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A newly published research paper co-authored by experts in Ireland highlights the importance of ferox trout to the fisheries of Lough Corrib and Lough Mask.

Ferox trout are highly prized by trophy anglers, and Loughs Corrib and Mask have recorded the majority of Irish specimens since angling records began in the 1950s.

The large, long-lived, fish-eating trout are normally found in deep lakes and are believed to be genetically distinct from normal brown trout, having evolved after the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago.

Little was known about the spawning location of Irish ferox trout compared to normal brown trout, and a radio tracking study was initiated in both catchments in 2005.

Local anglers and Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) staff helped catch large ferox trout on both lakes in order to insert radio tags.

The fish were released after tagging and then tracked with help from the Irish Air Corps helicopter unit and by walking spawning streams with a radio tracking antenna to determine in which streams ferox spawned.

Scientists from Inland Fisheries Ireland worked with colleagues at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research on the data collected in this study.

Results from radio tracking showed that the majority (92%) of ferox trout tagged in Lough Corrib spawned in a single spawning stream, the Cong River, while the majority (76%) of ferox trout tagged in Lough Mask spawned in the Cong canal and Cong River.

These results, as published in the Journal of Fish Biology, indicate that these streams are most likely the principle spawning locations of ferox trout in both lakes.

Dr Paddy Gargan, senior research officer at Inland Fisheries Ireland and lead author on the publication, said: “The occurrence of ferox trout predominantly in single spawning rivers in both catchments highlights the vulnerability of the ferox populations with estimates of their population size thought to be small”.

IFI’s head of research Dr Cathal Gallagher welcomed the findings and said: “It was important that conservation measures, based on this research, have been introduced in the Corrib and Mask catchments continue to protect ferox trout.

“These conservation measures have reduced the number of ferox trout being killed and claimed as specimens and support the conservation of this unique trout.”

Published in Marine Science

New research led by scientists at University College Cork (UCC) which uses genetic fingerprinting techniques indicated that captive-born salmon are far less successful at reproducing as wild salmon spawning in the same river.

“We looked at the lifetime reproductive success of salmon spawning naturally in the wild,” joint lead author of the study Ronan O’Sullivan of UCC ‘s school of biological, earth and environmental sciences said.

“ So for each adult fish that returned to the river from the sea, we counted up the total number of offspring they produced across their lives that themselves survived to spawning age,” he said.

“We used a genetic pedigree coupled with four decades of salmon data from the Marine Institute’s research facility on the Burrishoole catchment in County Mayo. The results show that captive-bred fish that are deliberately or inadvertently introduced into the wild contribute fewer offspring to the next generation than wild fish, and therefore are not a substitute for natural wild spawners,” he said.

“Thus, they do not enhance the conservation status of naturally self-sustaining salmon populations,” he said.

Dr Paul Connolly, Marine Institute of Ireland chief executive officer said that his organisation welcomed the use of Marine Institute data to “answer a question of international significance that is relevant to conservation efforts for the culturally iconic Atlantic salmon”.

“ This analysis underlines the importance of having long–term biological data to allow management decisions to be based on the best available scientific evidence,” he added.

Further research is needed to work out exactly what is happening when the wild and captive salmon mix, UCC says.

However, it says the research team suspects that hybrid offspring produced by matings between captive and wild parents are genetically less well-equipped to deal with life in the river.

If true, this means that the widespread release of captive animals into the wild might actually do more harm than good in many cases, UCC says.

It says the research team comprised an international group of collaborators based at University College Cork, the Marine Institute, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Helsinki and the University of Edinburgh. Their research findings are published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The research is available freely via Open Access here

Published in Marine Wildlife

SmartBay Ireland have collaborated with the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) to launch a new scholarship scheme for a candidate from the Connemara Gaeltacht to begin a Master’s research programme.

Commencing in November 2020, the new programme aims to develop post-primary educational resources in the field of marine renewable energy.

And the scholarship, which is now open for applications, is designed to fund and support a candidate in the Connemara Gaeltacht Region — while also driving awareness around ocean literacy, marine renewable energy, and sustainability through education in local schools.

The successful candidate will receive full funding support to the value of €44,500 over the duration of the 24-month project, which will focus on the preparation and delivery of educational resources at post-primary level, in both English and Irish.

SmartBay Ireland general manager John Breslin said: “This scholarship is an excellent opportunity for the successful candidate not only to advance in their career, but to be at the forefront of developing educational resources and make a positive and lasting impact on the post primary curriculum.”

Applications are open until noon next Wednesday 16 September for candidates with experience as a post-primary educator, preferably in the field of science, with demonstrable proficiency and fluency in the Irish language.

“This is a very exciting opportunity which would suit an enthusiastic candidate with a passion for education, the marine and sustainability,” said Dr Róisín Nash, a lecturer at GMIT.

“At a time when research and management of essential marine resources are key features of a sustainable future, this is a unique project with lots of opportunities for the candidate to be creative and influential in incorporating marine and renewable energy into the classroom.”

The SmartBay Ireland Postgraduate Research Scholarship is funded by the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, the Marine Institute, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Full details on the postgraduate research scholarship and application procedure are available from GMIT website HERE.

Published in Power From the Sea

The Marine Institute has announced a call for proposals for a Senior Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Ocean Ecosystems and Climate for a duration of five years.

This fellowship is designed to provide the link between current climate change research, on international and national scales, with the need to provide operational advice and support to stakeholders.

Proposals are invited from suitable research supervisors at higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland. Further details including the application procedure are available in the guidelines for applicants.

All applications must be submitted through the Marine Institute’s online grant management system (RIMS). Further details for the fellowship are available in the proposal outline document.

The closing date for this call is 4pm Irish time on Wednesday 1 August. Further enquiries should be addressed to the Research Funding Office at [email protected]

Published in Marine Science

The 10th Annual Marine Economics Policy Research Symposium, recently held at the Marine Institute’s Oranmore headquarters, provided a forum for researchers, scientists, economists and policy makers to present and exchange views on a wide range of topics.

Organised by the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) of NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute with the support of the Marine Institute, the event was a space to discuss issues from the public perceptions of the oceans and marine spatial planning to marine and coastal tourism.

The 10th annual symposium also showcased the international collaborations that have been established between SEMRU and partner institutes through a number of EU projects.

The Marine Institute’s new chief executive Dr Paul Connolly welcomed the researchers, noting that SEMRU “has played a vital role in establishing a sustainable method of valuing our oceans”.

He added that the unit has “also undertaken complex research initiatives across a broad spectrum of areas, such as fisheries, maritime transport tourism and natural capital accounting”.

“Today, economic evidence is available to show the value — market and non-market — of our ocean resources with Ireland's marine sector recognised by Government and the State as an important national asset,” he said.

SEMRU presented the latest economic figures to Government in June 2019 as part of the Our Ocean Wealth Summit.

The latest figures show that Ireland’s ocean economy had a turnover of €6.23 billion and provided employment for 34,132 people (full time equivalents). The total direct and indirect value of Ireland's ocean economy is estimated by SEMRU to be in excess of €4.2 billion GVA (Gross Valued Added), equivalent to 2% of GDP.

Ireland’s integrated marine plan, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, outlines the Government’s target to increase the turnover from our ocean economy to exceed €6.4 billion by 2020 and double its value to 2.4% of GDP by 2030.

The symposium welcomed speakers from the Marine Institute; NUI Galwa; Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government; Údarás na Gaeltachta; Galway-Mayo Institute Technology; Trinity College Dublin; Queen’s University Belfast; and ABPmer.

Top women’s surfer turned marine biologist Dr Easkey Britton was among the international list of speakers whose presentations are available to download from the SEMRU website HERE.

Published in Marine Science

A postgraduate researcher is investigating the biotoxin production potential of Azadinium and related species in Irish waters, particularly in estuaries used for shellfish aquaculture such as Killary Harbour and Bantry Bay.

Stephen McGirr — a PhD candidate at the Institute of Technology Sligo and a Cullen Fellow at the Marine Institute — is studying Azadinium, a planktonic single-celled plant that lives in marine waters around Ireland.

Under certain conditions, Azadinium produces biotoxins which can build up in shellfish that feed on them. If eaten by humans, this can lead to shellfish poisoning.

Understanding more about the biology of this species would help both the shellfish aquaculture industry and protect human health.

“The genus Azadinium was first linked to incidents of shellfish poisoning in the 1990s and both toxic and non-toxic forms of the Azadinium species have since been identified in Irish waters,” McGirr says.

“More knowledge of the biology of the species is needed to support monitoring efforts currently underway to assist the aquaculture industry.”

Ireland’s aquaculture industry employed 1,925 people on 288 aquaculture production units, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s Business of Seafood Report 2018. In 2018 it is estimated that Ireland produced 24,200 tonnes of farmed shellfish valued at €56 million.

“Aquaculture is a valuable industry to our national economy as well as for many of Ireland's coastal communities,” McGirr adds.

“The closure of aquaculture production sites due to biotoxins produced by organisms such as Azadinium impacts the industry and can also be detrimental to local economies.”

Stephen’s research supports the Marine Institute's National Phytoplanton Monitoring Programme, which monitors phytoplankton populations and dynamics around the Irish coastline.

‘Aquaculture is a valuable industry to our national economy as well as for many of Ireland's coastal communities’

McGirr says the Marine Institute’s Cullen Fellowship Programme is giving him the opportunity to learn and develop his skillset, working alongside scientists who are experts in their field, as well as gaining hands-on experience using state-of-the art equipment in the Institute's laboratories.

“I have joined two surveys on the RV Celtic Voyager along the south and western coastline of Ireland to collect both water column and sediment samples for our analyses.

“I have also presented my research at international conferences, including the International Conference on Molluscan Shellfish Safety held in Galway and the International Conference on Harmful Algae, held in Nantes, France.”

McGirr is currently focusing his efforts on translating the product of his research into articles for peer-reviewed scientific journals. His research supervisors are Joe Silke, Marine Institute and Dr Nicolas Touzet, IT Sligo.

The Cullen Fellowship Programme builds marine research capacity and capability by equipping graduates with the skills and expertise in raising awareness about our ocean, as well as Ireland's rich marine biodiversity and ecosystems.

The programme has provided grant aid to the value of €2.06 million supporting 24 PhD and three MSc students over the last five years. The research addresses a number of the 15 research themes identified in the National Marine Research and Innovation Strategy 2017-2021.

This project (Grant-Aid Agreement No CF/15/01) is carried out with the support of the Marine Institute and funded under the Marine Research Programme by the Irish Government.

Published in Marine Science

The development of an app to help fishermen target areas with fish for which they have quota and avoid fish for which they don’t is just one of the innovations being developed by researchers at the Marine Institute.

The app, presented by Dr Julia Calderwood, is part of the EU-funded DiscardLess project, helping to ensure that the discarding of non-quota fish catches is phased out under the Common Fisheries Policy.

It is just one of many research projects that were presented at the Marine Institute’s Research Symposium on Thursday (24 October).

Seventy researchers from across the institute gathered to present their work, to brainstorm, and to identify ways to work better together.

Researchers presented short overviews and took questions on their work and on the future direction of research at the Marine Institute. There was also a poster session giving further overviews of research.

The institute says its initiative to try to integrate better research across areas such as fisheries science, climate change, oceanography, fish health, seafood safety and ocean chemistry is a critical goal of the its strategy, Building Ocean Knowledge, Delivering Ocean Services.

The Research Symposium featured presentations from principal investigators to PhD students on research projects that support important policy areas for Government. The outputs from a project tracking the migration patterns of bluefin tuna, for example, support key policy areas for the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine.

The fate, impact and new approaches to persistent pollutants in the marine environment were also addressed and the outputs of this work support key policy areas for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Research that supports the seafood sector was addressed with food safety issues around marine biotoxins being presented. Research into the genetic basis for natural starvation in wild Atlantic salmon was presented which will, through manipulation of diet and temperature, help to reduce the time taken for farmed fish to reach a stage of maturity where they can go out to sea cages, thus reducing grow-out time and costs for the salmon farmer.

Research and innovation is a key component of the Marine Institute’s Strategic Plan 2018-2022, and is aligned to the provision of scientific advice and services.

New Marine Institute chief executive Dr Paul Connolly explained the thinking behind the Research Symposium: “The Marine Institute provides essential scientific evidence and advice to Government and to stakeholders to ensure that we are sustainably managing our marine resources and our extensive maritime territory, which is about 10 times the size of our landmass.

“Our research is central to providing the knowledge we need to inform policy and to address challenges such as climate change and ocean pollution while helping to build sustainable maritime sectors such as aquaculture, ocean renewable energy and marine and coastal tourism.”

The Marine Institute Research Symposium is intended to be an annual event, forming part of the efforts being made to deliver knowledge and services that are safeguarding our ocean resources and supporting a healthy and sustainable ocean economy in Ireland.

Published in Marine Science

New research on Irish puffins has revealed that the sea birds swap the skies for the sea and make use of strong total currents to save energy when they search for food.

The two-year study by MaREI and conservation charity ZSL tracked puffins from Little Saltee, Co Wexford by GPS — and discovered that the birds are using the strong tidal currents in the region for a ‘free ride’ across feeding areas, saving them close to half of their usual energy usage.

Previous seabird tracking studies have shown that birds travel between often distant patches at sea where they concentrate feeding, requiring considerable effort — particularly for puffins, whose wings are short and adapted for swimming underwater.

“Our puffins have completely dispensed with the need to fly between patches of food,” said lead author Ashley Bennison, a researcher at MaREI.

It is as yet unclear exactly how the Saltee Islands’ puffins came to adapt their behaviour.

But the study, which marks the first time Irish puffins have been tracked in this manner, concludes that such behaviours are likely to be found elsewhere.

“We have long suspected that animals are able to adapt their foraging behaviour to the local environment, and this is an excellent example of how animals can surprise us with their ingenuity,” Bennison said.

The full study is published in the journal Biology Letters.

Published in Marine Wildlife

PhD student Catherine Jordan will bring her research on phytoplankton blooms to the third annual Soapbox Science even in Galway tomorrow afternoon (Saturday 29 June).

She will be among 12 female scientists standing on their soapboxes to talk about their groundbreaking research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine at the city’s Spanish Arch from noon to 3pm.

Jordan, a PhD candidate through the Marine Institute’s Cullen Fellowship Programme and NUI Galway, will discuss her research on using satellite technology to observe and identify phytoplankton blooms in North-East Atlantic waters.

“When conditions are right, phytoplankton appear in high numbers and produce green and dark red hues in the water and are known as ‘algal blooms’,” she explains.

“As these blooms can sometimes be visible from space, satellites provide a useful tool in monitoring the location and extent of these blooms.

“In most cases phytoplankton blooms are of benefit to the ecosystem, but a small proportion of phytoplankton species produce toxins which may affect other marine life.

“Satellites may be able to assist in providing early wide-scale warnings of the presence of algal blooms, by using ocean colour sensors. A lot of my research focuses on measuring optical properties of light by using different instruments and methods, as well as validating satellite measurements.”

Jordan recently joined the Marine Institute’s annual ocean climate research survey on the RV Celtic Explorer to collect plankton samples and hyperspectral radiometer data as part of her PhD research.

Speaking about the Soapbox Science even, Jordan said: “I am very passionate about my field of science and also promoting how women can work on marine research vessels and spend weeks at sea.

“It is very important to engage the public in learning about marine science in interactive ways in order to explain very complex matters. Soapbox Science is an excellent platform for promoting women in science and encouraging the public to discuss topics they may not have encountered before.”

Soapbox Science Galway began two years ago, and talks this year will cover a diverse range of topics such as enhancing farming using insects, the marvels of human milk, the internet as a force for good, and statistical thinking for real-life questions.

The event will also be held in Dublin and Cork, as well as in several countries around the world including the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Brazil and South Africa.

For the full list of participants and more information about Soapbox Science visit soapboxscience.org

Published in Marine Science

A new joint initiative between Ireland and Cyprus for a Centre of Excellence for Marine and Maritime Research has been awarded a €15 million grant from the European Commission.

The funding under Horizon 2020: Widespread’s Coordination and Support Action call goes to the project titled CMMI MaRITeC-X, whose main objective is to establish a marine science and maritime research centre in Cyprus, the Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute (CMMI), within the next seven years.

In this initiative, the Marine Institute and SmartBay Ireland is partnering with Cypriot government bodies (Municipality of Larnaka), private companies and organisations (GeoImaging Ltd, Maritime Institute of Eastern Mediterranean, SignalGenerix Ltd and Limassol Chamber of Commerce) as well as with the University of Southampton, UK.

The new institute to be formed in Cyprus will focus on research, technology development and innovation in several sectors critical for the Cypriot economy, such as maritime transport, marine ecosystems, offshore energy and other societal needs in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Currently in grant agreement preparation, the project is expected to kick off by end of the second quarter this year.

The Marine Institute says project complements the ambitions set out for Ireland in Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth relating to the development of our shipping and maritime industry by enabling Ireland to build expertise in these areas.

More broadly, the Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth strategy sets out clear targets in terms of turnover from the marine economy by 2020, and increasing the industry’s contribution to GDP to 2.4% a year by 2030.

The MaRITeC-X project will contribute to these objectives and is also consistent with Ireland’s Marine Research & Innovation Strategy. This strategy supports the implementation of Innovation 2020, Ireland’s national research and innovation strategy, which identifies the marine sector as one of eight areas of focus for social progress and the economy.

The Marine Institute’s contribution to the project (with a combined award of €2m) will be managed jointly by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) and SmartBay Ireland.

It’s expected that the project will allow Ireland to build national research and development capacity and to collaborate with institutions and organisations across Europe as it contributes to expertise in building marine and maritime clusters.

Marine Institute chief executive Peter Heffernan said: “We are delighted at news of the MaRITeC-X award. The award acknowledges the excellence and leadership that both the Marine Institute and SmartBay demonstrate in the European maritime landscape.

“We look forward to cooperating and collaborating with our Cypriot partners to the benefit of both innovation-led maritime economies.”

Garrett Murray, national director for Horizon 2020 at Enterprise Ireland, added: “Ireland continues to perform well under the programme and there is significant competitive funding available for Irish researchers and companies under Horizon 2020 with 40% of the budget remaining.

“EI and partner agencies are committed to supporting participation in H2020 to realise the Irish Government’s target of winning €1.2bn from the EU’s €70bn Horizon 2020 R&I budget.”

John Breslin, general manager of SmartBay Ireland said his company would be “reaching out to Irish businesses and research organisations who wish to collaborate with CMMI and its stakeholders, to help broker the development of joint projects and funding opportunities”.

Published in Marine Science
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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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