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A Sigma 33 One Design keelboat racing on Dublin Bay Photo: AfloatA Sigma 33 One Design keelboat racing on Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat

Displaying items by tag: pollution

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.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has welcomed the outcome of a case it brought against Uisce Éireann involving sewage pollution of the Cavan town river.

A fine of €2,000, plus costs and expenses of €3,197, were imposed at a hearing on the matter at Cavan District Court on Friday 1 December.

It comes after IFI had previously secured prosecution in October against the State water utility for pollution of the Ballinagh River in Co Cavan which killed 160 fish.

The court heard that in the wake of ongoing issues at the Uisce Éireann wastewater treatment plant at Ballinagh, senior IFI fisheries environmental officer Ailish Keane had taken samples for analysis following the pollution event in Cavan town on 3 February this year.

These test samples, taken downstream from the plant, showed high levels of pollutants, with large amounts of sewage fungus — bacteria, fungus and algae that reduce oxygen levels — visible on the bed of the river.

Commenting on the verdict, Dr Milton Matthews, director of IFI’s North-Western River Basin District said: “We welcome the outcome in this case. The presence of sewage fungus in the river is indicative of chronic organic pollution of the Cavan town river at this location, rather than an isolated incident — with significant impact on fish, invertebrates and all aquatic life in the river.

“There were significant breaches of the licence emission limits for biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) — oxygen required to break down organic matter in the water — and high ammonia levels.

“Sample results taken at the location indicated that ammonia levels were over 115 times higher than permitted discharge limits, and eight times higher than permissible for BOD limits as stipulated for this treatment plant.”

The conviction was secured under Section 171 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 — legislation regarding protection of fishing waters from harmful pollutants.

Members of the public are encouraged to report instances of water pollution, illegal fishing, habitat destruction or fish kills to IFI’s confidential number at 0818 34 74 24.

Published in Angling

The Rivers Trust supports the findings of new report that rings alarm bells about the critical state of water quality management in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The Surfers Against Sewage Water Quality Report for 2023 says that in Northern Ireland, there is a lack of the discharge of raw sewage into waters at popular beaches and inland waterways bathing sites — and both anecdotal reports and water quality data suggest the problem is significant.

Mark Horton, all-Ireland director of The Rivers Trust said the report “underscores longstanding environmental concerns we continually raise. The evidence of the effects of sewage and pollution is there and clear.

“The severe algal bloom in Lough Neagh is a stark illustration of the consequences of poor environmental stewardship in Northern Ireland.”

NI’s 2,398 operational sewage overflows — and the sparse data on their performance — emphasise an urgent need for investment in increased monitoring and more transparency so the public can make informed decisions and remedial actions can be taken, The Rivers Trust says.

Horton added: “The management of sewage in Northern Ireland shows a critical need for investment and modernisation. With the absence of a functioning Stormont Executive and no independent environment agency, decisive actions to protect and restore water quality are practically impossible.

“This inaction is unacceptable. Water users in Northern Ireland deserve the same level of safety and information as those elsewhere. Ultimately, we need proper resourcing of Northern Ireland Water to enable it to put in place real-time sewage alerts, so swimmers, surfers and anglers can protect themselves from direct discharges of untreated sewage.”

Horton acknowledged NI water’s plans to deploy monitoring systems by 2024 as “a positive step”, but cautioned that “the lack of clarity on how data will be dissemination and public accessibility to the data remains a concern”.

“Real-time, accessible water quality information isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a necessity for the health and safety of our communities and ecosystems,” he said.

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.

New predictive technology being developed in Estonia could help prevent the spread of pollution from shipwrecks.

Estonia’s public broadcaster ERR News reports on the monitoring system created by marine scientists at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) that may forecast where fuel will spread in the water from a hazardous wreck site.

Estonia’s coastline on the Gulf of Finland, Gulf of Riga and Baltic Sea has a large number of decades-old shipwrecks which are increasingly prone to fuel leaks as they age.

So far the results are promising, with TalTech’s predictive computer models — using current and wave data from Estonian waters — matching real-world data collected from smart buoys placed at a number of coastal sites.

ERR News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Science

More than half of Ireland’s bathing waters were affected by swimming bans this past summer, an investigation by Noteworthy has revealed.

While four in five coastal and inland bathing spots were classed as excellent in 2022, that statistic runs counter to a wave of swimming prohibitions at beaches and other areas around Ireland in recent years.

This is due to various problems with pollution caused by wastewater release and other factors, the report indicates.

And the issue is being exacerbated by climate change, as wetter conditions lead to overflow from treatment plants operating below EU standards, not to mention runoff from farmland and other surface waters.

Noteworthy has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Sea Swim
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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.

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.

A ‘substantial’ fish kill affecting trout and young salmon has been discovered in a tributary of the River Finn in Co Donegal.

Donegal Daily reported on Wednesday (13 September) on the incident in what’s described as a “nursery stream” at Crossroads in Killygordon, east Donegal.

It says it understands that hundreds of trout and young salmon have been lost.

In a statement, the Loughs Agency said it was alerted on Tuesday evening (12 September) “to the potential presence of a pollutant into a tributary of the River Finn, allegedly stemming from a commercial premises”.

It continued; “Loughs Agency fishery officers immediately initiated an investigation, where they discovered a discharge of deleterious matter had entered the watercourse.

“Substantial fish mortalities were discovered in the river on Tuesday evening, as well as during searches on the morning of Wednesday 13 September. Samples were collected from the discharge for analysis.

“Loughs Agency has committed significant resources into the clean-up operation, with fishery officers actively working to help ensure additional fish mortalities are mitigated as best as possible. We will have resources at the site of the incident until the investigation is complete.”

Published in Angling

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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How to sail, sailing clubs and sailing boats plus news on the wide range of sailing events on Irish waters forms the backbone of Afloat's sailing coverage.

We aim to encompass the widest range of activities undertaken on Irish lakes, rivers and coastal waters. This page describes those sailing activites in more detail and provides links and breakdowns of what you can expect from our sailing pages. We aim to bring jargon free reports separated in to popular categories to promote the sport of sailing in Ireland.

The packed 2013 sailing season sees the usual regular summer leagues and there are regular weekly race reports from Dublin Bay Sailing Club, Howth and Cork Harbour on Afloat.ie. This season and last also featured an array of top class events coming to these shores. Each year there is ICRA's Cruiser Nationals starts and every other year the Round Ireland Yacht Race starts and ends in Wicklow and all this action before July. Crosshaven's Cork Week kicks off on in early July every other year. in 2012 Ireland hosted some big international events too,  the ISAF Youth Worlds in Dun Laoghaire and in August the Tall Ships Race sailed into Dublin on its final leg. In that year the Dragon Gold Cup set sail in Kinsale in too.

2013 is also packed with Kinsale hosting the IFDS diabled world sailing championships in Kinsale and the same port is also hosting the Sovereign's Cup. The action moves to the east coast in July with the staging of the country's biggest regatta, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta from July 11.

Our coverage though is not restricted to the Republic of Ireland but encompasses Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Irish Sea area too. In this section you'll find information on the Irish Sailing Association and Irish sailors. There's sailing reports on regattas, racing, training, cruising, dinghies and keelboat classes, windsurfers, disabled sailing, sailing cruisers, Olympic sailing and Tall Ships sections plus youth sailing, match racing and team racing coverage too.

Sailing Club News

There is a network of over 70 sailing clubs in Ireland and we invite all clubs to submit details of their activities for inclusion in our daily website updates. There are dedicated sections given over to the big Irish clubs such as  the waterfront clubs in Dun Laoghaire; Dublin Bay Sailing Club, the Royal Saint George Yacht Club,  the Royal Irish Yacht Club and the National Yacht Club. In Munster we regularly feature the work of Kinsale Yacht Club and Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven.  Abroad Irish sailors compete in Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) racing in the UK and this club is covered too. Click here for Afloat's full list of sailing club information. We are keen to increase our coverage on the network of clubs from around the coast so if you would like to send us news and views of a local interest please let us have it by sending an email to [email protected]

Sailing Boats and Classes

Over 20 active dinghy and one design classes race in Irish waters and fleet sizes range from just a dozen or so right up to over 100 boats in the case of some of the biggest classes such as the Laser or Optimist dinghies for national and regional championships. Afloat has dedicated pages for each class: Dragons, Etchells, Fireball, Flying Fifteen, GP14, J24's, J80's, Laser, Sigma 33, RS Sailing, Star, Squibs, TopperMirror, Mermaids, National 18, Optimist, Puppeteers, SB3's, and Wayfarers. For more resources on Irish classes go to our dedicated sailing classes page.

The big boat scene represents up to 60% of the sail boat racing in these waters and Afloat carries updates from the Irish Cruiser Racer Association (ICRA), the body responsible for administering cruiser racing in Ireland and the popular annual ICRA National Championships. In 2010 an Irish team won the RORC Commodore's Cup putting Irish cruiser racing at an all time high. Popular cruiser fleets in Ireland are raced right around the coast but naturally the biggest fleets are in the biggest sailing centres in Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay. Cruisers race from a modest 20 feet or so right up to 50'. Racing is typically divided in to Cruisers Zero, Cruisers One, Cruisers Two, Cruisers Three and Cruisers Four. A current trend over the past few seasons has been the introduction of a White Sail division that is attracting big fleets.

Traditionally sailing in northern Europe and Ireland used to occur only in some months but now thanks to the advent of a network of marinas around the coast (and some would say milder winters) there are a number of popular winter leagues running right over the Christmas and winter periods.

Sailing Events

Punching well above its weight Irish sailing has staged some of the world's top events including the Volvo Ocean Race Galway Stopover, Tall Ships visits as well as dozens of class world and European Championships including the Laser Worlds, the Fireball Worlds in both Dun Laoghaire and Sligo.

Some of these events are no longer pure sailing regattas and have become major public maritime festivals some are the biggest of all public staged events. In the past few seasons Ireland has hosted events such as La Solitaire du Figaro and the ISAF Dublin Bay 2012 Youth Worlds.

There is a lively domestic racing scene for both inshore and offshore sailing. A national sailing calendar of summer fixtures is published annually and it includes old favorites such as Sovereign's Cup, Calves Week, Dun Laoghaire to Dingle, All Ireland Sailing Championships as well as new events with international appeal such as the Round Britain and Ireland Race and the Clipper Round the World Race, both of which have visited Ireland.

The bulk of the work on running events though is carried out by the network of sailing clubs around the coast and this is mostly a voluntary effort by people committed to the sport of sailing. For example Wicklow Sailing Club's Round Ireland yacht race run in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club has been operating for over 30 years. Similarly the international Cork Week regatta has attracted over 500 boats in past editions and has also been running for over 30 years.  In recent years Dublin Bay has revived its own regatta called Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and can claim to be the country's biggest event with over 550 boats entered in 2009.

On the international stage Afloat carries news of Irish and UK interest on Olympics 2012, Sydney to Hobart, Volvo Ocean Race, Cowes Week and the Fastnet Race.

We're always aiming to build on our sailing content. We're keen to build on areas such as online guides on learning to sail in Irish sailing schools, navigation and sailing holidays. If you have ideas for our pages we'd love to hear from you. Please email us at [email protected]