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Minister Ryan has announced significant funding of €1,764,000 for the Irish Environmental Network and its members in 2021. This is an increase of €704,000 on the level of funding provided in 2020.

The Irish Environmental Network is made up of over 30 environmental groups from around the country including BirdWatch Ireland, the Irish Wildlife Trust, VOICE and Friends of the Earth. 

The network also includes the marine wildlife organisation, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

An Taisce, the administrator of the bleu Flag scheme for beaches and marinas is also a member. 

Minister Ryan commented, “I am very aware of the critical work carried out by the member organisations of the Irish Environmental Network (IEN). These national environmental NGOs are active on a broad range of environmental issues, including wildlife conservation, biodiversity and climate change.

‘I have worked closely with the IEN members for many years and I have met them on a number of occasions since I became Minister. I am very aware of the financial challenges the sector has faced over the last number of years and how the Covid 19 pandemic has impacted on these organisations. Their role in how we address the climate and biodiversity challenges we face has never been more crucial.

‘Therefore I am pleased to be able to deliver this substantial increase in their financial supports so that they can continue to build on their great work. I do this in recognition of the significant contribution they continue to make to Ireland's fight against climate change.” ​

Published in Marine Wildlife
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 The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group is reporting a sighting of large Fin Whales close to the shore at Hevlick Head on the County Waterford Coast.

Andrew Malcolm photographed and identified the pod close to shore feeding.

There were at least five animals present in two groups on Christmas Day.

More details from the IWDG here.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Ronald Surgenor is a Project Officer with the Ulster Wildlife Trust and has been awarded the Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation. As well as caring for nature reserves and peatlands, Ronald is a dedicated volunteer sea-angler for the shark conservation project 'Sea Deep'. Since 2018, he has tagged over 100 sharks, skates and rays, and was the first angler to be granted a license to tag common skate for the project. His records make up 75% of all our skate records, contributing to this critically endangered species' conservation and management.

This Award is run in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts. It recognises a volunteer who has made an outstanding contribution to marine conservation and furthered the work of the Wildlife Trusts in this area.

Rays and skates are a species of fish closely related to sharks and are dorso-ventrally flattened. This gives them an added advantage to be able to glide along the sea-floor. Rays and skates are similar in appearance, and the White Skate and the Flapper Skate are just two of the 500 skate and ray species in the world. Of these 28 are found in the waters around Ireland.

Ronald, a berth holder in Bangor Marina, says " We fish anywhere between Malin Head and Belfast Lough, depending on the species we are trying to catch and the time of year. Most of the fish tagged have been on my angling friend's boat The Mistress, a Redbay 21 and perfect for angling". Ronald has a Shetland Sheltie berthed in Bangor during the summer months and from it, he targets the smaller shark species such as Black-mouthed dogfish which are a deep-water species which he has only recorded in an area between the south of Rathlin Island, off the North Coast, and the entrance to Belfast Lough in 90 m plus depth. He adds " The Flapper Skate can only be targeted by anglers trained and licensed in best practice handling these endangered animals, for tagging and collecting DNA samples".

Ronald explained " The fish would be out of the water for about a minute – we have all the tagging and DNA kit ready so as soon as the fish is landed, with the measure mat and sling for lifting them back out of the boat ready on the deck. We can recognise signs of stress so that we have a minimum impact. I have caught the same fish on three occasions, twice in the one day and then six months later".

Marina Manager Kevin Baird commented, "Well done from all the Marina team. delighted that Ronald Surgenor has been awarded the Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation".

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Whales are known to be disturbed by the noise of ships and oil and gas drilling, but now a new study says that bottom trawling can also upset marine mammals.

As the Irish Independent reports today, scientists at NUI Galway’s (NUIG) Ryan Institute have found that the sound generated by trawling for fish around underwater canyons is amplified and may affect marine mammals’ ability to hunt and navigate.

The team used hydrophones to record the impact on the marine environment of trawlers in two surveys in the Irish Sea and Celtic Sea.

Ecologically sensitive areas of the oceans need stronger environmental protection from the wide variety of potential pollution sources, including ships, deep-sea mining and bottom trawling, the team suggests.

The scientists modelled how the noise generated by bottom trawling could travel through the water column, along the seabed, and through a 20km long submarine canyon in the Porcupine Basin off the south-west Irish coast.

They found the noise funnels through underwater canyons and into deeper waters, affecting marine mammals feeding and migrating.

They also discovered that “modelled trawler sound” generated on the seabed travels underwater more “efficiently” than sound generated at the surface by boats.

Eoghan Daly, a PhD researcher with NUIG’s Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG), said that raised levels of marine noise can “interfere with a marine mammal’s ability to communicate, hunt and navigate using echolocation”

“Human-derived noise in the world’s oceans comes from many sources”, but “ bottom trawling’s impact has received “little attention to date”, he said.

“In an ocean already faced with plastic pollution and climate change, a better understanding of trawler noise pollution will highlight it as another human impact on the marine ecosystem,” Daly said.

The NUIG team’s findings have been published in the scientific journal, Marine Pollution Bulletin.

The team hopes their research will inform improved environmental regulations near key marine habitats, marine protected areas (MPAs) and any additional special areas of conservation in Irish waters.

Ireland has set a target of designating a total of 30% of its maritime area as MPAs by 2030.

“The research fills an important gap in marine noise pollution monitoring,” Dr Martin White of NUIG said.

“Areas such as the Porcupine Basin and the wider European continental margin are ecologically sensitive, and trawlers operating in this part of the Atlantic Ocean have more powerful engines and heavier gear,” he said.

“The enhanced currents and nutrient mixing in these parts of the ocean help create good conditions for cold-water coral mounds and for associated invertebrates, fish and mammals to thrive,” he noted.

Marine life should be protected from the wide variety of pollution sources, including ship noise, pile driving and from bottom trawling, as we now know,” he said.

Read The Irish Independent here

Published in Marine Science
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A leading specialist in the ecology of Irish kelp forests along the Atlantic coastline has been given an award by the Irish Research Council (IRC).

NUI Galway marine ecologist Dr Kathryn Schoenrock has been given Early Career Researcher of the Year award.

Dr Schoenrock is a post-doctoral researcher who has led an intensive monitoring effort in kelp forests over the past three years, which is the first of its kind.

The IRC says her “ground-breaking work in this field has made her the authoritative voice on Irish kelp forest ecology, and the productivity and biodiversity of these systems in nearshore waters”.

Dr Schoenrock reported the first discovery of golden kelp in Irish waters last year. The small population was discovered in Scots Port cove on the north-west facing Belmullet coastline in Co Mayo.

Scots Port is located 1,040km from the nearest golden kelp population in Britain, and 1,630km away from the nearest population in France.

The dominant kelp species found in Irish waters is Cuvie (Laminaria Hyperborea), and five main types of kelp provide important habitats for marine life.

Kelp forest habitats are recognised as an important primary resource for terrestrial and marine organisms.

“ Recently they have been highlighted as an important blue carbon repository that may buffer climate change impacts to marine habitats by sequestering the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere,”the IRC notes.

There has been recent industry interest in, and environmental concern about, harvesting the native subtidal kelp, Laminaria Hyperborea.

Dr Schoenrock says she hopes her work will “inform academic studies, conservation planning, and industry ventures in the future”.

She says her work has led to international collaborations, laying the foundation for current research funding with the EPA, and she contributes data from Irish coastlines to national, European and international kelp forest monitoring networks.

She specialises in studying species response to climate change, ecophysiology of primary producers (seaweeds), chemical and marine ecology, and population and environmental genetics of marine seaweeds.

Her use of scientific diving in my research has supported development of a scientific diving dive-control board at NUIG, where she is dive officer, and taught the first Irish scientific (not technical) diving course there in spring-summer 2020.

Published in Marine Science
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Warm water anchovies and sprat are tempting pods of dolphins, fin whales and seabirds close to the south coast this week, with feeding frenzies reported in outer Cork harbour.

An estimated 50 to 60 dolphins have been sighted by several eyewitnesses off Myrtleville and Fountainstown and Roche’s Point over the past week.

The marine mammals have been joined by kayakers who have filmed the marine mammals flipping and jumping as they tuck into the “bait balls”.

“We’ve never seen dolphins in such large numbers before at this time of year,” Donal Kissane of Myrtleville said.

“They are particularly close at high tide, and it has been wonderful to watch,” Mr Kissane said.

Carrigaline resident Derek McGreevy photographed the pods from outer Cork harbour and said he estimated there were 50 to 60 common dolphins at times, with gannets competing for the fish.

The shoals of tiny fish are also drawing in fin whales off the south-east coast, with almost daily sightings of the second largest creature on the planet, according to Padraig Whooley of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The abundance of anchovies – a warm water species with higher value now, used in pizza toppings and pasta dishes – has been described as “astonishing” by Dr Kevin Flannery of Dingles’s Mara Beo aquarium.

Small numbers of anchovies have been identified in Irish waters before, with the first record being off Ventry, Co Kerry, in 1870. The fish also appeared off west Cork last January.

“We thought of them as vagrants, whereas this past week has seen astonishing numbers,” Flannery said.

The Marine Institute said that it was aware of anchovies appearing in these waters in small quantities since 2003, and has identified them up as part of its periodic groundfish surveys.

Mr Whooley said that the IWDG had received sighting reports of marine mammals this week extending from Kinsale to Roche’s Point to Myrtleville and up the river Suir estuary.

“It’s not unusual for this time of year, but it is still wonderful that people can see them so close to the coast, and from their houses in Dunmore East,” he said.

At least 1,000 tonnes of anchovies landed into Dingle last week were sent to fish meal, as there are no markets for anchovies in Ireland.

The IWDG has criticised this, stating that there is “no excuse for removing the base of our inshore food chains”, which could have long term catastrophic impacts on entire ecosystems.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue is currently appealing a recent High Court judicial review which overturned a ban on trawling by vessels over 18 metres inside the six-mile limit.

Published in Cork Harbour

Coral reefs are under pressure from hurricanes, pollution, bleaching and global warming, and scientists have now confirmed the extent of the threat from an aggressive alga.

The algae, known as peyssonnelid algal crusts (PAC), are colonising reefs in the Caribbean at such an aggressive rate that they are interfering with the reef’s natural ecosystem, according to new research.

Marine biologists from the University of Oxford, California State University Northridge and the Carnegie Institution for Science who have been studying the issue for four years describe the extent of the threat in the Scientific Reports.

The golden-brown, crust-like alga is rapidly overgrowing shallow reefs, and has been described as an “ecological winner” by Dr Bryan Wilson of the University of Oxford’s department of zoology.

“It aggressively occupies any vacant space on the reefs, rapidly overgrows and kills live corals, prevents free-swimming coral larvae from settling on the benthos and becoming adult colonies, and is unaffected by the regular destructive hurricanes that sweep through the area,”he says.

‘It is also seemingly resistant to grazing by fish, and as far as we know, is only fed upon by a single creature, the black spiny urchin (Diadema antillarum),”he said.

The spiny urchin was once abundant in the Caribbean, but was effectively wiped out in the 1980s by a mysterious disease, he says.

“Our research has initially looked into the microbiology of PAC and compared it with that of close relatives (the crustose coralline algae, or CCA) which are known to stimulate the recruitment of coral larvae to reefs,”Dr Wilson says.

A key finding was that the PAC alga manages to inhibit the growth of beneficial marine bacteria which otherwise produce chemical compounds that attract coral larvae to the seafloor.

This means that reefs colonised by the alga are unlikely to host corals again.

The alga is described as having a “dark brown and dirty orange veneer” which stands out among the white sands and light greens, pinks, yellows and other colours that make up the reef.

The scientists say it is unclear if PAC is made up of one algal species or several, and they don’t know what is causing its rapid spread – but describe it as an “alarming trend”

They say that the next stage of their research will be to unravel the alga's “complex physiological mechanisms for this ecological success”, through studying its genome. Ultimately, they say they “hope to find ways to mitigate against this new threat”.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Taking 20 minutes to listen to music inspired by five oceans is the focus of a new release by a Dublin songwriter and musician Dan Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick, also known as Badhands, combines acoustic and electronic instrumentation to reflect what he calls "the pulse of the ocean" and its "many moods, ranging from calm and serene to explosive and dangerous".

Vocals are also used to explore themes such as escapism, the dangers which oceans pose to humans and vice-versa.

"I'm hoping people can find 20 minutes to listen to the record and think about their own relationship with the sea and what it means to them," he says.

Fitzpatrick composed the soundtrack to the RTE wildlife series, a Wild Irish Year, and the soundtrack for the award-winning Wild Cuba documentary. The music for the two-part film won a Jackson Wild award in the US.

Speaking about the inspiration for the Indian Ocean track on his EP, Fitzpatrick said an unseasonal storm put an end to a friend's attempt to sail alone, non-stop, around the world, and this made him realise the "power and vastness of the ocean".

Fitzpatrick availed of an Arts Council initiative to support artists during Covid.

The EP is freely available on bandcamp.com and can be heard on Soundcloud with the track 'Waves' below

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The BBC has reported that a wild swan found dead earlier this week at Lough Beg near Toomebridge, a small village on the North West corner of Lough Neagh has tested positive for Bird Flu. Lough Beg is a small freshwater lake on the border between County Londonderry and County Antrim.

The Lower River Bann flows into it from Lough Neagh at the southern end and continues its route to the sea from the northern end. It has been designated a Ramsar Site which is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Preliminary results confirmed that the swan had a similar strain of the disease to that found in poultry flocks and wild birds in Britain. Public health officials have advised that the risk to public health from this strain of avian influenza is very low, as is the threat to food safety. A dead falcon found in County Limerick also tested positive in recent days.

The chief vet Dr Robert Huey urged poultry keepers to tighten their biosecurity measures to stop transmission to commercial flocks.

The swan was found by environmentalist Chris Murphy who was assessing the impact of A6 roadworks on overwintering birds at the lough - an internationally important protected site. Further tests will now be carried out to establish whether the disease is a highly pathogenic strain or one which is less virulent.

On Wednesday a bird flu prevention zone was declared across Britain after the discovery of the disease there. Where it is detected in poultry flocks, the birds are destroyed, and prevention zones are established around affected premises. It can also lead to restrictions on trade.

Northern Ireland's Chief Vet Robert Huey urged anyone with poultry to tighten their biosecurity to prevent interaction between wild birds and their flocks.

One of the most difficult, controversial and upsetting marine environment stories I have reported in my time as a marine correspondent concerns seals. I've seen them rehabilitated by a sanctuary and marvelled at the work put into healing injured, sick seals and releasing them back into the sea. I've seen fishermen provide fish to feed those seals being rehabilitated.

I've also heard fishermen claim, in anger and fury, that their catches were taken from their nets, partially eaten and then discarded useless by seals.

I've seen injured seals and heard allegations by animal welfare groups and environmentalists that fishermen had taken the law into their own hands against protected species.

Under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, cetaceans and seals are protected species.

Under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, cetaceans and seals are protected speciesSeals are a protected species Photo: Bob Bateman

Dáil debate

In recent weeks the whole issue has come to the fore again, after a Dáil debate when national media reported that licences could be given to fishermen for a cull to shoot seals. There was another outburst of fury, particularly on social media. But what is the truth of this issue?

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Official records show that the State agency responsible for the conservation, protection and management of Ireland's inland fisheries and sea angling applied three times for licences to shoot seals. A spokesperson for Inland Fisheries Ireland confirmed that it had applied for Section 42 authorisations from the National Parks and Wildlife Service on three occasions in the last 10 years. No application has been made this year. "One seal has been removed under a Section 42 authorisation in the last 10 years for reasons of public safety," the IFI said.

National Inshore Fishermen's Association

The National Inshore Fishermen's Association said there had been "biased reporting by mainstream media" which never interviewed anyone from the inshore fisheries sector. "If you take the time to listen and consider fishermen's complaints, you'll understand there are two separate aspects. The first is the amount of fish seals eat and the impact it has on fish stocks. The second is the economic impact seals have on fishers' livelihoods."

So, for this week's podcast, I spoke to the Secretary of the Inshore Fishermen's Association, Alex Crowley.

Listen to the Podcast here

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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