approach to conservation issues in the inshore sector.”

The approval of the conservation measure follows an extensive consultation process involving the National and Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums and a public consultation that was held in 2018. Industry proposed the increase as a way of supporting the sustainability of the brown crab fishery by allowing brown crab more time to reproduce. An appropriate lead-in period will be identified and the measure will be implemented by statutory instrument.

The Minister also congratulated the new Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, Trudy McIntyre from the South East Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum.

“Trudy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her new role at a very important time in the Irish inshore sector and has already been instrumental in supporting initiatives in the inshore fisheries sector, including the first Inshore Fisheries Strategy. I wish Trudy every success and I look forward to working with her.

The Minister went on to say:

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank Alex Crowley for his work as Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum. Alex has done an outstanding job and he has been resolute in his commitment to the development of the inshore sector.”

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Sean Kyne TD, Minister with responsibility for the Inland Fisheries Sector today welcomed Inland Fisheries Ireland‘s announcement that, at a positive and constructive meeting of its Fish Farming Working Group, it was confirmed by IFI that they will continue to produce fish and make them available to angling clubs throughout 2018, and thereafter.

The Fish Farming Working Group is comprised of members of Inland Fisheries Ireland’s Board and Executive as well as the two main trout angling organisations, the Trout Angling Federation of Ireland (TAFI) and National Anglers Representative Association (NARA).

IFI also outlined its actions taken to date in relation to tendering for the design of a new fish farming facility and, at its subsequent January Board meeting held on the 31st of January, the Board agreed to proceed with a tender for this project. The Board had previously confirmed its commitment to developing a comprehensive strategy to meet current and future trout production needs, subject to securing the investment required.

Minister Kyne said: “The future success and development of the sector depends on the close co-operation and constructive approach of both IFI and the stakeholders, pulling together for the greater good. The fact that the Fish Farming Working Group has begun 2018 with such a positive meeting is very much to be welcomed and I look forward to hearing more, and being part of, similar productive dialogue over the coming months and years.”

The Minister also welcomed the Group’s discussions, in the context of the future advancement of the sector, on the wider development of youth angling generally and the potential for developing urban angling locations.

The next meeting of the Working Group is currently scheduled for late February.

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MEP for Ireland South and Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament, Seán Kelly, has said that the Parliament's Fisheries Committee has confirmed it will visit Cork in 2018 on a fact-finding mission, most likely in the second half of the year. While expressing disappointment that the mission will not take place in the first six months of 2018 as had been hoped, Mr Kelly confirmed that he has been assured that the Cork visit will proceed nonetheless.

“I have been in the process of organising this important fisheries mission for the past number of weeks. While it is disappointing that the visit will not happen in the first half of 2018, I can confirm that the Committee has committed to a fact-finding mission to Cork in 2018. It is unfortunate that the visit will happen a little later than previously envisaged especially with regard to important Brexit negotiations, however I look forward to confirming a new timetable for the visit in the coming months.

"It is of paramount importance that this cross-party group of MEPs comes to Ireland to meet with key Irish fisheries stakeholders for a first-hand account of the difficulties that the Irish fisheries sector will face in the wake of Brexit.

"Just last year I hosted a delegation of MEPs and policymakers belonging to the Industry, Research and Energy Committee on a visit to Cork, where we visited the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) to hear about the potential of wave energy at University College Cork. Providing on-the-ground opportunities for policymakers to meet local people in related industries have an added value and assist in ensuring everyone is well briefed on Member State issues.

“I will work to push for this mission to take place as soon as possible in 2018 as it is vital that the concerns of our fishing sector are outlined directly to these key decision makers," added Mr Kelly, a Member of the Fisheries Committee.

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A Native Oyster Workshop has drawn on heritage and science to highlight the importance and future of the Native Oyster fisheries across Ireland during the Clarinbridge Oyster Festival.

Cuan Beo, a recently formed community based organization established with a mission of improving the quality of life, environment, economy and heritage around Galway Bay highlighted the need for action to restore the Native Oyster stocks across Ireland during the Native Oyster Workshop (NOW17) which was held in Clarinbridge last week Thursday 5th October 2017.

The workshop brought together Native Oyster Fishermen from the 8 remaining oyster fisheries in Ireland together with the relevant agencies responsible for their governance to develop a plan towards their restoration. The workshop heard that the native Oyster fisheries have been in decline for the past 200 years and are currently at an all-time low. Factors such as poor water quality, absence of fishery management plans, complex governance structures and overfishing have all contributed.

According to Diarmuid Kelly, Chairman of Cuan Beo, the aim of the workshop was to review the current status of the Native Oyster fisheries along the Atlantic coast of Ireland, to discuss the issues impacting on their productivity and identify a roadmap towards the effective management and restoration of Oyster Beds and to restore sustainable production output from these fisheries.

oyster farmers irelandCuan Beo committee members Diarmuid Kelly, Kelly's Oyster, Ollie Tully, Marine Institute, Seamus Breathnach BIM, Mary Gerry O'Halloran, and Colm O'Dowd Photo: Andrew Downes

While Galway and Clarinbridge is synonymous with the oyster, its ecological status is poor. The situation is similar across Europe. It is listed by OSPAR as ‘threatened and declining’ and is listed as a priority habitat in the UK and in many areas in Ireland, including Galway Bay. The native oyster is subject to conservation objectives and is seen as a significant component species in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). The workshop heard that much of the legislation is complex, misinterpreted and misunderstood.

Prof Noel Wilkins (NUI Galway) presented on the history of the native oyster beds in Galway Bay from times of super-abundance and tracking their decline to the present day. This was coupled with presentations from government agencies including the Marine Institute, the SFPA, Waters and Communities and BIM highlighting challenges relating to their restoration including licensing and governance, disease, water quality, fisheries management and displacement by invasive species. Case studies from successful fisheries were presented from Lough’s Agency in NI and Tralee Co-op.

An action plan was agreed at the workshop to create a national working group in the coming weeks. The group would not just lobby for simplification in governance but also to address assessment and up-skilling of existing co/op management in each area and the provision of support and assistance in developing management plans for each fishery. BIM agreed to coordinate the establishment of this working group.

The day-long event concluded with the official launch of Cuan Beo, by Cllr Eileen Mannion Caothairlaoch of County Galway. The launch was also attended by Seán Kyne TD Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment with responsibility for Natural Resources, Community Affairs, and Digital Development. Niall Sabongi (KLAW Restaurant Dublin) held a masterclass in oyster tasting with a selection of native oysters from the various fisheries across Ireland and the event was concluded with a lecture highlighting the importance of the oyster in Galway Bay from pre-historic times (4000BC) to the present day by Local Archaeologist and historian, Michael Gibbons.

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#Angling - Legal actions against poaching and other illegal angling and fisheries activity have hit a stumbling block after it was found that Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) does not have “explicit power to prosecute offences”.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has called a halt to any summonses currently before the courts until necessary amendments to the Fisheries Acts are enacted.

IFI says it is considering whether fresh summonses can be issued at a later stage when the amendments are in place. In the meantime, any alleged offenders remain liable to prosecution.

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#Jobs - Inland Fisheries Ireland’s R&D division has secured external funding to undertake a series of research projects, which are currently seeking to recruit a number of staff as research technicians and fisheries assistants.

Interviews will take place in mid to late March to fill a number of positions for periods of up to a maximum of 10 months’ duration during 2017, and a panel for subsequent positions will be compiled following interview.

All positions will be based at the current IFI head office in Dublin’s Citywest Business Campus.

Research Technician
The appointee will provide technical support to the Senior Research Officer (SRO) and project team in the compilation and analysis of data of relevant biotic and abiotic information for fish species in Irish lakes, rivers or estuaries, using standard fish sampling methodologies.

Principal duties and responsibilities include:

  • Data collection: Carry out and lead field surveys when necessary, collect data on the abundance, composition and age structure of fish populations from designated waterbodies, collect data on the distribution, biology and ecology of fish species in designated waterbodies.
  • Data analysis: Collate and input data into project databases and present data in report format as required, data mining, conduct statistical analyses (descriptive and analytical) of data sets, including using relevant statistical software, manage fisheries datasets for the project, assure quality of data including editing and verification of consistency, create tables, charts and graphics with narrative text, interpret data, analyse and prepare reports.
  • Reporting: Maintain raw data and all other records in a clear concise format and compile and maintain all records in a manner compatible with GIS.
  • Other duties: Liaise with the project team and stakeholders and attend/contribute to information meetings as required, liaise with other IFI staff working on related projects as required.

Requirements for this position include a relevant diploma or degree or equivalent, and a full driving licence valid in the State. Salary is at the first point of the technician scale (as at 1 January 2016): €32,231 to €51,717 (including 1 LSI).

Fisheries Assistant
The appointee or appointees will assist the Senior Research officer and team in the compilation and analysis of relevant biotic and abiotic information for fish species in Irish lakes, rivers or estuaries, using standard fish sampling methodologies.

The successful candidate or candidates will be expected to:

  • Assist on field surveys (if necessary).
  • Undertake processing of sample material and providing assistance to the SRO with sample analysis.
  • Assist in the processing of fish samples, collate scale, otolith and opercular bone samples to provide information on age profile and growth rates of fish species, and input data into IFI databases.
  • Maintain raw data and all other records in a clear concise format.
  • Compile and maintain all records in a manner compatible with GIS.
  • Liaise with other IFI staff working on related projects as required.

Requirements for this position include a Leaving Certificate or equivalent with minimum Grade C on at least two Higher Level papers, to include one of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography or Maths, and a full driving licence valid in the State. Salary is at the first point of the fisheries officer/fisheries assistant scale (as at 1 January 16): €22,907 to €36,235 (including 2 LSI’s).

Applications, (a cover letter and up-to-date CV) should be sent to [email protected] by 5pm on Friday 3 March. Please quote either ‘Fish’ for Fisheries Assistant roles or ‘Tech’ for the Technician role,s depending on which you wish to apply for. Late applications will not be processed.

Short listing will be based on information provide in the cover letter and CV. Canvassing will disqualify. Inland Fisheries Ireland is an equal opportunities employer. All enquiries to [email protected]

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#Jobs - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is currently seeking to recruit a number of staff as fishery officers nationally for periods of up to six months during 2017.

Fisheries officers will be primarily concerned with the implementation and enforcement of the provision of the Fisheries Acts, Water Pollution Acts and other relevant statutory provisions. They are required to:

  • Provide, in co-operation with other fisheries staff, comprehensive conservation and protection services, inland and at sea, within any part of a fisheries district and/or any other area assigned within one or more fisheries districts.
  • Provide, in co-operation with other fisheries staff, comprehensive improvement, and development and fisheries management support services within any part of a fisheries district and/or any other area assigned within one or more fisheries districts.

A number of positions will be concerned with assisting either directly or indirectly in fisheries related research projects. The full job specification is available HERE. Please note a full driving licence valid in the State is required.

Applications (a cover letter and up-to-date CV) should be emailed to [email protected] by 5pm on Monday 27 February quoting ‘HR/FO/2017’. Late applications will not be processed. All enquiries to [email protected]

Salary will be at the first point of the Fishery Officer Scale (as of 1 January 2016) plus an unsocial hours allowance, which will be paid at either 50% or 100% relative to the number of unsocial hours worked.

IFI is an equal opportunities employer. Canvassing will disqualify.

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#Fishing - Marine Minister Michael Creed has announced €12 million funding under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Operational Programme for seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) to fund local development initiatives in Ireland’s coastal communities.

The seven new groups – South West (Kerry), West (Galway, Clare), Northwest (Mayo, Sligo), North (Donegal), South (Cork), Northeast (Louth, Meath, Dublin) and Southeast (Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford) – were selected as part of a competitive process under the community led local development element of the €240 million EMFF Operational Programme.

Each FLAG received a sum between €1.5 million and €1.98 million in funding that is 50% financed by the EU.

“This funding will be allocated by and to those communities by the seven FLAGs recently established,” said the minister. “The FLAGs are made up of local actors from the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and others with a strong interest in fostering the development of our coastal communities.

“The funding will be available to the FLAGs over the period 2017 to 2021 approximately and is an eight-fold increase on the €1.5m that was available under the previous FLAG scheme.”

Bord Iascaigh Mhara chief executive Tara McCarthy added: “As the State agency responsible for providing a range of administrative and technical supports to the FLAGs, we welcome the significant increase in funding for a programme that has already contributed €1.5 million in direct and indirect investment to our coastal communities.

“Each of the FLAG groups represents 7 coastal communities where the importance of the Irish Seafood Sector from our fishermen to seafood processors and retailers is paramount. This increase in funding will enable BIM to assist the FLAG groups to develop strategic plans that will enhance and in some cases diversify their existing marine related resource and enterprise.

“On behalf of BIM, I would like to thank all of the FLAG members for their dedication to this programme.”

FLAG Name Coastal areas of County EMFF Allocation
South West FLAG Kerry €1.53 m
West FLAG Galway, Clare €1.80 m
Northwest FLAG Mayo, Sligo €1.50 m
North FLAG Donegal €1.95 m
South FLAG Cork €1.98 m
Northeast FLAG Louth, Meath, Dublin €1.56 m
Southeast FLAG Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford €1.68 m
  TOTAL €12 m
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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD met representatives of the seven new Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) at the National Seafood Centre in Clonakilty today. €12m is available to the FLAGS under Ireland’s Operational Programme for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Each FLAG will now receive technical support to prepare a Local Development Strategy, in consultation with local communities, setting out the FLAG priorities for development and support in their area.

Minister Creed said, “I am pleased to announce the commencement of this Community-Led Local Development Process. Job creation and Rural Development are key priorities for this Government. The success of the FLAGs under the previous Programme shows that Fisheries and Aquaculture communities can identify priorities to target investment best suited to their area’s needs and I am enthusiastic about the opportunities which will emerge from these 7 new
FLAGs .”

Commenting on the success of the programme to date, Tara McCarthy, CEO, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Seafood Development Agency said, ‘Over the period 2012-2015, more than 180 projects were awarded grants of just under €1m. This initial funding has supported a wide range of initiatives targeting job creation, social inclusion, tourism, community regeneration and market development around our coastline. This first phase of the FLAGS initiative has already resulted in 14 new businesses being created, 16 jobs being safeguarded and 27 new jobs being created’.

Co- funded by the European and Maritime Fisheries Fund and the Exchequer as part of Ireland’s €241m EMFF Operational Programme, the initiative is focused on community-led development to enhance the economic opportunities and social sustainability of Fisheries and Aquaculture dependent areas. The process will see consultation take place in each of the seven FLAG areas to contribute to a Local Development Strategy to support job creation, adding value, promoting innovation as well as enhancing environmental assets and promoting each area’s maritime cultural heritage.

Under the previous Seafood Development Programme which ran until 2015, FLAGs were established for the first time in 2012. Over 180 projects were awarded grants of just under €1m and saw a wide range of initiatives targeting job creation, social inclusion, tourism, regeneration and market development supported around the coastline.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) is the implementation partner working directly with the FLAG groups to assist them to establish and develop their own Local Development Strategies. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine oversees the programme and EMFF/Exchequer funding aspects.

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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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