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Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine met with Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in Luxembourg today (Thursday 14th April).

Minister Coveney sought the meeting with the Commissioner to discuss the planned reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and other topical issues on the fisheries horizon at present. Minister Coveney invited Commissioner Damanaki to Ireland to meet the Irish Fishing industry in coastal communities.

Minister Coveney said "It is important from the perspective of furthering Irish ambitions that I build up a close working relationship with the Commissioner, so I saw this as an important opportunity to develop a rapport and connect in a meaningful way with Commissioner Damanaki. I had a frank and forthright discussion with her on the Reform of the CFP, and on Ireland's priorities."

The Minister set out key priority issues for Ireland in the CFP reform. A major priority is the retention of the Hague Preferences, agreed by Heads of State in 1976 by way of the Hague Resolution, under which Ireland receives additional shares of quotas for the whitefish stocks around our coast. There was been strong pressure from certain Member States that these should be abolished in the Reform. Minister Coveney said "Any interference that results in Ireland losing the current benefits of the Hague Preferences within the reformed CFP would be totally unacceptable to me. The Hague Preferences were the payment made for Ireland granting access to our waters to other Member States and a recognition of the high costs involved for the State in the control of these rich fishing grounds."

Minister Coveney set out Ireland's opposition to the mandatory privatisation of fish quotas and outlined the impacts of this policy on Ireland's coastal communities dependant on fisheries. Minister Coveney said "I used this the opportunity to explain why Ireland is strongly opposing a mandatory scheme for privatisation and trading of fish quota. I explained that the family owned fishing fleet in Ireland would be quickly bought out by international fishing companies without links to the coastal communities. I explained my strong belief that these companies would not land into Ireland and we would lose not just the jobs in the fleet but also the processing and ancillary jobs in our fishing ports."

Commissioner Damanaki has placed discarding of fish high on her agenda for the CFP reform to which the Minister made clear that he was committed to giving Ireland's support to assisting the Commissioner in identifying and implementing the appropriate measures to effectively address discards.

In addition to the issues surrounding the CFP reform, the Minister made very clear Ireland's demand for strong actions against Iceland and the Faroe Islands for their irresponsible and untenable fishing activities on the mackerel stock. The Minister said "the actions of these two fishing nations pose a serious threat to the well being of the mackerel stock which is very important to Ireland. I pressed the Commissioner to initiate strong action now, including the introduction of trade sanctions to bring pressure to bear on these two parties to come to the table with reasonable demands and agree a long term management framework for mackerel".

Finally the Minister said "I will continue to liaise closely with the Federation of Irish Fishermen and other industry representatives to further develop Ireland's negotiating position. I consider that today's meeting with Commissioner Damanaki was very useful in giving her a full understanding of Ireland's situation and the importance of the maintenance of a strong fishing industry supporting the fishing communities around our coast".

Published in Fishing
There is some confusion within the marine sector this week as to how fully civil servants are accepting the return of "marine" to the name of a Government Department. When Simon Coveney was appointed as "Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food" by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, some sections of the marine industry questioned how much this really changed the attitude of the Government towards maritime matters.

My view was that it was a substantial change and that the pre-Election pledge of Fine Gael to co-ordinate all maritime aspects under one Department was being delivered upon and I welcomed the appointment.

But this week it has been pointed out that, while the names of other Government Departments have already been changed to their new designations under the Ministerial appointments announced in the Dail, this has not been done where the marine is concerned. The Department of the Taoiseach's website lists Simon Coveney's Department as "Agriculture, Fisheries & Food" and the Department is so far retaining that title. Its press releases have describe Coveney as "Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine," not what the Taoiseach announced in the Dail.

This is not pedantic, but a reasonable issue to raise bearing in mind past marine experience. When Bertie Ahern abolished the Department of the Marine and assigned duties to the "Minister for Transport and Marine" in the last Government, top civil servants in that Department removed "marine" from its title. When I questioned that, I was told that a meeting of those officials had been held and that decision had been made.

So, I asked the Department of the Taoiseach this week, what exactly is the title of Simon Coveney's department. To the time of writing this column, no response has been received.

When he was Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny told me in a radio interview of his pride in the maritime connections of his family which had been involved in the lighthouse service.

I asked the Department of "Agriculture, Fisheries and Food" press office why "marine" was listed as third in the Minister's role rather than second, as described in the Dail. I was told that arrangements and decisions and an "SI" - "statutory instrument" - were awaited.

I will be interested to see how long that takes..

This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie
Published in Island Nation
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, is today travelling to Ros an Mhíl to see for himself the operation underway to attempt to refloat the large merchant vessel which ran aground in the harbour early this morning.

Minister Coveney is meeting the Harbour Master and will be briefed by the various agencies who are involved in the operation, including the Irish Coast Guard, Galway County Council and the ship's representatives and will be given a full assessment of the current situation and the contingency arrangements being put in place by the agencies involved for the next few days.

The Minister said "I am anxious to see the situation for myself and to express my support to all involved in this multi-agency operation. While this is obviously a very serious and evolving situation, I have full confidence in the Harbour Master and his staff, the Coast Guard and the other agencies involved to do a fully professional job to address the current situation. The purpose of my visit is to reassure all those concerned that this incident is getting the priority it deserves. I am especially concerned to ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to protect the harbour and the local environment and to avoid any pollution during the very challenging efforts to refloat the vessel. "

The current situation and the weather forecast are being carefully monitored by the Coast Guard. Initial investigations, including evidence from divers, indicate no apparent damage to the vessel and no pollution has been reported. Meanwhile, the vessel's owners are in the process of organising tugs to help move it from its current position.

Published in Ports & Shipping

Dubin's Lord Mayor opened a Tall Ship and Youth Sail Training Workshop with an agenda to seek a solution to the current Irish Sail Training impasse caused by the loss of sailing's Asgard II and Lord Rank.

Over 70 delegtes including many of the 'top brass' of the Irish Tall Ship commuunity attended the meeting held at the offices of Dublin Port Company on Saturday (26th March). The meeting inlcuded members of Coiste an Asgard, port companies, education, tourism and other sailing interests.

The meeting was formally opened by Dublin Lord Mayor and Port Admiral, Gerry Breen who introduced the chairman Lord Glentoran and the Facilitator Michael Counahan.

Tallshipschairmen

From (Left to right)  Seamus McLoughlin, Dublin Port Head of Operations,  Enda Connellan, Chairman Tall Ships Dublin 2012, Des Whelan, Chair Tall Ships Waterford 2011,  Lord Glentoran (Robin Dixon) Chair Tall Ships Belfast 1992,  Dr. Gerard O'Hare, Chair Tall Ships Belfast 2009,  Ted Crosbie, Tall Ships Cork and  Enda O'Coineen, LetsdoitGlobal.

Des Whelan gave an excellent talk and presentation on Tall Ships Waterford which was followed by a discussion on the massive economic benefits of bringing Tall Ships Festivals To Dublin, Cork and Belfast. Chairman of Tall Ships Dublin 2012 Enda Connellan and Ted Crosbie of Tall Ships Cork and Dr. Gerard O' Hare of Tall Ships Belfast discussed the incredible success stories from their respective ports festivals.
Several presentations and discussions followed regarding the role of Tall Ships in Sail Training, the connection between a vessel for Ireland and running events here. The question of who are the stakeholders and how can benefits be quantified was also discussed.
The meeting was hosted by Dublin Port Company who provided a warm welcome, excellent facilities, refreshments and a wonderful lunch with senior management attending to everyone's needs.
After lunch there were further discussions on what is the most suitable vessel, who should run the organisation and what would work best for Ireland.

Jimmy Tyrrell gave a short, eloquent and emotional account of Asgard II and the realisation of his father's dream which was fulfilled beyond all expectation by that legendary vessel and those who were privileged to sail on her. He affirmed his own belief that the way forward was with an All-Ireland Tall Ship and even suggested that she be called Spirit of Ireland. There were other suggestions for a name inlcuding 'Ireland's Call'.

A view was also expressed that politics and religion have no place in Sail Trail Training and the future lay in an All-Ireland Commercial/Charitable Trust Venture.

The prohibitive nature of current legislation and the total lack of awareness of the maritime sector by the Government was mentioned several times.

Ocean Youth Club NI provided four young sail trainees to address the gathering on the benefits of Sail Training from their perspective and representatives from education, tourism Tall Ships International and "Association Of Tall Ships Organisations" also contributed.

The general consensus was the need to develop and promote, as a matter of urgency, a plan for a Tall Ship For Ireland linking Youth, Maritime Education, Business and Tourism.

Another workshop will be held in Belfast in April and the collective input of both meetings will be considered going forward.

A Tall Order for Ireland? HERE

Regular updates on Irish Tall Ship sailing news HERE

More on Asgard II HERE

Published in Tall Ships
Taking my grandson to school in Crosshaven he showed me a page of homework which his teacher had said they would be talking about in class. It demonstrated the effect of debris on the oceans and what can happen when litter is thrown into a river or stream or left on the beach.

It was very topical, because this week the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference is taking place in Hawaii, organised jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Nations Environment Programme. This is an attempt to deal with the increasing problem of debris in the oceans of the world.

A United Nations report revealed some pretty frightening facts to the conference. Just two kinds of rubbish make up more than half the marine debris in the world. One is predictable enough – the horror of plastic choking sea life. The other came as more of a shock. The second most abundant kind of marine litter is smoking-related. Cigarette butts and packing account for nearly half of all sea rubbish in some parts of the world, according to the UN.

About 40 per cent of the litter in the Mediterranean Sea comes from this source. In Ecuador, smoking-related refuse accounted for more than half of coastal rubbish.

Ocean debris is a severe threat to the marine eco system. It kills at least 1 million sea birds and 100, 000 mammals each year, according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The general prognosis at the conference in Hawaii has been pretty grim. Things are getting worse and it is the fault of humans on land using the oceans as rubbish dumps.

As my grandson's homework showed, it takes two weeks for a bit of fruit thrown into a river or the sea to bio-degrade. It will be two months before a piece of cardboard breaks down, three months for a milk carton and matters get worse where a cigarette butt is concerned. That will take ten years to disintegrate, a Styrofoam coffee cup 50 years, a plastic bag over a hundred and the six-pack ring so often tossed overboard from boats 400 years, with the plastic bottle even worse at 450 years.

The threat and impact of marine debris have long been ignored. Perhaps it is the perceived vastness of the ocean and lack of visibility of marine debris, but the teachers in Crosshaven national school, on the edge of Cork Harbour deserve praise for making their young pupils aware of what throwing litter into a river or dumping it on a beach does.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie
Published in Island Nation
Irish Water Safety is today warning the public of the increased risk to people becoming stranded whilst walking or picking shellfish on our beaches over the weekend.

The moon will be at its closest to earth since 1993 on Saturday March 19th.
This "Lunar Perigee", or 'Super Moon' as some astrologers refer to it as, is the opposite of the "Lunar Apogee", when the Moon is furthest from Earth. Generally, the Moon looks about 12-14% larger at its perigee compared to its apogee.

This has the effect of causing very high and low tides, or increasing the range of the tide. This will expose large areas of beach and rocks which we normally don't see. Many people enjoy walking on our beaches and exploring these new areas of beach and in particular people enjoy picking shellfish to eat which become exposed during these very low tides.

The risk to the public will be of becoming stranded as the tide advances back in which can leave people in a position where they are cut off from the shore. Members of the public are cautioned to be aware of this risk and carry your mobile phone. Should you get in to trouble then call 112 or 999 and ask for Marine Rescue, giving your exact location and in particular if you are near to any conspicuous landmarks nearby to assist the Rescue Services in locating your whereabouts.

All seafarers, surfers, swimmers and divers should be aware of the increased tidal streams that will be running around our coast over the weekend; people could find themselves in peril as a result of these strong and fast tidal conditions which have not been experienced for some time now.

Published in Marine Warning
In his first week in office Marine Minister Simon Coveney has moved to highlight the significance of the marine sector to Ireland. The statement came in his first official engagement at the new Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food. Minister Coveney said: "the seas and ocean that surround the island of Ireland are among this country's greatest natural resources."

The Minister was speaking during a visit to the Marine Institute's research vessel, RV Celtic Explorer, on its return from a mission to the Labrador and Newfoundland Seas.

He added "I am particularly pleased that this is my first official engagement as Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food. The work of the RV Celtic Explorer highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence, where we have prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies."

Minister Coveney commended the Marine Institute and its Chief Executive, Dr Peter Heffernan, for its leading and proactive role in the areas of fisheries science, marine environment and food safety as well as ocean science and said that he looked forward to working closely with the Institute and benefitting from the research and advice which they would undertake and provide.

The Minister noted that Ireland's two national research vessels – RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager – will record 267 days at sea during 2011, during which they will be engaged in fisheries surveys, underwater mapping, climate studies and deepwater surveys.

Published in Marine Science
The Marine Institute has issued a statement congratulating Mr Simon Coveney TD on his new appointment as the Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food today (11th March 2011), during his visit on board the RV Celtic Explorer in Cork, after its return from the mission to the Labrador and Newfoundland Seas.

Seeing the capabilities of Ireland's largest research vessel and the work of the Marine Institute, Mr Simon Coveney highlighted the importance the Marine Sector has on the Irish economy. "The seas and ocean that surround the land of Ireland is arguably one of our countries greatest natural resources. Through marine research, development and sustainable management, Ireland is developing a strong reputation as an emerging centre of excellence, where we have prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies," he said.

Ireland's national research vessels RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager will record 627 days at sea between the two during 2011. Their work will range from fisheries surveys to underwater mapping and from climate studies to deepwater surveys with the remotely operated submersible ROV Holland 1.

"The work conducted on the vessels continues to feed into the success in attracting EU funding to Ireland's marine science programmes that have been achieved by our strategic approach to marine science planning" explained Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute.

"The award of funding projects shows that partnerships between academics and small businesses can yield significant dividends in creating jobs, generating economic revenue and the supply of raw materials for new industries ranging from ocean energy and environmental monitoring technologies to marine-inspired pharmaceuticals and food ingredients" he further said.

Published in Marine Science
11th March 2011

Marine is Back

I was pleased to hear Simon Coveney tell a presenter on a Cork local radio station that he had not been appointed just Minister for Agriculture but was also Minister for the Marine. He went further to tell the programme interviewer that he had been in boats since he could stand and had a deep interest in and commitment to the marine sphere and followed his father, Hugh, a former Minister for the Marine.

It is a reminder which I hope that the media in general will note and that his tile of Marine will be used as often as agriculture is. The general media has been notorious, in my view, for disregarding the marine sector unless there is disaster, emergency or controversy involved.

The return of the title 'Marine' to a Government Department is, to put it bluntly, a kick-in-the-ass which civil servants needed. It was a betrayal of this island nation's heritage when those in charge of the former Department of Transport held a meeting which decided to remove the title marine from the Department's name, even though the then Minister had been assigned the role of Minister for Transport and Marine. The man in charge of that Department, Noel Dempsey, did not demonstrate a lot of interest in the marine, being more noted for trying to shut down the coastal radio stations at Valentia and Malin, where he was beaten off by public opposition, which also happened when he tried to remove 24-hour rescue helicopter service in the south-east and for his introduction of laws which criminalised fishermen.

Hopefully, the restoration of 'Marine' to a Department's name will be the harbinger of better things for the marine sphere.

I have heard some disappointment expressed that the marine is not a department on its own, but what the Fine Gael and subsequently Coalition Programme for Government agreed by Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore said was: "Marine responsibilities will be merged under one Department, for better co-ordination in policy delivery."

They have been, though some of the finer detail remains to be seen, such as will the ports be moved away from Transport, to where port companies and commercial interests originally campaigned to have them moved? And how will the split of marine tourism work between Agriculture and Marine and the separate tourism department? A similar issue may arise in regard to sailing and sport, but it seems to me a positive step that the disregard which Fianna Fáil and the Greens showed for the marine sector is being changed.

It was also right to end a separate department for defence. With a small army and navy, smaller than the marine sector, it was nonsense that it should have been a department of its own.

Let us therefore, hope for the future and take a positive view of the change as being for the better.

Published in Island Nation

Cork sailor Simon Coveney (38) has been appointed as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Marine in the new cabinet of the Fine Gael/Labour Government formed yesterday.

The announcement has been welcomed by various marine interests pleased to see Marine back at the cabinet for the first time since the Department was dismantled by Fianna Fail's Bertie Ahern in 2002.

Coveney_Howth_Harbour

Marine Minister Simon Coveney TD

The appointment means Taoiseach Enda Kenny has kept good an election promise to reinstate the Marine department. A decade of lost opportunties has meant the sector has suffered through lack of infrastructure and coastline planning.

_coveney81Y4848

Simon Coveney at the helm of his yacht Wavetrain. Photo: Bob Bateman

"Simon is someone who understands the Sea as a sailor himself but also in his work as an MEP where he was involved in a number of major European maritime projects. This is a great opportuinty for the Marine. We look forward to working with him to develop this untapped resource." said David O'Brien of the Irish Marine Federation.

Simon was first elected to the Dáil in 1998 as one of Fine Gael's youngest TD's aged 26. He replaced his father Hugh Coveney TD following his untimely death.

Simon follows his father in to the post of Marine Minister. Hugh held the post in 1994.

Simon holds a B.Sc. in Agriculture and Land Management from Royal Agriculture College, Gloucestershire. He was also educated at Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare; University College Cork, and Gurteen Agricultural College, County Tipperary.

A keen fan of all competitive sport he has worked as a sailing instructor at his club Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven and been involved in many sailing regattas.

In 1997/8 he led the "Sail Chernobyl Project" which involved sailing a boat 30,000 miles around the world and raising €650,000 for charity.

In 2006 he contributed to RTE's series The Harbour and in a memorable quote, the Cork TD and former MEP said: "When somebody asks me the question, what's the one thing that's special about Cork?, I'd say the harbour."

Published in News Update
Page 5 of 8

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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