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Yacht collides with controversial tidal turbine in Ireland

by Sail-World Cruising Round-up on 11 Jun 2013
Tidal current turbine in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough - hazard only for sailors who don’t keep watch SW
It's hard to work out how they could miss it in the middle of the morning, but two Irish sailors and a child were reportedly thrown overboard when their sailing boat crashed into a giant 'Sea Gen' tidal turbine in Strangford Lough on the eastern coast of Ireland this week. Such giant structures such as these, as well as the more common wind turbines, are said to be hazards for leisure sailors for those who have demonstrated against them in the past. The Belfast Telegraph reported in April that the turbine, which is bolted to the bed of Strangford Lough, would run continuously through the summer so the operators could see what happens when seals and porpoises swim close to the blades. However, they didn't count on yachts running into them in broad daylight. The vessel hit the SeaGen turbine at around 11am, and another boat, seeing their plight, sailed quickly to the rescue and plucked the three unlucky sailors from the water. They were not hurt badly, but the child was taken to hospital to be assessed for exposure to cold water.. [Sorry, this content could not be displayed]However, the yacht was no so lucky - the mast was torn from the boat in the collision. The damaged yacht was not holed, enabling a Portaferry lifeboat, which went to the scene, to tow away it away. Local Councillor Gareth Sharvin was at the scene when the yacht was being recovered. He said: 'After the yacht highlighted issues to the coastguard, we witnessed a quick manner in which the coastguard went about in protecting and securing the yacht and the three individuals on board.' The SeaGen turbine, the world's first commercial-scale tidal turbine, was installed in May 2008. Northern Ireland Environment Agency, a division of the Department of the Environment, has now granted SeaGen a licence that protects it from prosecution if the turbine operation disturbs harbour seals. Because harbour seals are a protected species, it is an offence to disturb them, unless a licence is granted by NIEA. Members heard that between 1993 and 2007, harbour seal populations in Strangford Lough were declining by an average of 3% a year, but between 2007 and 2012 numbers increased by 10% on average, as revealed by monthly seal counts carried out by NIEA and the National Trust.
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