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Irish–Newfoundland Transatlantic Research on RV Celtic Explorer

11th April 2014
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Irish–Newfoundland Transatlantic Research on RV Celtic Explorer

#marinescience – The RV Celtic Explorer leaves Galway today (12th April) for Newfoundland and Labrador, on its fourth multi-institution transatlantic survey. The 13 day expedition across the Atlantic to St Johns, Newfoundland will involve four scientists from NUI Galway, as well students from UCC and GMIT. A team of six of scientists lead by Dr. George Rose from the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University, Newfoundland, will work alongside nine Irish scientists during the voyage.

The collaboration with Newfoundland and Labrador builds on the strong relationship established since the first Newfoundland survey on the Celtic Explorer in 2011.

"Such cooperation is key to improving our ocean wealth and promoting the sustainable management of its resources. It's hugely important for Ireland and brings us closer to achieving the goals of the 'Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation' signed here at the Marine Institute Galway last May by the EU, USA and Canada ", said Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute.

Irish scientists onboard will study the rich and diverse pelagic ecosystem across the Atlantic Ocean. "Marine scientists from NUI Galway will study the oceanography and the deep scattering acoustic layers of the water columns using multi-frequency acoustics. This is then related to zooplankton abundance and ultimately to fish abundance, providing us with a better understanding of the ecosystem," explained Dr. Louise Allcock from NUI Galway.

Scientists from Galway Mayo Institute of Technology will study plastics found in the ocean. Micro-plastic debris is made up of tiny plastic granules, fibres and fragments less than 5mm in diameter. Although plastics are beneficial materials, micro-plastics appear to be pervasive in the ocean and scientists do not yet fully understand the impact that small plastic particles can have on the food chain. Ingesting the tiny particles may be toxic to the animals, and may prevent them from consuming their natural prey.

"We hope this research will help to raise awareness of the effects of plastics in the ocean and provide better ecosystem assessments across the Atlantic," said Ms Amy Lusher from Galway Mayo Institute of Technology who is completing a PhD on this topic.

Seabird and marine mammal observations will also be conducted by Aoife Foley from Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and Ashley Benison from University College Cork. These animals are considered top predators in the pelagic environment and the abundance of fish and zooplankton, their prey, ultimately affects their distribution and survival.

The Newfoundland team of scientists will continue their strong collaboration with the Irish scientists. "This collaboration is now into its 4th year with a major paper based on linking acoustic, biological and oceanographic data from 2011-2013 presented at the recent international Marine Science Conference in Hawaii," explained Dr Rose.

Sharing information and experiences with scientists from both sides of the Atlantic allows Irish researchers to forge strong links with our Newfoundland and Labrador – Canadian counterparts.

"Being the western and eastern bookends of the North Atlantic, and given our shared history, it seems only right that Newfoundland and Ireland scientists should work together on problems of mutual interest, and this has indeed proven to be very enjoyable and highly productive" Dr. Rose further stated.

Published in Marine Science
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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

 

At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

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