Coastwatch Ireland, along with local residents, have been busy around the coast this past week, with no less than 500 volunteers out on Irish beaches in the wake of ex-hurricane Ophelia.
This newspaper met Paddy Houlihan from Ballybeg, having collecting over 200 plastic items and related litter on Kilfarrassy beach. This was one of seven beaches he covered, including Garrarus, Tramore and the Saleens.
He noted three octopuses found in Garrarus, the first time such a finding has been made here to the best of our knowledge and shows how warm water creatures came to Ireland’s shores in the wake of Hurricane Ophelia, having been driven in on the surge from beyond the Azores in the mid-Atlantic.
They also encountered the Portuguese Man of war jelly fish on several beaches. It’s long been considered an enemy jellyfish of swimmers as they give a very nasty sting.
Paddy was amazed at the amount of unusual natural finds, but plastic waste once again proved the biggest retrieved material.
According to local photographer Lisa Walsh: “We found around 10 octopuses in a small cove at the back of our house in Ballymacaw. I put a rope down the cliff years ago so we could gain access to it. I go down most days after storms to collect driftwood. The day after Ophelia we were spoilt with finds, apart from the driftwood, there were several men of war, and a Trigger Fish – apparently they are also very rare and seldom seen here. We saw some sort of a sea snake but I had no battery left to get a photo!”
There was a huge amount of seaweed on the beach at Kilfarrassy and Garrarus and may well need to be moved at some point in the future.
Over at Newtown Woods, some trees came down and we understand one motorist nearly got hit on Monday last. However, most of the tree limbs and branches have since been cleared.
Down at the Guillamene, some railings got damaged close to the steps there and will need replacing: otherwise, given the ferocity of the storms it could have been worse.
Coastwatch Ireland are currently carrying out a survey around Ireland and the findings post storms should prove interesting, the deadline for which passed yesterday (Monday).
Senator Grace Sullivan (GP) has also been out and about on the beaches and confirmed a number of the finds and noted that fishermen had also encountered the jellyfish and octopus over the years in their nets.
She said there were swarms of Portuguese men of war at the Back Strand – up to 15, along the tide line. All were dead. Tropical waters were already coming up to Ireland, which are indicators of climate change, said Senator O’Sullivan.
Small herons from the tropics have also come the little egret – the all white seabird. These are bio indicators of climate change, she added, which underlines a change of global patterns. The Senator added: “The evidence is overwhelming.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called on the Government to set up a relief fund “for fisherman who have lost equipment due to Storm Ophelia as a matter of urgency”.
Speaking following a meeting with fishermen in Kilmore Quay last week, Ms Ní Riada stated: “Fishermen urgently need a relief fund to replace equipment the clear consensus was that any package cannot be a rerun of previous funds…
“Any relief package needs to be quick and accessible if livelihoods are to be saved. Much of the equipment we are talking about here is not easily replaced and any delay now means an added delay in accessing equipment when funds do come through.”
| Photos: Lisa Walsh