Sheephaven divers took full advantage of the June Bank Holiday over the weekend as the good weather brought calm sea that allowed access to the more exposed sites around the coast.
Tory Island was the destination on both Saturday and Sunday, with Club Diver Officer Ryan Ward making the decision to depart from Meavgh instead of Downings, due to the football competition underway in the town.
The ten minute increase in travel time was more than justified, considering the potential congestion to the slipway in Downings and definitely well worth the effort when the divers got on the sites in Tory.
The first site on Saturday was on HMS Wasp, which was wrecked under the islands lighthouse in 1884 with the loss of over 70 of her crew.
She was sold for scrap in 1910 and very little now remains of the 465 tonne vessel, but it is one of the most cherished of dives around the Donegal coast – when sea conditions allow.
The second dive on Saturday was to the west of An Tor into a depth of over 25 metres and a series of sandy bottom gullies that are full of fish life, particularly with shoals of Pollock.
On the journey out the divers were delighted to come across a large pod of Dolphins, at least 15 or more apparently feeding to the east of the island.
Sunday morning was also busy with another Sheephaven dive party returning to Tory, while in PortnaBlagh the Sunday morning snorkelers were joined by a Trainee dive.
In water quality was good, with around 10 metre horizontal visibility and the temperature on the surface is now up to 13 degrees Celsius.
Of particular note was the presence of Sand Eels, which were both large and numerous. They are a vital part of the maritime food-chain, which sustains the visiting bird life, such as Razorbills, Guillemots and Puffins that arrive on the Donegal shores at this time of year.
The quality of Irish marine waters is of primary importance to Sheephaven divers and we are fortunate indeed to have a pristine environment to enjoy. However keeping it in good condition for the future is an obligation on this current generation.
Recently in the Seanad there was a motion to call on the Government to protect 50 per cent of Ireland’s seas and ocean with community-driven Marine Protection Areas. This would also put stakeholders such as fishermen, conservationists and those reliant on the seas at the core of designating such sites.
Ireland has committed to having 10 per cent of coastlines and seas designated by 2020 under various climate and marine agreements it has already signed up to, but currently has only achieved a level of 2 per cent.
While Ireland has one of the largest marine areas in the EU by proportion to its size, and has the opportunity to protect key areas of ecological importance in the north east Atlantic.
Norway in contrast had used the MPA mechanism to protect and restore its cod populations, but in Ireland there was indication such a move was not a Government priority at present.
Something for us to keep in mind when we take full benefit from our wonderful marine environment.