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A Polish man says he has quite literally turned oyster farming on its head - by inventing a revolutionary device that allows for three times more oysters within the same area of seabed.

Grzegorz Skawiński developed the product over two years which uniquely has a rotating cage system.

Oyster sacks are placed one above the other, rather than traditional farming of side by side on trestles, saving space on the seabed and increasing production.

And when the device rotates, it allows the oysters to move freely, aiding growth.

Normally each oyster bag is turned by hand – five in a row on a trestle. Grzegorz’s system allows 16 to be turned in one rotation.

The project currently in prototype stage has other benefits.

Along with a high-quality oyster in terms of shape and meat, the device can farm in deeper waters, previously inaccessible.

And because of the rotating system, back pain is relieved, common in the industry.

Sea pollution is also eliminated as rubber bands that hold bags in place on a trestle, are not required on the device.

He developed the product having worked in oyster farming in Co. Waterford for eight years.

He saw the potential of a new product to help with ease of farming and plastic pollution, but vitally production levels and increased profits.

Grzegorz said: “When you work with oysters, you understand intimately how farming methods work, and importantly for me, how they can be improved.

"The idea of rotation was born while working on the project. The main goal of the project was to place as many oysters as possible on the seabed surface."

Grzegorz first started on the project in 2017 and created the device for testing and research purposes.

It’s currently patented in Ireland, along with patents expected in the UK and France.

Grzegorz is now keen to move on with the next phase of the business – either to sell the licensed patent or work with a manufacturer to market the product globally.

Published in Aquaculture
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, in association with IFA Aquaculture, is hosting a two-day seminar today (Thursday 13th February 2020) for members of Ireland’s vibrant oyster farming sector, valued at €43million according to the latest (2018) Business of Seafood report. The sold-out event, taking place in Carlingford, Co Louth, has attracted participants from more than 85% of businesses in the industry.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, BIM’s chief executive, Jim O’Toole said, “The demand for Irish oysters continues to increase in Ireland and overseas. Consumers in Europe and Asia are actively seeking out Irish oysters and cite the unique characteristics and diversity in taste between brands. This strong and growing reputation has translated into strong prices for Irish oysters and excellence in food safety management and stringent attention to quality control among industry members accounts for much of these successes. BIM continues to support and work closely with the sector. It is a sector that has enormous potential to continue in its upwards growth trajectory and to further benefit those living and working in coastal communities throughout Ireland.”

The sector enjoyed a positive year in 2018, according to the BIM Business of Seafood report, producing an all-time high of 10,300 tonnes of oysters and employing 1,300 people nationwide. The seminar is taking place in an area renowned for its quality oyster production and will feature presentations from a host of experts on practical topics of immediate interest to the Irish sector.

Despite recent health and socio-economic challenges presented by the Asian market that have affected exports Irish oyster producers remain at the forefront of the luxury offering, with the sector showing continued investment in packaging and branding, focusing on Irish oyster’s superior quality. The latest figures show nearly 30% of Irish oysters are now packed and branded in Ireland prior to export, adding extra value to the sector. While France remains our largest export market at 74% of total export volume in 2018, we are continuing to diversify into alternative European markets such as the Netherlands and Belgium (2019 saw a 31% increase in exports to the Netherlands).

The morning session will include short ‘flash’ presentations from IFA Aquaculture on where we are as an industry, the latest BIM initiatives which aim to further promote sustainability, innovation and competitiveness in the Oyster Sector as well as some of the more innovative approaches from industry to further develop their businesses.

The second part of the morning session will look at some of the results from BIM’s Bluefish Climate Change project, funded by the Ireland Wales Programme. There will be an overview of our current trade position and opportunities for further expansion. We will also be joined by Bord Bia to highlight oyster promotional events in Europe throughout 2020 and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to take us through some of the possible implications of Brexit in terms of food safety regulations.

Speakers from the Marine Institute, the SFPA and other industry experts will focus the afternoon session on topics such as water quality biosecurity, biotoxins and other environmental factors which significantly affect both oyster production and trade

The final aspect of the workshop will be an informed panel discussion, based on the day's presentations and addressing questions posed by workshop attendees.

Published in Fishing
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The latest research and knowledge on oyster diseases was presented at a meeting on Pacific oyster health held recently by the Marine Institute’s Fish Health Unit.

The event attracted more than 80 participants from Ireland’s oyster farming industry, as well as representatives from Ireland’s seafood development agency Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

Presentations focused on mortality, disease management and current national and international research in oyster health.

Oyster mortalities in recent years in Ireland have been mainly associated with either Ostreid herpes virus-1 μVar (OsHV-1 μVar) infection or the bacterium Vibrio aestuarianus. Both diseases cause significant oyster mortality events and an economic loss to oyster farmers and producers.

Researchers from the Marine Institute and University College Cork presented the major findings from the REPOSUS project, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s FIRM programme.

The three-year REPOSUS project focused on reducing the impact of pathogens associated with mortalities in Pacific oysters. This included results from sentinel trials in disease impacted bays, molecular and pathogenicity characterisation studies on isolates of OsHV-1 and rache and studies on environmental parameters which influence mortality.

French institute IFREMER also presented the latest results from the VIVALDI project (Preventing and Migrating Farmed Bivalve Diseases) funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

VIVALDI combines European research resources to better understand shellfish diseases and improve the sustainability and competitiveness of the European shellfish industry. The Marine Institute is one of 21 partners involved in this research project.

Industry representatives from Ireland also shared their experience of managing losses in shellfish production due to oyster disease and mortality on their sites.

This feedback, along with research presented, will be used to update the current best practice guide for disease control and management in Ireland's oyster industry.

Published in Fishing

#Oysters - Unauthorised oysters farms have exploded in number on Lough Foyle amid a continued dispute over its ownership, as the Belfast Telegraph reports.

The estuary between the counties of Donegal and Derry remains a point of contention as Brexit looms, with both the UK and Irish governments claiming dominion over its waters.

As a result, there has been a proliferation of unregulated oyster farming that could be worth £20 million or €22.89 million each year, according to the Loughs Agency.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on this story HERE.

Published in Fishing
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On Tuesday 5th June 2018, a man was convicted by Judge Mary Fahy at Galway District Court for being in possession of 1,425 undersized native oysters (Ostrea edulis), contrary to Bye-Law 628 of 1982.

Patrick Cormican, with an address at Newline, Maree, County Galway, pleaded guilty to a single charge of being in possession of the undersize native oysters when apprehended by Fisheries Officers at approximately 1pm on 7th December 2017, at Blackweir, County Galway.

Solicitor Dioraí Ford, representing Inland Fisheries Ireland, outlined to the court that Fisheries Officers observed Mr. Cormican loading bags of oysters into a tractor-trailer at Blackweir on that date. The officers were aware that these bags contained undersized oysters. Mr. Cormican is a licenced oyster fisherman and on the day in question had approximately 5,000 oysters, of which 1,425 were undersized. Officers spent over an hour and a half measuring and counting the oysters.

The court heard that Mr. Cormican was co-operative on the day in question and had a previous conviction in relation to oysters dating from 1991. Judge Fahy commented on how serious a matter this was, particularly with the local connection with the world famous Clarinbrige Oyster. Mr Ford outlined that the Fisheries Officers involved in the case had never seen such an amount of undersized oysters before while carrying out an inspection of this type.

Judge Fahy convicted Mr. Cormican and imposed a fine of €750. Costs of €800 were also awarded against Mr. Cormican.

Oysters in Ireland

There are two species of oysters commonly eaten in Ireland – the native oyster (Ostrea edulis) and the non-native Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The native oyster grows wild and is typically caught by licensed dredging, while the Pacific oyster is most commonly farmed on trestles and harvested mechanically.

Native oyster stocks are under threat and sustainable fishing requires adherence to size limits, in order to allow oysters to grow large enough to breed before harvesting. The minimum legal size is 76mm. Inland Fisheries Ireland is charged with protection of oysters, and conducts regular inshore patrols to check for compliance. Sales outlets such as fishmongers and restaurants should be familiar with the legal requirements and refuse to accept undersize oysters.

Published in Fishing
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#Fishing - Fishermen wishing to apply for oyster dredge licences for the 2018 season must submit a completed official form to the relevant River Basin District Office before noon on Friday 24 November.

This process became necessary due to the fact that there are many Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Natura 2000 sites in Ireland that also contain oyster fisheries.

As the exploitation of these fisheries will require dredging, appropriate assessment of these fishing activities will have to be undertaken.

In the absence of appropriate assessments, against predetermined conservation objectives, it is necessary to ensure that no intensification of the fishing activity for oysters be permitted.

This has been further strengthened by the issuing of a direction from the minister in accordance with Section 278 (5)(a) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 as amended and the Habitats Directive as transposed by European Commission (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (SI 477/ 2011).

As yet, no appropriate assessment of the potential impact of the wild oyster fishery has been completed for most locations within SACs and, in the absence of the necessary advice, Inland Fisheries Ireland must ensure that no intensification of the oyster fishery takes place.

As a consequence, IFI must continue to limit the number of licences that can be issued for 2017.

The official procedure and application form are available for download at the IFI website HERE.

Applicants must complete the application form in full and ensure that any relevant information that will assist IFI in assessing their application is submitted with the application.

The relevant licence fee for 2018 is €89 and this must also accompany the application. Unsuccessful applicants will have their fee refunded in full. Further information on the process is available with the application form.

Application forms are also available from Inland Fisheries Ireland, Teach Breac, Earl’s Island, Galway, H91 K6D2 (Tel 091 563118), from any Inland Fisheries Ireland District Office, or from Inland Fisheries Ireland head office, 3044 Lake Drive, Citywest Business Campus, Dublin 24, D24 Y265.

Published in Fishing
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#Fishing - Fishermen wishing to apply for oyster dredging licences for the 2017 season must apply with the official form via the relevant River Basin District Office before 12 noon on Friday 25 November.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) say this process became necessary due to the many Special Areas of Conservation and Natura 2000 sites in Ireland that also contain oyster fisheries.

As the exploitation of these fisheries will requires dredging, appropriate assessment of these fishing activities will have to be undertaken.

In the absence of appropriate assessments, against predetermined conservation objectives, it is necessary to ensure that no intensification of the fishing activity for oysters be permitted.

This has been further strengthened by the issuing of a direction from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in accordance with Section 278 (5)(a) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 as amended and the Habitats Directive as transposed by European Commission (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (SI 477/ 2011).

For further information on the official application procedure, visit the IFI website HERE.

Published in Fishing

#MaritimeFestivals - The 2016 Carlingford Oyster Festival kicks off this evening (Thursday 4 August) on the shores of Carlingford Lough with the official opening of the event that runs till Monday 8 August.

This Saturday (6 August) is when the festivities really under way, with local restaurants offering samples of their finest seafood dishes.

Visitors will have an opportunity to try some of the Co Louth town's renowned local oysters at the Festival Oyster Tent.

There will also be guided tours of what's one of Ireland's few remaining Medieval walled towns, to coincide with Irish Walled Towns Day on Sunday 7 August.

For more on the weekend's festivities see HERE.

Published in Maritime Festivals

#Missing - RTÉ News reports that a body was found yesterday morning (Sunday 19 April) in the search for a missing fisherman off the Clare coast.

The search and rescue operation began in the early hours of yesterday morning after four people working with tractors in the oyster beds at Poulnaserry Bay got into difficulty when the tide came in.

Three of the fishermen were rescued by a local boat. RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
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#Seafood - Donegal's oyster industry has been hit by an import ban in Hong Kong over an outbreak of food poisoning.

According to The Irish Times, food safety investigators in the Chinese territory were notified by Irish authorities two weeks ago that the presence of norovirus was confirmed at a raw oyster processing plant in the north-eastern county that services the crucial Asian market.

Hong Kong subsequently banned the import of raw oysters from Donegal "for the sake of prudence". More HERE.

Published in Fishing
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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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