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Displaying items by tag: Lough Neagh

Belfast Live reports that an eagerly awaited action plan for Lough Neagh is to go before the Northern Ireland Executive in Stormont in the coming days.

It follows last week’s questioning of DAERA Minister Andrew Muir by his own department’s oversight committee, where he said he has asked officials “to commence work to reverse” a law change that lowered penalties for farmers found to be repeat pollution offenders.

Pollution from agricultural runoff has been pinpointed as one of the major contributing factors in widespread blue-green algae blooms that have been devastating for Lough Neagh in recent years.

In February, one MLA described the situation as an “ecological catastrophe”, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Figures for 2023 in a recently published DAERA report show a near doubling of serious water pollution incidents in Northern Ireland as a whole — illustrative of the region’s “dire situation”, as Friends of the Earth NI director James Orr tells the Belfast Telegraph.

The Lough Neagh Partnership, meanwhile, says ‘nutrient overload’ from thousands of farms pouring into Lough Neagh will continue to spark pollution incidents unless major action is taken.

Belfast Live has more on the story HERE.

Published in Environment

The owner of Lough Neagh’s lakebed has said he is “open to exploring options” amid reports of the return of toxic blue-green algae blooms.

But as BBC News reports, the Earl of Shaftesbury has refused to budge on suggestions that his estate hand over the lough’s bed and soil to the Northern Ireland public without payment.

The earl met this week with Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Andrew Muir to discuss the future of the lake which provides 40% of NI’s drinking water.

Nicholas Ashley-Cooper, whose family acquired the title for the lakebed of Lough Neagh in the 19th century, acknowledged “the severe risks to human and animal health” that blooms of cyantobacteria represent.

He also underlined the need for “a centrally managed government body with the authority to regulate activities impacting the lough’s health and protection”.

The earl’s comments echoed the motion to the restored Stormont Assembly for action to save Lough Neagh from its pollution crisis, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Earlier this week, the Guardian reported on the sudden disappearance of the lough’s swarms of flies in 2023 — one link in a chain of ecological decline that includes the collapse of its native eel fishery last year.

Published in Environment
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Three Sinn Féin MLAs have brought a motion to the newly restored Stormont Assembly for action to save Lough Neagh from its pollution crisis, as The Irish Times reports.

MLA for North Antrim, Philip McGuigan described the situation on the lough as an “ecological catastrophe”.

“The work of saving Lough Neagh and repairing the damage to its ecology and environment and that of its tributaries and surrounding land must be a top priority for the Executive in the time ahead,” he told the Assembly on Tuesday (13 February).

The motion comes on the heels of last summer’s spate of toxic blue-green algae blooms, which caused the deaths of numerous pets and was blamed for the collapse of the lough’s renowned native eel fishery.

Untreated wastewater and agricultural run-off — not to mention climate change, invasive species such as the zebra mussel, and political inaction due to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive — have been singled out as reasons behind the current crisis.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Warning signage is being removed from locations around Lough Neagh following this past summer’s blooms of toxic blue-green algae.

But as BBC News reports, it could be years before the ecological impact on the lough is fully understood.

Ulster Angling Federation chair Gary Houston claimed that the collapse of the Lough Neagh fly, attributed to the cyanobacteria blooms, has had a knock-on effect on all other species in the area — most notably its native trout and eels.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) said the fly species was not previously monitored as it was “commonplace and not a protected feature” but confirmed they are “a key trophic (food) component of the Lough Neagh ecosystem”.

“We’ve been damaging the ecosystem in Lough Neagh now for 60 years or so and we’ve been doing it knowingly for 50 years, but we’ve got away without the acute impacts [until now],” said Dr Adam Mellor of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institution (AFBI).

All parties acknowledge that the current crisis is the result of multiple factors over decades — including climate change, changes in agriculture and the presence of invasive species — and some believe it could take just as long to turn it around.

BBC News has much more on the story HERE.

Restrictions have been lifted at Oxford Island in Co Armagh after the discovery of a suspected wartime munition.

The object has since been made safe after its examination by specialist PSNI officers at the Lough Neagh beauty spot and nature reserve near Lurgan, as the Belfast Telegraph reports.

A number of people were stranded in the area for up to four hours when it was cordoned off on Thursday afternoon (26 October).

One visitor, Susan Kyle, told the BBC that she and her two children had only just arrived to feed the ducks when the only road in and out was closed.

However, despite the difficulties she and others experienced, Kyle described it as “a lovely place to be stranded”.

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Lough Neagh “isn’t just dying, it’s been killed” by a combination of human-made factors, one conservationist has declared as the crisis around toxic blooms of blue-green algae continues.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Friends of the Earth NI director James Orr says the situation “has literally blown people’s trust in the health of the lough out of the water”.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the lough — which is the source of nearly half of Northern Ireland’s drinking water — is in crisis due at least in part to the affects of pollution from untreated wastewater and agricultural run-off, as anglers and other groups have claimed.

Similar blooms of cyanobacteria have been recorded across the region, such as on the Lower Bann — which has lost at least one long-standing watersport business to the “unsustainable” situation — and with the latest confirmed at Lough Ross in Crossmaglen.

The issue prompted protestors to hold a ‘wake’ for Lough Neagh last weekend, as others lamented the collapse of the lough’s renowned eel fishery and even the Catholic and Anglican archbishops of Armagh were moved to call for immediate government intervention to help reverse “an environmental disaster”.

In recent days the SDLP has made a renewed bid to recall the Stormont assembly to address the crisis — the lack of a functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland since February 2022 being cited as one of a combination of factors that’s led to the current state of affairs.

Peter Harper of the Lough Neagh Partnership tells The Irish Times that other salient factors include the impact of the invasive Zebra mussel as well as climate change, which has raised the temperature at the bottom of the lough by one degree, in turn contributing to wetter weather that feeds the cycle of pollution from farmland and an overwhelmed sewage system.

“The lough’s in crisis,” says Ciara Laverty of the Lough Neagh Partnership. “The ecology’s changing, unless we do something drastic about it now. Decades of neglect have led us to this point.”

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Two archbishops of Armagh have called for a joint task force to save Lough Neagh from “an environmental disaster”.

Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop John McDowell have issued a joint statement in which they state that they have “grave concerns” that the response to the algal bloom in the lake is “too slow and is tied up in multi-agency bureaucracy”.

“Whilst multiple stakeholders debate the remit of responsibility, Lough Neagh and those who live near and around it suffer. There is a clear need for decisive leadership. We must identify the causes of pollution and devise an action plan capable of arresting the decline,” they state.

“This impressive body of water – the largest freshwater lake in these islands – is facing a dire threat from toxic blue-green algae,” the two archbishops state.

“ Collectively, we are endangering a natural asset that provides water to hundreds of thousands of families across Northern Ireland, sustains diverse fish varieties, supports wildlife and offers employment opportunities to thousands of people across the area,” they say.

“Last week, representatives of our churches visited Lough Neagh and heard from some of those who live and work around it – people who love the lough and enjoy it for all its recreational facilities, and others who depend on the lough for their livelihoods and for fishing,” they say.

“In recent days, we have heard words of reassurance from those charged with protecting Lough Neagh. Still, the algae bloom persists and poses a real threat to livestock, pets and humans. It is indiscriminate in nature and a blight on the natural landscape and ecosystem,”they continue.

“We are facing an environmental disaster and, as church leaders, we worry that the issue is not being given the priority it deserves. Before Lough Neagh approaches the point of no return, a collective examination of the causes and development of a robust plan to save this unique and ancient ecosystem is needed,” they say.

“Each one of us is called to be a custodian and a steward of creation; we all share a collective responsibility to safeguard the beauty and wellbeing of our natural surroundings and must maintain and preserve the lough for future generations to enjoy. We cannot take it for granted,” they say.

“Lough Neagh ought to be the jewel in our tourism and recreational crown and not a danger to life, flora and fauna. We will not be forgiven for our inaction or inability to come up with workable solutions,”they say.

“Our appeal is that a task force comprised of experts and relevant agencies be formed immediately and instructed to submit a report outlining procedures and actions required to avert a disaster within a short timeframe,”they conclude.

Published in Inland Waterways
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Causeway Coast and Glens councillors have echoed growing concerns over the state of the aquatic environment following recent blooms of toxic blue-green algae, as the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Alliance Councillor Peter McCully tabled a motion at last week’s Environmental Services Committee Meeting that emphasised the “detrimental impact these blooms have had on local businesses”.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, at least one long-standing business on the Lower Bann has announced its closure, claiming its future is “unsustainable” given the likelihood of dangerous cyanobacteria blooms happening “on a yearly basis”.

Cllr MuCully said the response from Northern Ireland’s Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to this summer’s incidents is “not sufficient” and his motion calls for DAERA to convene cross-party talks across all affected council areas to develop and action plan.

Lough Neagh has also been affected by toxic blue-green algae blooms in recent months, with angling groups claiming that the lough is “dying” due to the affects of pollution from untreated wastewater and agricultural run-off.

The lough’s eel fishermen have added their voices to the call for action, saying their industry has collapsed this season.

"Never have I seen so many eel fisherman resorting to scale fishing in order to make some form of income,” one co-op member told the Irish News, which has more on the story HERE.

Lough Neagh Rescue says interference with access to the water due to silting issues “will cost lives”, as BelfastLive reports.

The Northern Ireland community lifeboat group said two call-outs in recent days were delayed due to silt blockages at Maghery Canal between the lough and the River Blackwater.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said Manus Lappin, a director of Lough Neagh Rescue who put the blame on lack of regular maintenance of the canal.

He added: “It’s a huge danger to us trying to provide the service that we provide.”

Currently the Maghery Canal is the only access to the Blackwater from Lough Neagh, as another at the Barmouth is currently impassable for boats.

“We wouldn’t have this problem if the Barmouth was clear and was maintained,” Lappin said. “The problem with all this is nobody is taking responsibility.”

BelfastLive has more on the story HERE.

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A popular destination for watersport on Northern Ireland’s North Coast has blamed governmental inaction over wastewater discharges for its decision to close after nearly three decades.

In a statement on social media, Rob Skelly of the Cranagh Activity Centre said recent blooms of toxic blue-green algae that have affected Lough Neagh and the Lower Bann are travelling out to sea through the river system, past its location.

“With this likely to happen on a yearly basis we feel that our business has become unsustainable and that we have no option but to close,” Skelly added.

He also echoed recent comments from concerned angling groups in saying that “we are seeing the collapse of the ecology of the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann system”.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

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Ireland & La Solitaire du Figaro

The Solitaire du Figaro, was originally called the course de l’Aurore until 1980, was created in 1970 by Jean-Louis Guillemard and Jean-Michel Barrault.

Half a decade later, the race has created some of France's top offshore sailors, and it celebrated its 50th anniversary with a new boat equipped with foils and almost 50 skippers Including novices, aficionados and six former winners.

The solo multi-stage offshore sailing race is one of the most cherished races in French sailing and one that has had Irish interest stretching back over 20 years due to the number of Irish stopovers, usually the only foreign leg of the French race.

What Irish ports have hosted The Solitaire du Figaro?

The race has previously called to Ireland to the following ports; Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

What Irish sailors have raced The Solitaire du Figaro?

So far there have been seven Irish skippers to participate in La Solitaire du Figaro. 

In 1997, County Kerry's Damian Foxall first tackled the Figaro from Ireland. His win in the Rookie division in DHL gave him the budget to compete again the following year with Barlo Plastics where he won the final leg of the race from Gijon to Concarneau. That same year a second Irish sailor Marcus Hutchinson sailing Bergamotte completed the course in 26th place and third Rookie.

In 2000, Hutchinson of Howth Yacht Club completed the course again with IMPACT, again finishing in the twenties.

In 2006, Paul O’Riain became the third Irish skipper to complete the course.

In 2013, Royal Cork's David Kenefick raised the bar by becoming a top rookie sailor in the race. 

In 2018, for the first time, Ireland had two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who joined the rookie ranks and kept the Irish tricolour flying high in France. Mulloy became the first Irish female to take on the race.

Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa competed for his third year in 2020 after a 25th place finish in 2019. Dolan sailed a remarkably consistent series in 2020 and took fifth overall, the best finish by a non-French skipper since 1997 when Switzerland’s Dominique Wavre finished runner up. Dolan wins the VIVI Trophy.

Dolan finished 10th on the first stage, 11th on the second and seventh into Saint Nazaire at the end of the third stage. Stage four was abandoned due to lack of wind. 

Also in 2020, Dun Laoghaire’s Kenneth Rumball became the eleventh Irish sailor to sail the Figaro.

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

2023 La Solitaire du Figaro Course

Stage #1 Caen – Kinsale : 610 nautical miles
Departure August 27 (expected arrival August 30)

Stage #2 Kinsale – Baie de Morlaix : 630 nautical miles
Departure September 3 (expected arrival September 6)

Stage #3 Baie de Morlaix – Piriac-sur-Mer : 620 nautical miles
Departure September 10 (expected arrival September 13)

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