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Displaying items by tag: marine wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Staff and students from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology spotted an black-browed albatross in what was a "very rare" sighting of the bird in Ireland's skies, The Irish Times reports.

The group was on board the State marine research vessel Celtic Explorer off the southwest coast when they witnessed the albatross, also known as a Mollymawk, which is noted for its dark eye stripe.

The black-browed albatross is normally restricted to the Southern Hemisphere, but Birdwatch Ireland's Niall Hatch said it has been spotted from headlands in Ireland in the past.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the GMIT group were among a party of 20 scientists from Ireland, Nothern Ireland and Scotland carrying out a study of whales, dolphins, seabirds and plankton in the Atlantic.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Northern Ireland's Green Party has warned that "rogue" anglers may shoot seals that are consuming their fish stocks unless they are relocated, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

The protected seals have been getting into the River Quoile in Co Down, allegedly by way of a damaged fish pass, and decimating the area's fish stocks - much to the consternation of local anglers.

Earlier this week Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín confirmed in a response to a question from Green Party MLA Steven Agnew that department officials have requested the Rivers Agency to carry out repairs on the fish pass.

But she also said that no action can be taken to remove seals from the river "without the approval of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency", adding that her department "does not have the specialist knowledge and equipment to remove the seals".

A Green Party spokesperson described the repair work as "absolutely vital because even if the seals are safely removed from the Quoile they will only make their way back in if the fish pass is not repaired.

"And a rather worrying consideration is that a very small rogue element would be prepared to shoot the seals if a solution is not forthcoming.”

Seal shootings have been much in the news as of late, with gardaí in Waterford investigating attacks on four animals in Tramore.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Two killer whales have been spotted near Kinsale in recent weeks, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports.

Two separate sightings of the orca pair near Barry's Head have been confirmed by the group, via photos provided by John Murphy and Richard Cussen on 5 March, during what is normally the 'low season' for whale watching in Ireland.

The pair comprises one adult male and a smaller whale which is likely an adult female. It is not yet known, however, whether the whales are new to Irish or Scottish waters.

According to the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley, it is "interesting that they have stayed close to their original position and suggests they may have found 'rich pickings'".

In other news, the Whale and Dolphin Roadshow will be at the Galway Shopping Centre from 22-25 March in time for the European Cetacean Society Conference.

The roadshow "is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about whales, dolphins and porpoise of the ASCOBANS region" that encompasses the Baltic Sea, Northeast Atlantic and Irish and North Seas.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Northern Ireland faces a whopping £8 million (€9.6 million) fine from the EU over its failure to protect horse mussels.

According to BBC News, "little has been done" to protect horse mussel reefs in Strangford Lough despite promises from two government departments as far back as six years ago.

Last year Afloat.ie reported on a study from Queen's University Belfast that revealed the extent of damage to horse mussel reefs in the lough by fishing activity.

Strangford Lough is officially protected as a Special Conservation Area and a Marine Nature Reserve, as well as an Area of Special Scientfic Interest, but as BBC News states, "in reality there has been little protection put in place".

Horse mussels are pivotal to the lough's ecosystem, as some 100 other species rely on the reefs formed by the mussels in the seabed for their habitat.

NI officials now have just a few months to persuade the European Commission that they are taking strong action to protect the species, otherwise they will be charged with breaking EU directives.

BBC News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The rate of cetacean strandings on the Irish coast remains unusually high, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The group's Cetacean Stranding Scheme recorded 162 strandings in 2011 which, while numbers do vary from year to year, was 25-30 more than anticipated.

And already this year the numbers are up on last year's 'inexplicable' records for the first quarter.

Some 21 strandings were reported to the IWDG in January alone - the highest ever number recorded for that month, well above the average of 13.

February's figures are even more worrying, with 30 strandings reported this year compared to a five-year average of 11.4.

"As we are now well into 2012, it is clear that the numbers have not returned to what we could have considered to be more normal levels," said the group in a statement.

There is as yet no explanation, whether a single cause or a number of factors, for what might be causing this significant rise in strandings of both live and dead animals, although one curious clue is "the number of carcasses which had washed ashore with tail fluke/fins apparently cut away".

In other IWDG news, the group recently announced the receipt of £2,000 (€2,400) core funding support from Scottish-based veterinary X-ray firm BCF Technology Ltd, which funds a number of charities through its BCF Foundation.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - A Sligo-based surfer has relived the moment when he was attacked by a shark in his native New Zealand.

As the Otago Daily Times reports, 42-year-old Peter Garrett was surfing off Taranaki on North Island on Tuesday when the shark mauled him, leaving 10 bloody wounds - each about 2cm deep - with its razor-sharp teeth.

"He was bleeding quite a bit," said James Bruce, one of two vets surfing in the area who came to his aid. "You could tell from the teeth marks it could've been more serious."

Speaking to the Irish Independent from New Zealand, Garrett said he was knee-boarding at the time when he felt a bump to the board and a sudden sharp pain in his leg.

"I looked down and there was a shark on my leg and I sort of yelled obscenities at it... But it came back and I kicked at it with my flippers."

New Zealand has a relatively high incidence of unprovoked shark attacks, with some 44 on record since the mid 19th century - compared to 39 for the whole of Europe.

The Irish Independent has more on the story, including photos, HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Limerick branch of Birdwatch Ireland is seeking volunteers to assist in rescuing birds from oil spillages in the Shannon Estuary.

A report in the Limerick Post recounts a recent meeting at Shannon Rowing Club, where Birdwatch Ireand highlighted the impact on the environment and marine wildlife from both major and minor oil spills.

The meeting also discussed the role that local birdwatchers can play in determining crucial spillage incident response times.

A training exercise at Poulnasherry Bay is being organised for next month using equipment donated to the Irish Seal Sanctuary, preceeded by a similated planning exercise and "on-the-ground response".

The Irish Seal Sanctuary will also provide opportunities for training in the rehabilitation and cleaning of spillage-affected birds.

The Limerick Post has much more on this story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Newstalk reports that gardaí are investigaing the shooting of seals on a Waterford beach.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, fears are mounting of an illegal cull of marine wildlife in the area after a seal and a dolphin were found dead from gunshot wounds within a day of two seals being discovered with similar wounds.

All four animals were found along the same stretch of Tramore Beach late last month.

A spokesperson for the Irish Seal Sanctuacy pointed the finger at an illegal cull allegedly carried out by local fishermen.

The Irish Wildlife Trust has welcomed the Garda investigation into the incidents, and has called on the public to report any relevant information they may have.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE – A team of twenty scientists and students from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland are currently onboard  the Marine Institute's RV Celtic Explorer carrying out a multidisciplinary study of cetaceans, megafauna and birdlife around the areas of the Goban Spur and Porucpine seabight in the Atlantic Ocean.

The survey team, led by Dr. Joanne O'Brien from the Marine Biodiversity Research Group of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) will be at sea for just under two weeks (24th February – 5th March).  "This is a unique opportunity to explore offshore waters across a range of disciplines, and gather data  from many previously un-surveyed areas of  Ireland's marine territory. It also provides an excellent training ground for marine undergraduate and post graduate students out at sea," explained Dr. O'Brien.

Also participating in this survey are members from Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, University College Cork, Queens University, Belfast; University of Aberdeen, National University of Ireland Galway, Birdwatch Ireland, Sligo Institute of Technology and MEER Consultancy.

The Cetacean team are researching key habitats and activity of baleen whales and offshore bottlenose dolphins.  "Visual and acoustic surveys are being carried out, in which  the team have successfully taken a skin sample from an offshore group of bottlenose dolphins for DNA analysis as well as adding a number of individually recognisable animals  to the photo-id catalogue" said Conor Ryan from GMIT.

The images will be compared with existing photo-identification catalogues held both nationally and internationally. This helps scientists to understand the extensive migration patterns of the whales and dolphins in the Northeast Atlantic and their seasonal visits to the Irish and UK coastlines. "During this research cruise, we have proven that the collection of darted tissue samples of cetaceans, for genetic and chemical pollutant analyses is feasible in offshore waters," said Mr Ryan.

Marine scientists will carry out a systematic analysis of  CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) sampling at set locations in order to explore relationships between the temperature of the water, primary productivity and top predator presence of marine mammals along the continental shelf habitat.

The megafauna team will also be conducting a visual survey of basking sharks.  They will attempt to deploy tags to monitor their movements.  Where possible, mucus scrapings will be collected to determine the genomics and DNA of each of the species.

The seabird team aims to characterise the seabird species and populations at the most southern part of Ireland's marine territory.  The information gathered will contribute towards the Irish national biological database and can be used to inform management towards the conservation of offshore bird species.  So far the team have found largest concentrations of birds towards the top of the shelf edge where they benefit from increased food availability from upwellings.  The highlight of the survey thus far was a sighting of a black-browed albatross, normally found in the Southern Ocean.

Samples of the Mauve Stinger jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca are also being gathered to investigate the prevalence of the bacterium Tenacibaculum maritimum which has serious economic implications for fin-fish aquaculture, while also providing further insight into the biological factors influencing ecosystem functioning.

Finally, the Plankton team are taking samples of phytoplankton, zooplankton and krill from depths of 3000m.  This information is important to develop an understanding of what forms the basis of the food chain which supports cetaceans, seabirds and other marine megafauna in these habitats.

The Cetaceans on the Frontier III survey is supported under the Marine Institutes' competitive ship-time scheme, funded through the Marine Research Sub-programme of the National Development Plan 2007–2013, as part of the Sea Change strategy.

Follow the Cetaceans on the Frontier III blog here, where the survey team are givingdaily updates and showing photos of their expedition.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has announced another series of its popular whale watching courses on Cape Clear in West Cork this summer.

The courses cater for adults keen to learn more about whales and dolphins in Irish waters and how to observe, record and identify them. They will feature a mixture of workshops and field trips, including cliff and boat-based whale watches.

Three weekend courses will take place on 25-27 May, 20-22 July and 7-9 September, led by IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley. All are open to IWDG members and non-members alike, but places are limited to 20 places each weekend on a first-come-first-served basis.

Admission is €70 for IWDG members (€90 for non-members), with a non-refundable deposit of €25 required. Please note that this fee does not cover transport to Cape Clear, food or accomodation (which is limited in high summer) or any boat trips. As the itinerary will be weather-dependant, some flexibility will be required.

More information on the weekends and booking details are available at the IWDG website HERE.

In other IWDG news, the group has secured another grant from the Island Foundation to continue its humpback whale research in Cape Verde this spring and summer.

A shore-based team will be stationed in Boa Vista in an area that is "possibly the most important site for breeding humbacks in the entire northeast Atlantic".

Published in Marine Wildlife
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