Probe into sheep drowning off coast
THE Department of Agriculture is to launch an investigation into an incident off the south-west coast in which a number of sheep were reported to have drowned.
Valentia Coastguard received a mayday call just after 7pm on Monday evening that a boat was taking on water.
The former fishing boat 'The Clairbuoyant' was transporting sheep off the coast of Slea Head in west Kerry at the time.
A spokesperson for Valentia Coastguard said there were 50 sheep and six passengers reported to be on board the vessel at the time. Fifteen of the sheep were recovered while the remaining 35 were lost at sea, presumed drowned.
The 'Blasket Princess' ferry responded to the mayday call and was able to tow the stricken vessel to safety into Ventry Harbour.
A pleasure craft also responded to the call and brought the passengers to safety at Ventry.
The owner of the 26ft 'Clairbuoyant', Eoin Ferriter, has contradicted the number of sheep that were reported to be on board at the time. He said he was carrying 22 sheep when the boat got into difficulty.
"There were 22 sheep on board which we transported on to dinghies and then took on board again," Mr Ferriter said.
He denied that any sheep had been lost that night and said they had since been taken on to the mainland for slaughtering.
The 'Clairbuoyant' remained at Cuan pier in Ventry Harbour yesterday.
The Department of Agriculture said that it was not aware of the incident but would be investigating the matter.
A spokesperson said: "Small-scale transport over relatively short distances (eg by farmers of their own stock) would in general be exempt from the detailed requirements regarding approval of vessels."