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Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said his department is in “ongoing contact with the French authorities” regarding a military exercise planned for this week.

However, Mr Coveney described the area affected as “off the French coast”.

He said the full extent of the area that may be potentially affected includes a “small piece of the southern extremity of Ireland’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), approximately 200km southwest of Ireland’s territorial waters”.

Notification of live-fire exercises by the French military off the southwest coast has been criticised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) which says it may stage a peaceful protest.

The Fair Seas group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has also expressed concern, stating the exercises are due to take place in a “critically important area” for marine biodiversity.

A marine notice issued by the Department of Transport says it has been advised by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) of a missile/rocket firing exercise by the French military in part of the Irish EEZ “to the south-west of Ireland”.

The department notice says the exercise is scheduled to take place from June 21st to 24th and June 27th from 0200 hours to 1600 hours daily.

Mr Coveney said, “the IAA was informed of the exercises via standard procedures and the Department of Transport has issued a marine notice to this effect”.

“As a close EU partner, the Department of Foreign Affairs will, as normal, maintain contact with the French authorities throughout the period of the military exercise,” his statement said.

Fair Seas said it was urging Government ministers to “have this military exercise relocated outside of Irish EEZ, away from the exceptionally important area for marine wildlife off Ireland’s southwest coast”.

“Critically, the Irish Government must also take urgent steps to protect its marine environment by designating and effectively managing a network of marine protected areas in Ireland’s inshore and offshore waters,” it said.

Fair Seas said the location identified by the French is the Whittard Canyon region, one of 16 areas of interest that the umbrella group identified for MPAs in Irish waters.

“The area is home to whales, dolphins, endangered seabirds, an important fish nursery and sensitive cold-water coral reefs,” it said in a statement.

“This canyon system is one of the largest submarine canyons along the Celtic Margin and is home to cold-water coral reefs. Across the border, the UK has designated ‘The Canyons’ Marine Conservation Zone, which is likely to support a variety of cetacean (whale and dolphin) species,” it said.

“The shelf sediments included in this area of interest are part of a large blue whiting nursery ground,” it said.

This area “has been covered extensively in recent years by the independent scientific surveys on board the RV Celtic Explorer and as part of the ObSERVE aerial surveys,” it said.

“Important at-risk species are frequently present here such as the red-listed kittiwake and puffin,” it said.

As Afloat reported earlier, IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that “we know the impact of military sonar and live missile launches have the potential to severely disrupt the annual migratory path of fish and dramatically interrupt the breeding season of mackerel and other migratory fish species”.

“The albacore tuna fishery is opening for Irish vessels on June 23rd in the waters of our Continental Shelf which could potentially be disrupted by these live fire exercises, whilst also we believe this will cause untold damage to marine wildlife like whales and dolphins that are greatly affected by underwater noise,” he said.

He said he had instructions from his members to “implement a plan to highlight these dangerous exercises and consider any course of action that may disrupt these French military exercises”.

Published in Fishing

Plans for live-fire exercises by the French military off the southwest coast have been criticised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation which says it may stage a peaceful protest.

A marine notice issued by the Department of Transport says it has been advised by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) of a missile/rocket firing exercise by the French military in part of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) “to the south-west of Ireland”.

The department notice says the exercise is scheduled to take place from June 21st to 24th and June 27th from 0200 hours to 1600 hours daily.

It says the exercise “may be postponed, taking place at the same time on another date within the period June 27th to July 7th, excluding weekends”.

Co-ordinates for the area concerned have been issued as part of the marine notice.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick MurphyIS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy

“Given the nature of the planned exercises, vessels and crew are advised of safety risks in the operational area,” the notice says.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that “we know the impact of military sonar and live missile launches have the potential to severely disrupt the annual migratory path of fish and dramatically interrupt the breeding season of mackerel and other migratory fish species”.

“The albacore tuna fishery is opening for Irish vessels on June 23rd in the waters of our Continental Shelf which could potentially be disrupted by these live-fire exercises, whilst also we believe this will cause untold damage to marine wildlife like whales and dolphins that are greatly affected by underwater noise,” he said.

He said he had instructions from his members to “implement a plan to highlight these dangerous exercises and consider any course of action that may disrupt these French military exercises”.

“It is our understanding that live-fire exercises cannot take place if our vessels are engaged in fishing in the area, so we are discussing a plan with our vessel-owners and skippers aimed at once again carrying out a peaceful protest in our traditional fishing areas near the proposed area of the military exercise,” Murphy said in a statement.

“We understand that an aircraft exclusion zone has been announced for the area, but we are dismayed at the lack of comment from our Government, bar the marine notice once again advising us to be cognisant of a marine law that should protect us rather than put us in harm’s way,” he said.

“It would be infinitely preferable if these naval exercises were stopped as a sign we in Europe are peaceful, and not looking to escalate the current tensions,” he said.

“At the very least, they should be relocated further south to waters, well outside of EEZ, beyond our 200-mile limit and away from the men and women who sail their boats in our fishing grounds,” he said.

“The consequence of naval exercises throughout the world’s oceans and seas have been well studied and documented, and their effect on whales and dolphins shows increased strandings and mortalities for weeks and months after the event,” he said.

“As stated previously. we are calling for a moratorium of ten years be introduced to stem these unnecessary military exercises, not just for any individual country but for all states that transit our waters,” Murphy said.

Last January, the IS&WFPO led a campaign against Russian military drills planned for 240 km off the Cork coast, inside the Irish EEZ.

Following a meeting between two fishing industry organisations and Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov, an assurance was given to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney that the controversial naval drills would take place outside the Irish EEZ.

Published in Fishing

The European Commission has been urged to follow the example of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in taking steps to protect EU waters from industrial fishing.

The call has been made by Paris-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Bloom, following a multilateral agreement by the WTO late last week on financial support granted to the fishing sector.

After over 20 years of negotiations, the WTO agreed early on June 17th, 2022 to address three issues: illegal fishing, overexploited fish stocks and transparency.

The agreement includes prohibiting subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and giving a two-year exemption to the least developed countries to implement this measure in their exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A prohibition on subsidies to fisheries targeting overexploited fish stocks was also agreed. This came with “a caveat”, according to Bloom, as it notes that a State “may grant or maintain subsidies if such subsidies or other measures are implemented to rebuild the stock to a biologically sustainable level”.

BLOOM warns that this exemption may “open a chasm of complicity between industrial fishing lobbies and States to implement soft measures in order to maintain public subsidies”.

“It also opens endless scientific conversations about what one considers a “biologically sustainable level”. The same two-year deadline is given to the least developed countries to implement this article,”it says.

The new WTO agreement also creates an international standard of transparency by making it mandatory for States to notify subsidies granted to their fleets and fishing operators.

This measure is “a major step forward,” according to BLOOM.

“As the WTO has the power to impose sanctions, these transparency requirements should completely change the situation, and put an end to the opacity that surrounds financial flows between the fishing industry and States,”it says..

The agreement also creates a "Committee on Fisheries Subsidies" which shall meet "not less than twice a year", and shall review the information submitted by States "not less than every two years".

“The financial information provisions of the WTO deal are particularly dear to BLOOM, which knows that transparency and access to data are the cornerstone of any real progress towards social equity and marine conservation,” the NGO says.

Bloom says the deal is “imperfect”, as “fundamental measures to improve the state of ocean biodiversity, marine habitats and artisanal fisheries were removed from the negotiating text”.

“Subsidies that encourage fishing capacity that leads to overexploitation of fish stocks have not been prohibited,” it notes.

“Thus, all public aid covering capital costs (construction, modernisation, replacement of engines etc.) and variable costs (primarily fuel subsidies) have not been prohibited,” it says.

“Harmful subsidies that encourage overcapacity represent the vast majority of the aid granted worldwide (>18 billion),” Bloom says in a statement.

“ These are the subsidies that directly lead to the overexploitation and destruction of the ocean. Historically, they are the subsidy categories that the industrial lobbies and therefore the States defend most ardently, despite their precise scientific knowledge of the perverse mechanisms induced by such financial arrangements,” it says.

“The consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine on diesel prices have not created a context that facilitates this aspect of the negotiations. Nor are included the unethical subsidies provided to fleets to access waters of foreign countries, often developing States, in the form of fishing access agreements,” it notes.

“This will be the major issues awaiting the negotiators in the coming months,”it says, noting that the participating countries are “committed to continuing their efforts and discussions”.

“There is even talk of quickly convening a new ministerial conference (the date of March 2023 is circulating) to maintain the momentum and finally stop funding the destruction of the common good, the climate, biodiversity, small-scale fisheries and food security,”it says.

Bloom notes that an ocean action plan for Europe due to come out last March is still “nowhere to be seen”.

The NGO says it is calling on European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen to “protect our future and citizens before industrial lobbies”.

It calls on the Commission president to “release an ambitious ocean action plan with a target to protect 30% of EU waters from any industrial activities”.

Bloom says this is in accordance with International Union for Conservation of Nature criteria for Marine Protected Areas, before the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon starting on 27 June 2022”.

Published in Fishing

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. visited BIM’s National Fisheries College in Greencastle today, to officially launch new high-tech simulator suites that will enable skipper students to pilot and berth a vessel and navigate it through adverse weather conditions.

The simulator and radio suites - recently installed both at the college in Donegal and its sister college in Castletownbere - are designed to imitate real-life navigational conditions for helm, ship control training and practice, and for vessel routine and distress alert training.

Gale force winds, rain, waves and even snow conditions simulated

The equipment is currently in use by a cohort of students whom the Minister met and will enable Ireland’s next fishing skippers to hone the skills needed to safely practice vessel navigations, in a series of compromising conditions including major storms. The state-of-the art suites now in place at both colleges, represents a government investment of €465,000.

Minister McConalogue said he was greatly impressed with how closely the simulators were able to replicate the real-life conditions that can be faced at sea: “Every time our fishers set to sea, they potentially face adverse conditions, which they must be prepared for to ensure the safe return of all those on board. It was with this in mind that I approved this additional investment in the new simulator in the BIM Training College. With this new facility and training, we are ensuring that our students have access to the highest standards for skippering fishing vessels. The BIM colleges here at Greencastle, and in Castletownbere, are vital cogs in the seafood and wider marine sector.”

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) chief executive Jim O’Toole said, “This investment is very welcome and upgrading our equipment to world class standards, allows BIM to provide training to new entrants and those already in the sector to the highest level. This will also enable us to develop future navigation simulation courses as legislation progresses.”

Sea Survival Training Unit

This funding is part of a wider capital programme that involves overall €1.7 million investment in the Greencastle Training College, recently approved by Minister Mc Conalogue including a 12-metre sea survival training pool at Greencastle. The project, when delivered, will create a cost-effective Maritime Centre of Excellence that provides a modern sea survival training unit for students and instructors, on-site in the National Fisheries College, Greencastle, supporting a safe and professional sea fishing industry.

The new facility will significantly complement the extensive training infrastructure already in place in the Donegal college including a fire-fighting unit, a fully integrated fishing vessel simulator, vessel dry land trawler deck, engine room, workshop and seven classrooms.

New legislative changes mean that fishermen in vessels under 15 metres are now required to undertake this safety training at a minimum every five years, and this is now being implemented.

BIM offer these training courses through its colleges and coastal training units.

Published in Fishing
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Irish fishing industry leaders have warned that the costs of marine diesel are so high they are challenging the resilience of the Irish fishing fleet. CEOs of the main Irish industry organisations say fishing operations are being made uneconomical and have expressed concern about the effects on food supplies.

Aodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, and Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, say that the cost of diesel has risen so far above the economic level of operating fishing boats that urgent action by the Irish Government is needed to ensure the continuance of enough seafood supplies.

Aodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ OrganisationAodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation

The European Union has told Member States that they can take supportive action under emergency measures to support fishing vessel fuel costs from the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 until the end of the year.

Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen's OrganisationSean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation

While other nations have acted, the Irish government hasn’t so far given specific support to fishing.

More on the Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Irish fishing industry organisations have united in a call for an “urgent review” of the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The organisations are also calling for a fairer share to rights to fish in the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This follows a series of meetings recently in Brussels, organised and hosted by Sinn Féin MEP Chris McManus.

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO), the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation and the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association were represented in Brussels, along with the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance, Foyle Fishermen’s Co-op and Galway & Aran Fishermen’s Co-op.

“Other nations catch about €250m worth of fish a year in our waters - almost twice as much as the Irish fleet catches,” IFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said in a statement.

Quotas allocated by the EU to the Irish fishing fleet amount to “a paltry 18% of the volume of fish in our 200-mile Zone every year”, O’Donnell said.

“Other nations take the balance of the fish, but bizarrely some EU states are unable to catch their annual quota allocations in this EU zone,” he said.

“So, we are calling on the EU to – at the very least – enable reallocation of annual ‘uncaught’ quotas in Ireland’s EEZ to Irish vessels to give us a more equitable share,” O’Donnell explained.

Meetings were held with the European Parliament fisheries committee (Pech), and the Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare).

Mr O’Donnell says the Irish delegation outlined ways of allocating the uncaught quotas of other EU states - for species such as langoustines and monkfish - to Ireland.

“We support calls for a sensible mechanism for an equitable redistribution of all the annual uncaught EU fish quota in EU waters. We acknowledge that any such redistribution would take account of the quota rights of each of these member states,” he said

“At present, non-EU fishing vessels can fish large volumes of pelagic fish on Ireland’s west coast, based on annual access agreements negotiated to benefit other EU states,” he said.

“ At the same time, the Irish fleet finds itself tied up at port, hindered from catching these same fish by low quotas. This needs to be addressed in a meaningful way so that our share of the important catch is more equitable,” he said.

The delegation also told EU officials and MEPs that the quotas transferred to Britain under the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) were inequitable.

“In particular, Irish fishing vessels were excluded from traditional fishing grounds in the waters around Rockall. So, we made the case that quotas needed to be adjusted to rebalance long-term losses and to restore access to these areas,” O’Donnell said.

He says fishing organisations are united in a call for an urgent review of how the CFP is implemented.

“In particular, we want changes in how the annual quota of fish is allocated to the Irish fishing fleet and to rebalance the significant Brexit losses. We also believe allocations should be based on having greater rights to fish in our own [coastal] zones,” O’Donnell said.

“This would be more democratic, and reduce the carbon footprint of EU fishing vessels, as they would travel shorter distances. It would also strengthen the economic and social linkage between those catching the fish and their coastal communities,” he said.

Ireland has no quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is in “abundance” during the season off the Irish coast, O’Donnell said.

He said it could be worth €150 million annually in revenues to the Irish fishing and tourism sectors.

Large Japanese vessels are currently travelling halfway around the world to harvest these “highly valued” fisheries, and allocation to Ireland could also reduce the carbon footprint for this sector, he noted.

He said European Commission officials “took note of the submissions and undertook to have an additional follow-up meeting in Ireland”.

Published in Fishing

A very rare cold-water loving Leopard fish has been caught off Rockall by a Donegal fishing vessel.

The Leopard fish, also known as a spotted Wolffish (Anarhichas minor), swims in deep water across parts of the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic between northern Russia, Scandinavia and Nova Scotia, Canada.

The 5.9-kilo specimen was landed in Greencastle by the Donegal fishing vessel MV Foyle Warrior.

Galway fish merchant Stefan Griesbach contacted rare fish expert Declan Quigley after he spotted it in the box of fish from Greencastle, and knew it was significant.

The Leopard fish has been declared a threatened species in Canada, but does not have international protection status.

It is generally found much farther north, and in deep cold water, Quigley has said.

From his knowledge, there are only two records this far south, both off Scotland.

The two previous records are from the North Sea, Quigley said – off Aberdeen in October 1892, and off St Abbs Head, Berwickshire in June 1993, which seems to be the most southern record in Europe.

He said the fish may be this far south due to melting glaciers, or may be adapting to warmer sea temperatures.

He said he came across one report based on human observation during a scuba-diving event in June 2016 off Tory Island, Co Donegal, but said it was an unconfirmed identification.

The Leopard fish feeds off crustaceans and molluscs, primarily, while it will also eat smaller fish, seaweed and tube worms.

The fish is slow-growing, maturing at around seven years of age and can live up to 21 years.

"They are nice fish to eat - I often had them for dinner during my frequent trips to Norway about 20 years ago,” Quigley said.

“ I also remember noting that the chairs in the Norwegian Embassy in Dublin were upholstered with Anarhichas minor skin!," he said.

Griesbach displayed the fish on his Gannet Fishmongers stand in the Galway market on Saturday.

He plans to freeze it for taxidermy, and to donate it to the Natural History Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

“I might have got 30 euro for this fish which would have made no sense, and this is a much better idea,” Griesbach said.

“Maybe the museum will have a little plaque with my name for my grandkids to see....”

Published in Fishing
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Overfishing is declining in Europe, but progress is “uneven from region to region”, according to a new evaluation.

The European objective of 100 per cent sustainable fishing by 2020 has “not been reached” and climate change is “inevitably” affecting fish distribution and growth, the study released by French research agency Ifremer says.

Ireland’s Marine Institute worked with Ifremer, along with the French higher education and research agency L’Institut Agro, and the Flanders research institute for agriculture, fisheries and food (ILVO) on the study into the status of fish populations in 2022.

The evaluation says that the 2022 report from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) on the health status of fish in Europe “confirms the trends observed in the Atlantic over the past 20 years: overfishing is falling”.

It has found that 72% of fish populations are "not overexploited" in the north-east Atlantic area.

“Fish biomass has been increasing continuously since 2007 and was 33% greater in 2020 than at the beginning of the 2000s for the best-tracked populations; it was more than 50% greater for other populations subject to less tracking,”it says.

It says that 86 per cent of fish populations are overexploited in the Mediterranean, where the situation remains “critical”. In total, 29 of the 34 fish populations evaluated are considered to be overexploited, while “many other species remain poorly tracked and understood”.

It says that climate change is having direct impact on marine biodiversity, as it “changes species distribution, reduces their available food and stunts their growth”.

“Each year, the ocean absorbs between 30% and 40% of the CO2 that human activity releases into the atmosphere. This excess CO2 causes ocean acidification, which weakens the water’s concentration of calcium carbonate,” the study says.

“Calcium carbonate is essential for plankton, corals, molluscs and many other calcifying marine organisms that use it to build their shells or internal skeletons,” it notes.

Carbon dioxide also increases water temperature, reducing available oxygen and decreasing plankton abundance.

“Using climate models created by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists have established that by the end of the century, marine animal biomass could have decreased by 20% on average,” the study says.

The study says that scientists are taking an ecosystem-based approach, allowing them to “propose management scenarios that better account for all ecosystem changes, not just the direct consequences of fishing”.

“ Scientists are also working on more technological aspects of fisheries management, like the development of more precise fishing methods. One idea is smart trawl nets that combine cameras and artificial intelligence to open and close depending on the species targeted,” it says.

Fostering more resilient ecosystems and encouraging good fisheries management are top priorities, the study says.

Published in Fishing
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As the transitional period for compliance with Safe Manning legislation ends, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency is urging all skippers of vessels of 15 metres in length and above that hold a Second Hand Limited (SHL) certificate, to ensure their Certificate of Competency is endorsed for service as Second Hand Special.

Skippers and owners should check whether they need a second crew member with a Certificate of Competency to be on board to comply with the regulations.

Information on certificates of competency and endorsements may be obtained at www.seafarers.ie. At least 12 months of sea service is required to obtain an endorsement to a SHL certificate.

Safe manning relates to the safe operation of fishing vessels and takes account of the safe navigation of the vessel, operations, machinery, and maintenance. On December 19th, 2019 it became a legal requirement for all fishing vessels of 15 metres in length and above, to apply a safe manning document from the Marine Survey Office (MSO) and Department of Transport. Application forms are available from Gov.ie (MSO Application forms- FV Less than 500gt)

BIM is an approved provider of maritime training on behalf of the MSO. Its two National Fisheries Colleges of Ireland in Greencastle, Co Donegal and in Castletownbere, Co Cork and its mobile Coastal Training Units deliver training to fishers throughout Ireland, to support a safe and professional industry.

To apply to endorse your certificate of competency contact the Mercantile Marine Office at the address below or to find out more information, please contact either of the BIM colleges by email or phone.

Mercantile Marine Office (MMO)

Maritime Services Division, Irish Maritime Administration, Department of Transport, Leeson Lane, Dublin 2, D02TR60.

Tel: +353 (0) 1 6783480

Email: [email protected]

Published in Fishing
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Master mariner Capt Robert McCabe has been appointed to chair the Government’s first seafood/offshore renewable energy working group.

The two-year appointment was confirmed by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien.

Delays in establishing the working group had led to recent warnings by fishing industry representatives that both sectors could be on a “collision course”.

Capt McCabe has extensive maritime experience in a variety of senior roles during a 35-year career with the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL).

He served as first master of the ILV Granuaile, before later being appointed to several management positions in CIL, including assistant inspector, deputy head of marine, head of marine, and director of operations and navigation.

He has also served as the president of the Irish Chamber of Shipping and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICoS), and is a current member of a number of marine bodies, including the Nautical Institute and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Mr O’Brien said that the seafood/offshore renewable energy (ORE) working group has been established to “facilitate discussion on matters arising from the interaction of the seafood and offshore renewable energy industries, to promote and share best practice, and to encourage liaison with other sectors in the marine environment”.

He said that Capt McCabe brings extensive knowledge of both the seafood and ORE sectors, having previously worked with both in relation to maritime navigational safety.

“His work has enabled him to gain an extensive knowledge of the Irish coast and maritime activity across all sectors, and he brings a record of effective delivery of offshore engineering and navigation safety projects, which will prove valuable within the setting of this group,” he said.

‘’I’m delighted to appoint someone of Robert’s vast experience and capability to this position. Throughout his career, Robert has demonstrated the type of qualities that this group requires, working with diverse marine groups to achieve win-win solutions by showing leadership, drive and determination to succeed,” Mr O’Brien said.

“I also note that his specific expertise in safety at sea will prove extremely beneficial to the work of the group as the group progresses,” he said, wishing him “the best of luck”.

The appointment has been welcomed by Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan and Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

Published in Marine Planning
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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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