Dolphin group secures €48,000 grant to refit former Haughey boat


THE IRISH Whale and Dolphin Group has secured 75 per cent funding from the Leader scheme to refit the former Charles Haughey-owned vessel Celtic Mist.

The allocation of €47,900 towards the refit has been approved by Clare Local Development Company.

Welcoming the grant allocation, the whale and dolphin group’s co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow paid tribute to the development company’s support, and said that work was already well under way, with a number of volunteers enlisted.

The Leader programme is a source of funding for farmers, foresters, rural businesses and community organisations.

The ketch, formerly owned by the late taoiseach, was donated by his family to the whale and dolphin group last year for research purposes. It took part in the first leg of the 2011 Tall Ships race from Waterford.

It is estimated the refit will cost more than €60,000 and that the ketch will cost some €20,000 to €30,000 annually to maintain, subsidised by day trips.

A berth at Kilrush marina has been provided by Shannon Development and a passenger vessel licence application has also been made.

The refit, by Cathal Blunnie and several sub-contractors involves stripping down the main cabin, and removing the bath and shower to allow for additional crew berths.

The former owner’s clock will be kept, along with other items. But the ship’s wheel in the main cabin will be presented to the Haughey family.

In a separate development, the whale and dolphin group has expressed concern about the impact on whales and dolphins of noise generated by the proposed Kish Bank exploration well off Dublin Bay.

The drilling well is the subject of a foreshore licence application by Providence Resources and Tánaiste and Dún Laoghaire TD Eamon Gilmore has supported calls for a public inquiry before the foreshore licence is granted.

The group says the Kish Bank and waters close by are important for whales and dolphins and some of the highest densities in coastal Irish waters have been recorded there in recent years. It has expressed concern about the potential effects of noise generated by drilling.

Sightings of bottlenose dolphins have “increased dramatically in the area following the presence of a group of three individuals since August 2010”, it says, and the group is the third such in Ireland, along with the pod in the Shannon estuary and in Cork harbour.

Referring to the environmental impact assessment prepared for the drilling, the whale and dolphin group says it would like the consultants to “quantify or estimate the source levels and frequency bands expected during drilling and an exploration of the likely effects”, especially on harbour porpoises and bottlenose dolphins.

“While there is considerable recent data on the effects of pile-driving and blasting and noise generated by wind turbines, there is little published data on the intensity and effects of sound generated by drilling,” it says.