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‘Marine litter: are there solutions to this global environmental challenge?’ is the title of a free public lecture at 7pm tonight (Thursday 10 January) in the main concourse of GMIT’s main Galway campus.

Prof Richard Thompson from the School of Biological and Marine Sciences at Plymouth University will deliver the lecture ahead of the second Ecology and Evolution Ireland Conference at GMIT and NUI Galway this weekend.

Prof Thomson will discuss issues surrounding the widespread distribution of plastic debris at the sea surface, on the sea bed and on shorelines.

Nearly 700 marine wildlife species are known to encounter marine litter, with many reports of physical harm resulting from entanglement in and ingestion of plastic.

At the same time it is very clear that plastic items bring many societal benefits. Can these benefits be achieved without emissions of waste to the environment?

Progress requires systemic changes in the way we produce, use and dispose of plastic. Prof Thomson will suggest that a key solution to two major environmental problems, our non-sustainable use of fossil carbon (to produce plastics) and the accumulation waste, lies in recycling end-of-life plastics into new products.

While the two days of the conference on Friday 11 ad Saturday 12 January are now fully booked, attendance at this evening’s lecture is remains open and free to all.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Aarhus - Environment Minister Denis Naughten has launched the public consultation for a second implementation under the UN's Aarhus Convention on community participation in environmental issues.

Ratified in June 2012 after a long call by environmental and coastal community campaigners, the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters lays down a set of basic rules to promote citizens’ involvement in environmental matters and improve enforcement of environmental law.

Its provisions are broken down into three pillars: Access to Information on the Environment; Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making; and Access to Justice.

In what his department says is an effort to keep with the spirit of the convention, Minister Naughten has called on the public, including environmental NGOs, to submit comments on the implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Ireland prior to finalising Ireland's second National Implementation Report to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The purpose of this consultation is to provide the UNECE as well as the Aarhus Convention Secretariat and Compliance Committee with the widest possible range of views and opinions on issues related to the implementation and promotion of the convention in Ireland.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment website has the draft report and details of the consultation, for which comments should be submitted no later than 5pm on Friday 28 October.

Published in Coastal Notes

#GalwayPort - Business leaders have welcomed the news that the €126 million Galway Port extension project will be proceed under the IROPI section of the EU Habitats Directive.

According to the Galway Independent, the decision by An Bord Pleanála to proceed under IROPI – or Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest – is a first for Ireland.

Progress will involve establishing replacement habitats for those that would be adversely affected by the port extension. As previously reported on Afloat.ie, it was determined that a number of reef, mud and sand habitats would be destroyed by the 24 hectares of land reclamation required.

But there's better news for those with environmental concerns, as planners have determined that two nearby Natura sites – the Inner Galway Bay Special Protection Are and the Lough Corrib Special Area of Conservation – will see no impact, while priority habitats at Lough Atalia and Renmore Loughs will not be "negatively affected".

The board has also recommended "tight co-operation" between the Galway Harbour Company and local authorities to ensure conservation is made top priority throughout the project.

The Galway Independent has more on the story HERE.

Published in Galway Harbour

#DublinBay - "How many capital cities can boast such a rich marine megafauna?" asks the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's Dr Simon Berrow.

It's an important question as Dublin last week celebrated 300 years of profound change since the decision to build the Great South Wall.

Along with the Bull Wall that followed in the 1800s, it was a project intended to solve dangerous silting in the main channel to Dublin Port.

But together, they completely reshaped the environment around Dublin Bay into a habitat for hundreds of species of marine wildlife - including the aforementioned megafauna like dolphins and porpoises that frequent Dublin's waters.

And it's an environment that's still reshaping today, as the Irish Independent reports - using the example of a toilet block built on Bull Island's Dollymount Strand in the early 1970s but which today, only 44 years on, is nestled deep in the dunes some distance from the beach.

Bull Island itself, which did not exist before the building of the Bull Wall two centuries ago, is now home to nine distinct habitats among the many important sites that round the bay from Howth's sea cliffs to Seapoint's rocky shoreline.

And its biosphere status is one that Dublin City Council wants to extent over an area from Malahide down to Killiney to ensure the bay's proper protection and management.

The Irish Independent has more on the story HERE.

Published in Dublin Bay

#Fracking - Northern Ireland's inland and coastal waterways could be at risk from contamination by fracking activity, warns an environmental group.

The Belfast Telegraph reports on Friends of the Earth's poor assessment of Stormont's regulatory powers, with the group citing an array of illegal landfills and quarries across the North as a worrying precedent for any future fracking operations to extract shale gas.

In particular, FoE spoke out about licences for oil exploration granted for areas that cover wetlands, river catchments and marine zones - including Loughs Erne and Neagh, Belfast Lough and the Causeway Coast.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
Tagged under

#Sewage - Clonshaugh in North Dublin has been chosen as the location for the city's new water treatment 'super plant' which has long faced objections from local campaigners.

As The Irish Times reports, a meeting of Fingal County Council yesterday afternoon (10 June) saw the site near Dublin Airport chosen over Annsbrook and Newtowncorduff, both near the coastal towns of Rush and Lusk.

Part of the plan includes the construction of a 26km orbital sewer to collect waste from parts of Dublin, Kildare and Meath, and an outfall pipeline that will eject waste near Ireland's Eye.

Project managers have described the Clonshaugh option as "ecologically and environmentally better" than the alternatives, but campaigners such as Reclaim Fingal chair Brian Hosford argue that "the potential for environmental disaster [with a single large plant] is enormous".

In January 2012, Minister for Health James Reilly raised his own concerns that any potential malfunction at the large-scale facility - second-only in scale to the new water treatment plant at Ringsend - could see huge amounts of raw sewage pumped into the Irish Sea.

Meanwhile, The Irish Times also spoke to a farming family who may lose as many as 40 acres if the 'super plant' gets the go-ahead adjacent to their land.

"I would have to change my whole system of farming if this goes ahead," said 77-year-old PJ Jones, who added that his biggest concern was the smell.

Published in News Update

#Festivals - "Tens of thousands" of visitors are expected to flock to the City of the Tribes later this month for the first Galway Sea Festival over the June bank holiday weekend, according to the Galway Advertiser.

Dubbed the 'Mini-Volvo' by locals, the four-day event from 31 May till 3 June is hoped to recreate the celebratory atmosphere of last summer's successful Volvo Ocean Race finale, with a wide range of events both on and off the waters of Galway Bay.

Highlights include the festival regatta led by the Galway Bay Sailing Club's parades of sail on the Friday and Saturday evenings, and a traditional boat regatta by Badoiri na Cladaigh.

Watersports enthusiasts can get a taste of canoeing, diving, sea kayaking and windsurfing over the weekend, which also coincides with World Oceans Day - with family-friendly activities at the Galway Atlantaquaria on Sunday 2 June - and the International Canoe Polo Championships at Claddagh Basin.

Preceding the festival on Thursday 30 May will be the Bright Blue Sea Conference, a major international symposium on marine science, renewable energy, the environment and the 'blue economy'.

Last month it was reported that the Galway Sea Festival received the financial backing of Galway City Council, spurred by its aims to promote Galway as a maritime destination or commerce and tourism.

The Galway Advertiser has much more on the festival HERE.

Published in Maritime Festivals

#MarineScience - Irish companies and researchers have distinguished themselves by developing innovative maritime services using satellite derived data in areas as diverse as marine renewables, fisheries protection, aquaculture and tourism.  

That was the message from Dr Volker Liebig, director of Earth observation programmes with the European Space Agency at the opening of a conference on 'Space Innovation - Powering Blue Growth' at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Cork last week.

Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock, who opened the two-day event, said: “There are over 40 Irish companies currently engaged in ESA programmes, many of which are directly addressing global challenges such as climate change, sea-level rise, maritime surveillance and marine environmental monitoring.

"This is a growing industry and one which will guarantee high-quality jobs for Irish people and benefit our economy into the future.”

The conference - jointly organised by the ESA, the European Commission (DG Maritime Affairs), Enterprise Ireland, University College Cork’s Coastal and Marine Research Centre, the Irish Coast Guard and the Irish Naval Service - focussed on the contribution of space to maritime policy implementation; showed how new scientific results and innovative services assist in achieving targets set by the Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union (IMP); and assessed how the ESA space development activities and the IMP can contribute to economic growth in Europe.
   
Geoffrey O’Sullivan, representing Marine Institute CEO Dr Peter Heffernan, said that the conference "ably demonstrated that Space Remote Sensing had a very positive contribution to make towards developing our blue economy.”

Examples given included fisheries management (including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing); environmental assessment; detection of oil spills and harmful algal blooms; site survey for offshore renewable energy and aquaculture platforms; search and rescue; and maritime domain awareness (MDA).

O'Sullivan added that the Conference "validated the SMARTOCEAN (ICT and the Sea) Strategy being promoted by the Marine Institute, in identifying clear opportunities for Irish researchers and SMEs to harness their significant ICT and marine research skills and drawing on 'Big Data' provided by satellite sensors to develop of range of new products, services and applications relevant to local and global markets.”

Closing the conference, Marine Minister Simon Coveney commented that “increasing maritime situational and domain awareness is paramount in promoting a more inclusive approach to maritime development in delivering both the EU Blue Growth Strategy (2012) and Ireland’s Integrated Marine Plan (Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth) launched in 2012.

"Space based systems,” he said, “are a key component of an integrated and sophisticated maritime surveillance network.”  

Published in Marine Science

#SeismicSurvey - The Irish Times reports that the European Commission has demanded an explanation from the State regarding the absence of environmental impact assessments for seismic surveys off the west coast.

The action comes following a complaint lodged in Brussels by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) in the wake of the recommencing of seismic surveys over the Corrib gas field last month.

As Irish waters are a designated whale and dolphin sanctuary, the IWDG's position is that the State must comply with the EU directive to conduct an environmental impact assessment when licensing such ocean-bound surveys.

The group says it received word from the EC that the issue has been raised with the Department of Energy, and reiterated the need for "strict protection" of cetaceans in Irish and all EU waters.

Last December the IWDG expressed concerns over the potential impact of a 2D seismic survey on harbour porpoises in the Kish Bank Basin in Dublin Bay.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Providence Resources subsequently suspended its licence to explore for oil and gas at what was termed the Dalkey Island Prospect.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

#GalwayPort - Revived plans for the €200 million redevelopment of Galway Port may take a great leap forward in the next few weeks with the publication of a new policy document by the Minister for Transport.

The Galway City Tribune reports that Minister Leo Varadkar will release a 'Port Policy Statement' containing key recommendations for a development planning application to be made under IROPI (Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest) legislation.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, plans for a new deeper port in Galway Harbour were revived in August 2012 as harbour bosses sought to exercise a clause in the EU habitats directive.

Galway Harbour Company chief executive Eamon Bradshaw said at the time that the company was taking a new route after examining previous planning applications involving sensitive habitats.

He pointed out that under article 6.4 of the EU habitats directive, applications for projects classified under IROPI legislation allow developers to compensate for any infringement on sensitive habitats by restoring an area of a similar size in a different location.

It's now expected that the IROPI 'fast-track' will be approved if the Galway Harbour Company can prove that the port will have a significant economic benefit to bot the region and Ireland as a whole.

The Galway City Tribune has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Galway Harbour
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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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