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#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has recorded another first for the North Atlantic, with evidence showing that killer whales are feeding on ocean sunfish.

Mark Holmes of the Natural History Museum confirmed the presence of parasites unique to the sunfish found within the carcass of a female orca stranded in Doohooma in Co Mayo.

"These parasites did not originate from the whale's stomach, but came from the prey which it had eaten," said the IWDG's Conor Ryan.

"This was confirmed when the partially digested bones in the stomachs were eventually identified as those of a sunfish beak."

The discovery may explain a recent study of UK waters which found sunfish taking unusually deep dives, possibly to avoid cetaceans and other large predators.

Published in Marine Wildlife
The Marine Institute today welcomed the publication of a major international marine environmental status report highlighting evidence of climate change and ocean acidification in the North Atlantic and calling for the creation of more Marine Protected Areas. The Quality Status Report 2010 was compiled by an international team of scientists, including Marine Institute experts, from countries participating in the Oslo-Paris Convention (OSPAR).

Speaking from the launch of the report in Bergen, Norway, Minister of State with responsibility for Sustainable Transport, Horticulture, Planning and Heritage, Mr. Ciaran Cuffe T.D. said that Ireland welcomed this evidence-based assessment of the marine environment as a 'major milestone.'

"Such periodic holistic assessments are essential 'barometers' allowing policy makers to gauge overall progress towards sustainable management and identify those actions essential to deliver clean, diverse, healthy and productive seas around us," said Minister Cuffe. "Such actions are critical to maintaining our seas and oceans as a sustainable resource for this and future generations."

According to the Report, climate change and ocean acidification effects are now evident especially in the northern OSPAR areas. In addition, human uses of the marine environment, such as offshore renewable energy, offshore oil and gas production, mineral extraction and shipping, are increasing and must be managed in a coordinated way, backed up by research on impacts, if environmental damage is to be avoided.

Furthermore, the decline in biodiversity is far from being halted and actions, such as extending the network of offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), are required to improve the protection of threatened and/or declining species and habitats. In December 2009 Ireland designated 19 MPAs including 4 offshore MPAs.

However, the Report states that there has been progress in reducing pollution from nutrients, certain hazardous substances and radioactive substances in our oceans and seas, although continued efforts are needed. In addition, there have been improvements in fisheries management, although fishing activities continue to have large impacts on marine ecosystems in the seas around Ireland.

"The Marine Institute is delighted to have participated closely in the development and production of this assessment by acting as the focal point for Irish involvement in the process and by providing data and scientific input," said Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute. The QSR 2010 Report is a product of cooperation between many experts from 15 OSPAR countries. The Department of Environment, Health and Local Government act as Head of Delegation for Ireland to OSPAR.

Published in Marine Science
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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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