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Irish fishermen planning a peaceful protest over Russian naval exercises off the south-west Irish coast have been invited to talks by the Russian Ambassador to Ireland.

Ambassador Yuriy Filatov asked members of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) to discussions at the Russian embassy in Dublin on Thursday to hear their concerns about the proposed naval exercises planned for early February.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said Russia should call off its plans for military exercises off the Irish coast, saying it would “demonstrate goodwill” that they want to de-escalate tensions at a time of concern over a potential war in Ukraine.

The IS&WFPO announced its protest earlier last week over concerns about the potential harm to fish stocks and cetaceans from the effect of military sonar use and possible disruption from live ammunition drills in the area during the drills.

ISW&FPO chief executive Patrick MurphyISW&FPO chief executive Patrick Murphy

It is expected that the ISW&FPO delegation headed by chief executive Patrick Murphy will request that the planned area for the five-day exercise would be relocated further south west into deeper water off the Continental Shelf.

Up to 60 fishing vessels affiliated to the IS&WFPO pledged to peacefully disrupt the exercises, due to take place within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone, due to the threats to marine life and biodiversity.

Murphy said that there were currently "half a billion tonnes" of blue whiting in the area that move up along the coastline, representing "a one million tonne fishery".

"We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we're fishing there then these boats, these warships, shouldn't be having war games."

Murphy said an issue of "real concern" was that fishing gear could get tangled with a submarine.

In a comment, the Russian Embassy said it would be “reckless” for the fishing organisation to send vessels to the area within the exercise.

Ambassador Filatov said earlier this week that controversy around the exercise was "hugely overblown"..

He told a press conference that the planned exercises by Russian naval vessels were "not in any way a threat to Ireland or anybody else" and that no harm was intended by it.

Filatov said three or four ships would be involved, but he did not know if missiles or submarines would be used.

In an interview on RTÉ Radio’s Claire Byrne Show on Wednesday, Varadkar said that while he respected fishermen’s right to peaceful protest, he urged them not to be “naive” and not to put themselves at risk.

He said the Russian plans for naval exercises in the Republic’s exclusive economic zone are “not illegal” but “not welcome” and this had been conveyed to the Russian ambassador by Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said he was “ deeply concerned” about the impact on marine mammals, and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has expressed similar fears.

Published in Fishing
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Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan says he is “ deeply concerned” at the news that military exercises are to be conducted by Russia within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Area due to the impact on marine mammals.

In a statement last night, Noonan said he had written to both Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the Russian Ambassador to Ireland to express his concerns.

“While we do not know the nature of these exercises, we do know that underwater sounds such as active military sonar can have devastating consequences for cetaceans including some of our rarest marine mammal species, notably the deep-diving and rarely-seen Blue whale, Sperm whale and beaked whales,” Noonan said.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm NoonanMinister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan

“ It can cause significant disruption to their hearing systems and normal behaviour, and may lead to permanent or even lethal injury,” he said.

“Ireland’s marine mammals have been the focus of considerable research efforts over the last three decades and the understanding of species occurrence, abundance and distribution has improved markedly in that time,” he said.

As Afloat reported earlier, Cuvier’s beaked whales are known to inhabit the area where Russia plans a military exercise early next month

“Most recently the ObSERVE project, run jointly by my department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, mapped cetaceans through aerial and ship-based surveys over a three year period and across an extensive area of our off-shore waters,” he said.

“The second phase of this project – ObSERVE 2 – is currently ongoing,” Noonan said.

Russia's Ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said that controversy around the exercise was "hugely overblown".

He told a press conference on Monday that the planned exercises by Russian naval vessels off the southwest Irish coast were "not in any way a threat to Ireland or anybody else" and that no harm was intended by it.

Filatov said three or four ships would be involved, but he did not know if missiles or submarines would be used.

60 fishing vessels

Up to 60 fishing vessels affiliated to the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) have pledged to peacefully disrupt the exercises due to the threats to marine life and biodiversity.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland that there were currently "half a billion tonnes" of blue whiting in the area that move up along the coastline, representing "a one million tonne fishery".

"This is a very important ground where fish come to spawn... and we don't know what's going on out here.

"We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we're fishing there then these boats, these warships, shouldn't be having war games."

Murphy said an issue of "real concern" was that their fishing gear at the back of their boats could get tangled with a submarine.

In a comment to RTÉ, the Russian Embassy said it would be “reckless” for the fishing organisation to send vessels to the area within the exercise.

Head of German navy resigns

Earlier this week, the head of the German navy resigned after attracting criticism at home and abroad for saying that Ukraine would never regain the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Speaking at an event in New Delhi, India, on Friday, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach also said it was important to have Russia on side against China, and suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved “respect”.

“Is Russia really interested in having a tiny strip of Ukraine’s soil? No,” he said, in remarks which were recorded on video.

“Or to integrate it in the country? No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because he knows he can do it and he knows that it splits the European Union,” Schoenbach said.

“What he (Putin) really wants is respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost … It is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves,” he added, calling Russia an old and important country.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Irish fishing crews are planning to peacefully disrupt the planned Russian military exercise off the Cork coast next month, as RTÉ News reports.

Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said he told an official at the Russian Embassy that Irish crews “will be fishing in our traditional fishing areas and if this has an impact on their exercise this would be considered a peaceful protest”.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, concerns have been raised over the Russian missile tests that are being planned for international waters in the Atlantic some 240km off Co Cork but within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland this morning (Tuesday 25 January), Murphy added that the waters in question represent “a very important ground where fish come to spawn” and among other concerns noted the risk to fishing gear posed by any submarines that might accompany the Russian fleet.

“We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we’re fishing there then these boats, these warships shouldn’t be having war games,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it has written to Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney to express concern over the potential impact of the significant military exercise by the Russian navy and air force on marine wildlife in the area.

“Military exercises, especially the use of active sonar, are known to have a potentially huge impact on marine mammals, especially deep-diving species,” the group says.

“We are especially concerned as the slopes off the southwest including Goban Spur/Whittard Canyon are known to be important habitats for a range of deep-diving species” such as sperm whale, fin whales and Cuvier’s beaked whales, it adds.

Published in Fishing
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Concerns have been raised over Russia’s plans for a missile test off the coast of Ireland early next month, as TheJournal.ie reports.

What's been termed as a “major” military exercise by the Russian navy and air force will take place in international waters in the Atlantic some 240km off Co Cork but within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

It’s part of a wave of planned military exercises around the world announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration, and comes as tensions between Russia and NATO are at their peak surrounding fears of an invasion of Ukraine.

A security source tells TheJournal.ie that “with no primary radar, a limited number of maritime patrol aircraft and the majority of our naval fleet tied up”, it will be “very difficult to monitor anything on this scale”.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed to TheJournal.ie this evening (Saturday 22 January) that it has raised “concerns” with Moscow over the planned military manoeuvres.

TheJournal.ie has much more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
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A unique regatta is encouraging crews to swap the delights of Dublin Bay and other sea-level sailing grounds for the heights of the Caucasus.

The Kezenoy-am Cup is hosted by the Sailing Federation of the Chechen Republic at the highest lake in Russia, at an elevation of 1,870 metres.

Four racing days in SB20s and a variety of shore activities are organised for international participants and guests from 23 to 28 July.

Sailors will be racing for prizes that include the Challenge Cup of Kezenoy-Am and 1.2 million rubles (€16,000), and races will be umpired by Olympics and America’s Cup veteran race officer Luca Babini.

The event also includes a cultural programme with excursions in the Causasus, national dance shows and an introduction to the history and culture of Chechnya.

For more details on the Kezenoy-am Cup 2019 see the Sailing Federation of the Chechen Republic website HERE.

Published in SB20

#RussianSubs - Russian submarines have been tracked through the Irish Sea by the British military in recent days, according to Mail Online.

Two nuclear-powered Akula-class submarines were reportedly monitored by Royal Navy radar as they travelled to meet with a third sub tracked by Norway towards the English channel.

It’s understood all three were tracked by a Royal Navy sub before they went deep.

The situation comes after Russia unveiled a new stealth submersible craft amid escalating tensions over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interventions in Syria.

Mail Onine has much more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update

#Rio2016 - World Sailing has provisionally confirmed six Russian sailors for the Olympic Games that kick off next Friday in Rio.

Following a conference call yesterday (Tuesday 26 July) with its board of directors in the wake of the damning McLaren report on doping in sport, the world governing body for sailing confirmed the eligibility of RS:X competitors Stefania Elfutina and Maksim Oberemko, 470 sailors Liudmila Dmitrieva, Alisa Kirilyuk and Denis Gribanov, and Laser helm Sergey Komissarov.

All six are currently in Rio preparing for the games.

Gribranov's sailing partner Pavel Sozykin was denied eligibility based on the findings of the McLaren report, but World Sailing has recommended that the Russian Olympic Committee will have the opportunity to nominate a last-minute replacement.

These provisional confirmations are subject to approval by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"The World Sailing board of cirectors carefully considered all relevant factors in making these determinations, including the guidance provided by the IOC, the results of the McLaren Investigation Report and our own rules and procedures," said Andy Hunt, World Sailing CEO.

"This is unprecedented territory for international sport as, collectively, we work to protect the integrity of sport and remain resolute in our commitment to eliminate doping. These efforts must be balanced with principles of fairness, due process and adherence to established rules.

"There is, however, no room in sailing for athletes who seek to gain an unfair advantage through the use of banned substances or who attempt to manipulate or subvert the anti-doping system. For World Sailing, there is no greater priority than protecting and preserving clean competition.”

The news comes after all but six Russian rowers were barred from the Rio games over the McLaren findings, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Olympic

#Rowing: Only six Russia competitors have been cleared by Fisa, the governing body of rowing, to compete at the Olympic Games. Twenty were ruled ineligible as records were scrutinised in line with the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines on drug testing. One Irish crew, the lightweight women’s double, is affected. The Russia crew of Alena Statagina and Anastasiia Ianina will not be allowed participate, and their place will be offered to Italy.    

 The full Fisa statement reads:

The FISA Executive Committee has made a final decision related to Russian participation for rowing in Rio 2016 in accordance with the IOC Executive Board’s decision, point 2.3.

IOC Decision, point 2.3“IFs should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field”

Russia has qualified five boats and entered 26 rowers and two coxswains for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The athletes’ names were entered by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) by the deadline of 18 July 2016. Testing information collected from FISA, WADA, the Russian Rowing Federation (RRF), RUSADA and UK Anti-Doping shows that a total of 1679 blood and/or urine tests were carried out between 2011 and June 2016 on all Russian rowers. For the Russian rowers entered for Rio, 547 blood and urine tests were conducted since 2011. None of the 28 athletes entered on 18 July have tested positive in the last five years.All of these tests are fully documented in the WADA online documentation tool called ADAMS.

However, WADA’s Independent Person (IP) report reveals that the Moscow Laboratory was under the control of the Deputy Minister of Sport and was using the Disappearing Positive Methodology scheme to manipulate test results. It also states that the IP has “only skimmed the surface of the extensive data available.” Therefore,  the FISA Executive Committee reviewed each entered Russian rower in order to assess the adequacy and reliability of their “international” testing (the analysis of the samples performed at a WADA accredited lab other than Moscow), taking into account the specificities of the sport of Rowing.

IOC Decision, point 4. “The IOC will accept an entry by the ROC only if the athlete’s IF is satisfied that the evidence provided meets conditions 2 and 3 above, and if it is upheld by an expert from the CAS list of arbitrators appointed by an ICAS Member”

The FISA Executive Committee, due to the manipulation of the Moscow Laboratory tests, has determined, based on the assessment of independent testing of all rowers, the following will be permitted to enter:

CHAUKIN, Aleksandr

EFREMENKO, Georgy

KOSOV, Artem

MORGACHEV, Nikita

RYABCEV, Vladislav

ZARUTSKIY, Anton

The remaining 17 entered rowers and two coxswains (besides the three rowers revealed yesterday) are not at all considered to have participated in doping, but do not meet the conditions established by the IOC in their decision of 24 July 2016 for participation in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Effect of this decision

The effect of this decision is that Russia has six remaining eligible rowers - one lightweight and five open weight men - for competition in Rio 2016.

Therefore, four Russian boats (LM4-, LW2x, M8+ and W8+) will be withdrawn from participation in the Games and will be attributed to the next placing crews at the 2016 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, as follows:

LM4- to Greece, the Hellenic Rowing Federation

M8+ to the Italian Rowing Federation

W8+ to the Australian Rowing Federation

And in the 2016 European Continental Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland:

LW2x to the Italian Rowing Federation

Russia has the possibility to form a men’s four (M4-) with the eligible six rowers for competition in Rio 2016. We await the Russian Rowing Federation’s decision on this possibility.

Any issues with the Russian participation at the Paralympic Games will be dealt with at a later date.

Published in Rowing

#fishing – Minister Simon Coveney TD, at today's EU Fisheries Council, secured the agreement of the Council and the Commission to bank a portion of this year's fishing quotas and transfer them into 2015. This measure will give the fishing industry the option of not fishing part of this year's quota and having it available in 2015. This measure will help mitigate the impact of the Russian ban on the importation of fishery products. The banking option will be applied to the mackerel, horse mackerel and Celtic Sea herring stocks as these are directly impacted by the Russian imports ban. The measure will be introduced shortly on the basis of positive scientific advice that it will not adversely impact on the sustainability of the stocks.

Minister Coveney said "I have listened to our industry and the difficulties those fishing Celtic Sea herring, mackerel and horse mackerel are experiencing because Russia has closed its important market to EU fishery products. The price for herring has dropped significantly for this autumn fishery and I want to give the industry the option of banking part of the quota until prices improve. I today secured the agreement of the Fisheries Council and the Commission to bank 25% of this year's quota until prices improve next year when market conditions have improved. I expect the Commission to receive the required scientific advice that the stocks will not be adversely impacted by this measure over the coming week so that the measures may be adopted in early November. "

Minister Coveney added "I made clear at Council today that we must recognise that we are dealing with a difficult situation for our fishing industry arising from a geo-political issue. We fully support the sanctions decision taken by the EU but must now provide as much support as possible to our fishing industry. The agreement I secured today at Council will give the industry some time and flexibility to find alternative markets while preserving Ireland's quota allocation."

Published in Fishing

#Fishing - Marine Minister Simon Coveney wants an emergency fund to assist Irish mackerel fishermen who have been hit by Russia's ban on EU imports in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

As RTÉ News reports, Minister Coveney made the call at an emergency meeting of Europe's farming and fisheries ministers in Brussels yesterday (Friday 5 September), arguing that support provided to farmers should extend to the fishing sector.

Russia accounts for 25% of all mackerel exports from Ireland, and the minister added that Russia's EU seafood ban "means this is a big fisheries issue as well as an agri-food issue."

A €200 million fund has already been put in place to cover storage of goods that would have otherwise gone to Russia, and to redirect exports to new markets.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing
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SB20 (formerly Laser SB3) information

Designed by Tony Castro, the SB20 is a British-built strict one-design 6.15m keelboat conceived as a wide appeal, affordable, competitive sportsboat for teams of three or four sailors. It is also, arguably, the most successful sportsboat in the world with 800 owners competing regularly in a programme of exciting local, national and international events.

Originally known as the Laser SB3, the SB20 continues to deliver on its pioneering promise: a boat that is fun, fast and easy to sail by anyone of any age; the best value-for-money sportsboat in the market.

The Laser SB3 was designed by Castro and launched in 2002. In 2007 the Laser SB3 was awarded ISAF Recognised Status and the first World Championships were held in Ireland in 2008. In 2012, Tony Castro appointed a new builder, Sportsboat World. At this time, the Laser SB3 was renamed the SB20 and building was returned to the UK from Malaysia. The ethos of the class continues.

The boat is a strict one-design class, economic to buy and campaign, easy to sail with a simple deck layout and electric downwind performance delivered by the generous sail plan. The boat has a lifting keel, can easily be launched from a slipway and towed behind a family car.

Previous SB20 World Champions

2008 GBR: Geoff Carveth, Roger Gilbert, Roz Allen & Sarah Allan

Host National Yacht Club, Dun laoghaire, Ireland

2009 GBR: Craig Burlton, Stephen White, Adam Heeley

Host Clube Naval de Cascais, Cascais, Portugal

2010 GBR: Jerry Hill, Grant Rollerson, Joe Llewellyn

Host Circolo Vela Torbole, Lake Garda, Italy

2011 GBR: Geoff Carveth, Andy Ramus, Ian Mills & Emma Clarke

Host Royal Torbay Yacht Club, Torquay, UK

2012 GBR: Geoff Carveth, Lesley Dhonau, Roger Hudson & Asenathi Jim

Host Hamilton Island Yacht Club, Queensland, Australia

2013 GRB: Craig Burlton, Stephen White, Adam Heley Host COYCH Club, Hyeres, France

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