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Exploring Ireland’s Coastal Communities In This Week’s ‘Oceans Of Learning’ Series

17th June 2020
The Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare The Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare Photo: Bjorn Christian Torrissen/Wikimedia

In Ireland, 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast and many communities along the Irish coast depend on industries such as tourism, fishing and aquaculture.

Furthermore, there is now mounting evidence that the ocean plays a key role in the general wellbeing of our coastal communities.

This week’s Oceans of Learning series explores the importance of Ireland’s coastal communities, with resources from the Marine Institute, Commissioners of Irish Lights, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Galway City Museum and the Explorers Education Programme.

Dr Paul Connolly, chief executive of the Marine Institute, said: “As an island nation, our 7,711 kilometres of coastline is one of our greatest assets.

“Our fishing and aquaculture industries, tourism and marine leisure make a significant contribution to the economic development of Ireland’s coastal regions, and provide employment opportunities for many in our coastal communities.”

One of the key industries contributing to Ireland’s ocean and coastal economies is tourism and leisure. The sector generated a turnover of €1.25 billion in 2018, and provided employment for over 18,000 people — accounting for 57% of all employment in the Irish economy.

Ireland’s scenic coastline, rocky escarpments and beaches attract a large number of overseas visitors every year. In 2018, 76% of overseas tourists visited a coastal area and 61% participated in a marine-related leisure activity. Coastal sightseeing, beach and island visits and walking, running and cycling along the coast are popular activities for overseas visitors.

The Irish coastline is dotted with inlets, piers and harbours used by fishermen every day. Fisheries in Ireland significantly contribute to the economy as a whole and in particular to coastal communities. In 2019, Ireland had over 2,000 registered commercial fishing vessels and the industry provided employment for 3,000 people.

“FishingFishing boats in Howth | Photo: William Murphy/Wikimedia

Inshore fishing take places in many rural communities with fishermen using small vessels to catch species such as lobsters, crabs, oysters, scallop, razor fish and clams. Inshore fish stocks (up to 10 miles from the Irish coast) are managed nationally and the Marine Institute works closely with Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) on inshore fisheries management.

The seafood industry is also an integral part of Ireland’s rural coastal communities. In 2019, more than 16,000 people were employed directly and indirectly in the seafood industry, with high levels of employment in Ireland’s coastal regions in Donegal, Cork, Galway and Clare. Oysters, salmon and mussels are sustainably farmed around the coast of Ireland.

The aquaculture industry in Ireland produces about 37,000 tonnes annually, and the turnover generated by marine aquaculture in 2018 was estimated at €176 million. Shellfish aquaculture activities are widely distributed across the coast of Ireland, while finfish aquaculture occurs mainly in the west of Ireland.

Seaweed harvesting is a traditional activity in Ireland that also generates income and offers employment in coastal areas. Seaweed harvesting takes place around the coast of Ireland, particularly in counties Galway, Donegal, Sligo, Kerry and Cork.

Climate change impacts pose significant challenges to coastal communities. Such impacts include rising sea levels, coastal erosion, flooding, and an increase in extreme weather events.

Adapting to a changing climate is one of the greatest challenges facing society, governments and decision-makers worldwide. The Marine Institute works with national and international partners to observe and understand how our ocean is changing and to determine how to respond to current and future patterns of change that impact Ireland’s economy and people.

Through the BlueFish Project, a unique project linking art and science, the Marine Institute has also worked with coastal communities in Ireland and Wales on the importance of the ocean to their livelihoods and the impacts of a changing climate.

“As a small island nation, the health of our oceans and the wellbeing of our coastal communities have always been and will continue to be inextricably linked,” said Dr Connolly

Published in Coastal Notes
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Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

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