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Projects for pearl mussels and conservation of breeding curlew are among the 23 schemes being carried out nationwide under the European Innovation Partnership (EIP), as highlighted in a new exhibition in Dublin.

Agriculture House on Kildare Street is currently showcasing the innovation under the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine’s EIP/locally led schemes in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch yesterday (Wednesday 17 April), Marine Minister Michael Creed said: “We are committed to building a sustainable agricultural system that respects the environment. The agriculture sector is determined to play its part in responding to the challenges before us on climate, water quality and biodiversity.

“We are investing €59m in these locally-led schemes to achieve these goals at a local level by stimulating and developing innovative new approaches to tackling environmental challenges in a targeted way. This targeted approach to specific challenges in specific areas can complement our larger national agri-environmental schemes.”

The exhibition highlights the varied works undertaken by the EIP Project groups including projects on biodiversity, organic production, pollinators, water quality, flood management, soils, farming in an archaeological landscape and targeting un-utilised agricultural biomass.

The exhibition is open to the public to visit before going nationwide to other DAFM offices for display there. Following its display in Dublin, the exhibition will be moving to the department’s office at Johnstown Castle Estate in Wexford.

Further details of the EIP and locally led schemes can be found on the DAFM website HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

President Michael D Higgins has turned down an appeal made to him by lawyers for four mussel fishermen to refer controversial new legislation on access to Irish inshore waters to the judiciary.

The legislation restoring access by Northern Irish vessels to Irish waters within the six nautical mile limit was voted through the Dáil last week.

It was signed into law by Mr Higgins yesterday. 

In a letter to lawyers for four mussel fishermen - who won a Supreme Court case in 2016 challenging the legality of the “voisinage” or reciprocal access to waters - the President’s secretary general Art O’Leary explained that Mr Higgins may only refer a Bill to the Supreme Court “in circumstances where there is a question” that it, or part of it, “may be repugnant to the Constitution”.

The letter did point out that individuals or groups could still take a case to the courts to challenge the constitutionality of legislation.

The fishermen’s legal advisers are still awaiting a response from EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella over their concerns that the legislation was passed without understanding the real impact on the Irish fishing industry.

“We have no problem with Northern Irish fishermen in Northern Ireland making their living, if this was what this was all about, ”one of the four fishermen, Gerard Kelly of Greencastle, Co Donegal, said.

"Mr Kelly had gone on hunger strike outside the Dáíl last week to try and highlight the issues"

Mr Kelly had gone on hunger strike outside the Dáíl last week to try and highlight the issues to politicians and halted his action after the legislation was finally passed.

“Our problem is that this new law gives sufficient loophole to international companies who might register in Northern Ireland and could then gain access to our inshore waters at a time when the stocks cannot take this amount of effort,” Mr Kelly said.

“The key phrase in the legislation is “owned and operated in Northern Ireland” which is not clearly defined," he said.

“We are not just talking about the impact of increased effort on the mussel fishery, but about the impact on inshore stocks such as Razorfish and clams.”

Vessel length will be restricted when a new ban on trawlers over 18 metres inside the six-nautical-mile zone comes into force in 2020.

The Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, which was voted through by 72 votes to eight, has been flagged as reinstating the voisinage (informal neighbourhood) arrangement in place between Northern Ireland and the Republic from 1965 to 2016.

Access by Northern Irish-registered vessels to Ireland’s baseline to six-mile limit was suspended in 2016 after Mr Kelly and three colleagues won their Supreme Court case.

The court ruled then that Northern-Irish registered vessels had been unlawfully allowed to harvest mussel seed in Irish territorial waters.

The fishermen contended available mussel seed had dropped from 30,000 to 2,400 tonnes in 2012, and the court heard from a shellfish expert who noted the mussel seed fishery was “sustainable” with some good practices, including fishing seed later in the season to reduce mortality, until 2003/2004.

These “good practices” could no longer exist, the expert noted, after Northern vessels had entered the fishery.

The legislation to restore “voisinage” had been in abeyance until the recent detention of two Northern Irish fishing vessels in Dundalk Bay by the Naval Service. Although the two vessels had pleaded guilty and were released without conviction, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had described it as a “really regrettable incident”. The Democratic Unionist Party had accused the Government of trying to implement a “hard border” at sea.

Mr Varadkar did state it would be helpful if the British government gave assurances that it would not itself withdraw from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention (LFC). Britain declared two years ago that it intended to leave the convention, which preceded the EU Common Fisheries Policy, this July. (2019).

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation has argued that the new legislation may give all European parties to the LFC the right of access to Irish waters from six miles into the baseline even after Britain leaves.

A British government spokesman said that “we have always been clear that the voisinage arrangement exists separately from the LFC” and Britain’s withdrawal from it has “no legal effect on voisinage”.

“For this reason, there will be no requirement for Britain to alert other member states in the LFC to any change in Irish legislation”.

British government fisheries spokesman Lord Gardiner of Kimble stated in the House of Lords on March 11th that a number of representations were made by the British government since 2016 to restore “voisinage”.

He said that Mr Varadkar had “committed on March 1st” to “changing the law to restore the status quo to what it was before 2016, and has indicated that he is confident the legislation can be passed quickly”.

“The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Minister Creed, has made similar commitments,” the House of Lords was told.

Mr Creed has denied that the amended legislation has anything to do with Brexit, but elements within the fishing industry believe his decision to push through the Bill before Britain leaves the EU is tied into efforts to guarantee future access by Irish vessels to British fishing grounds after Britain withdraws from the Common Fisheries Policy.

Published in Fishing
Tagged under

#Mussels - Marine Minister Michael Creed has announced the selection of a project team to run the new Freshwater Pearl Mussel Programme.

The programme is one of a number of European Innovation Partnership (EIP) projects being rolled out by the Department under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

Two of these projects focus on areas agreed in advance with the European Commission: conservation of the hen harrier and of the freshwater pearl mussel.

A project team to lead the Hen Harrier Project was appointed in 2017, and the minister this week announced that a project team has now been selected to develop the actions at local level for the freshwater pearl mussel.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is allocating a total budget of €10 million for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel Scheme.

The selection was made on foot of a competitive tender by the department. Following careful assessment of the proposals received, the selection committee identified The Pearl Mussel Project Limited as the approach which best reflected the aims and objectives of the new scheme.

“I am very pleased at the quality of proposals put forward in response to my department’s tender,” said Minister Creed. “I am delighted that the new Freshwater Pearl Mussel programme is moving closer to design and implementation.

“The new project team will now commence developing the various actions to be carried out by farmers in the areas concerned in consultation with my own department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, as well as with farmers on the ground.”

The winning project team is joint approach led by Dr Patrick Crushell of Wetland Surveys Ireland, bringing together a team with Dr Derek McLoughlin and other experienced ecologists, agricultural advisors and environmental scientists. The team will be supported by Tómas O’Connor of O’Connor Pyne & Co, Chartered Accountants.

The new scheme will be open to farmers in eight selected catchments for freshwater pearl mussel in Ireland, with special emphasis on restoring the hydromorphology of the species’ aquatic habitat while also improving the quality of semi-natural terrestrial and wetland habitats.

The catchments are Currane, Caragh and Kerry Blackwater in County Kerry, Ownagappul in County Cork, Bundorragha, Owenriff and Dawros in County Galway/Mayo and Glaskeelan in County Donegal.

“Being a locally-led scheme, this process will also include the local knowledge and inputs from farmers on the ground,” the minister added. “Once the terms and conditions have been agreed, the recruitment of farmers to this critical scheme will commence. This is a pilot project administered by an independent group with a strong local focus, working in partnership with my department.

“This is a novel and innovative way of responding to local agri-environment challenges and we look forward to working with, and supporting our partners in the delivery of the schemes.”

Yesterday, as reported on Afloat.ie, Minister Creed met his French counterpart Stephane Travert in Paris as part of a series of bilateral meetings on the implications of Brexit for the agri-food and fisheries sectors.

Published in Fishing
Tagged under

#Mussels - Marine Minister Michael Creed has announced a major step forward for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel Scheme with the recruitment of a dedicated management team to help design and deliver the project on the ground.

A formal request for tenders has now been published by the department, which intends to appoint a project team before the end of the year.

The mussel scheme and a similar project for hen harriers will form part of the department’s new ‘Locally-Led’ initiative, a measure proposed by Ireland under the Rural Development Programme 2014–2020 and delivered through the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) framework.

While formal approval for the new measure is still awaited from the EU, Minister Creed said that he was moving ahead with both projects now to ensure that the schemes would be open to farmers in 2017.

Commenting on the mussel project, the minister said it "will be confined to eight catchments containing approximately 80% of the national population and will target up to 800 participants."

An overall budget of €35 million is being made available to fund both projects, designed and delivered in close collaboration with the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

“This is a completely new way of responding to what are by any standards major environmental challenges and choosing the right partners is important for my department,” said Minister Creed. “We want to work with management teams composed of key people who are in the best position to realise the goals of both projects, and who can build local ownership on the ground.”

The EIP Locally Led model will encourage a bottom-up design of the schemes by means of:

  • An array of stakeholders which include farmers, advisors, administrators, researchers, ecologists, NGOs, Government departments and agencies. Bespoke locally-tailored solutions to problems.
  • Strong focus on networking and collaboration to achieve objectives.
  • Dissemination and cross-learning of sustainable best practices.
  • Harnessing community involvement, ownership and goodwill in order to achieve mutual benefits and RDP objectives.
Published in Fishing
Tagged under

#Killary - The Irish Times reports on the death of a mussel farmer in a diving incident in Connemara at the weekend.

Marty Nee, who started a farm for rope-grown mussels in the area with his wife Catherine 16 years ago, died after getting into difficulty while diving in Killary Fjord on Saturday evening.

The loss of the 48-year-old Renvyle resident – a regular supplier to the annual Connemara Mussel Festival – has shocked the local community, according to Galway Bay FM.

Published in News Update

#Mussels - "Major concerns" abound over an endangered species of freshwater mussel after a Connemara roadway project given the go-ahead by planners before its design was finalised.

According to The Irish Times, locals expected the road project to be an upgrade of the existing route between Oughterard and Maam Cross, but only found out later that a wholly new road would be built through their land via compulsory purchase orders.

Besides splitting a number of farms in Glengowna near Oughterard, the final scheme will impact on the catchment of the Owenriff river, one of Europe's oldest trout hatcheries and host to one of the world's most important populations of the freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera.

And according to an independent ecologist, the presence of the latter means planning permission cannot be legally granted in the way it has been decided.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing
Tagged under

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Work on exterminating sea squirts at a marina in north Wales has begun.

The £250,000 (€301,000) project by the Countryside Council for Wales involves attaching giant bags to the subsurface structures around the marina in Holyhead, which is hoped will stop the clean flow of water to the sea squirts, causing them to suffocate and die.

Marine biologist Rohan Holt, who is managing the project, said: “If we successfully eradicate the sea squirt, we will work hard to make sure that it does not recolonise.

"This will mean careful monitoring in Holyhead marina and other marinas and popular mooring areas throughout Wales to check that it hasn’t reappeared."

The sea creature threatens shellfish by spreading like a blanket across the seabed and other surfaces.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, colonies of the invasive Japanese sea squirt are posing a throat to mussel and scallop bed in the Menai Strait between Anglesey and the mainland.

Boats from Ireland have been blamed for carrying the invasive pest into Holyhead.

The Daily Post has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
#MARINE WILDLIFE - Colonies of the invasive Japanese sea squirt are posing a threat to mussels and scallops in north Wales - and Irish boats are to blame, according to the Daily Post.
The sea creature - which threatens shellfish by spreading like a blanket across the seabed and other surfaces - has been discovered in Holyhead marina, allegedly carried in on the hulls of boats from Ireland.
And fears are growing that if the marine pest spreads to the Menai Strait, the effect on the local shellfish industry could be "disastrous".
To combat the problem once and for all, the Countryside Council for Wales will spend £250,000 of Welsh government funding on an extermination project at the marina, using plastic bags to smother the sea squirts and setting up quarantine facilities for incoming vessels.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Colonies of the invasive Japanese sea squirt are posing a threat to mussels and scallops in north Wales - and Irish boats are to blame, according to the Daily Post.

The sea creature - which threatens shellfish by spreading like a blanket across the seabed and other surfaces - has been discovered in Holyhead marina, allegedly carried in on the hulls of boats from Ireland. 

And fears are growing that if the marine pest spreads to the Menai Strait, the effect on the local shellfish industry could be "disastrous".

To combat the problem once and for all, the Countryside Council for Wales will spend £250,000 of Welsh government funding on an extermination project at the marina, using plastic bags to smother the sea squirts and setting up quarantine facilities for incoming vessels.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Published in Marine Wildlife

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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