Unlit Fish Farm

Report Text:

I and my two crew members left our port in Northern Ireland at 2200 hours in my yacht heading for a marina some miles away.  The wind was blowing from the South 4-5 and occasionally 6.  On leaving port, we informed the Coastguard. Our decision to sail at night was governed by time and tidal conditions.  We were aware that in the approaches to the marina there is a fish farm.  On our approach my two alert and competent crew members were detailed to watch for lights indicating the fish farm.  However no lights on the fish farm could be seen.  Previous knowledge of the whereabouts of the fish farm was relied upon, but it was by sheer good fortune we made it safely into the marina.  The yacht is not equipped with radar.

On leaving the marina later that day we checked for marker lights indicating the fish farm but there were none.

I feel the Fish Farm is a significant danger in the proximity of a marina.  Is there no obligation on the owners of Fish Farms to provide sufficient buoyage lights in navigable waters?

CHIRP Comment:

This report was referred to the Commissioners of Irish Lights which is the General Lighthouse Authority for Ireland.  The  Commissioners have a duty of superintendence and management of Local Aids to Navigation (buoys etc.).

There is a requirement to mark navigational hazards, and there are IALA (International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities) guidelines on how aquaculture farms should be marked.  The guidelines state that there should be two lighted buoys to the seaward side and two unlighted buoys/beacons to the shore side.  The Commissioners discharge their duty of superintendence and management by a combination of regular inspection and engagement with the relevant regulatory departments.

The Commissioners’ Inspector has visited  the fish farm.  The cages had previously been marked with buoys but these had been damaged by winter storms.  Following the visit, the lighted buoys have been re-instated. We are grateful to the yachtsman for having reported this hazard, to the Commissioners for their prompt intervention and to the fish farm manager for taking remedial action.