Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Marine Institute Supports Ireland’s Commitment to Ban Microbeads

17th January 2018
Damaging Our Oceans: Dr Peter Heffernan CEO of the Marine Instiute said the scale of plastic pollution in our oceans is alarming and our current human behaviours needs to change. Damaging Our Oceans: Dr Peter Heffernan CEO of the Marine Instiute said the scale of plastic pollution in our oceans is alarming and our current human behaviours needs to change. Photo: Marine Institute

#MarineScience - The Marine Institute supports Ireland's commitment to introduce national legislation that will prohibit the sale and manufacture of certain products containing microbeads.

Dr Peter Heffernan CEO of the Marine Institute, was recently interviewed on RTE Morning Ireland (see related report) about the potential harmful effects of the tiny pieces of plastic known as 'microbeads' entering our oceans.

"The key risk about microbeads is the potential to get into the food chain - something that small can be eaten by small microorganisms at the base of the food chain in the ocean and eventually end up in products that humans eat," Dr Heffernan said.

"It is globally a significant issue, especially when you consider that 97 percent of the Earth's water is in the ocean and half the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean. There is an existential relationship between the health of human life on planet earth and the health of our oceans."

At the Our Ocean Conference held in Malta on 5-6 October 2017, Minister of State Ciarán Cannon TD delivered Ireland's national commitments to promote and protect the world's marine resources. Ireland reaffirmed that by the end of 2018 it will introduce national legislation to prohibit the sale or manufacture of certain products containing microbeads, including not just cosmetics but also body care and cleansing products as well as detergents and abrasive surface cleaning products.

"We are at a very early stage, globally, in understanding the scale of the risk and even the pathways of the plastic into the food product. Ireland has been very quick off the ground with research undertaken in Galway Bay, off the continental shelf, and in the very deep continental waters," Dr Heffernan said.

The Marine Institute has committed €446,000 in funding to three international microplastics projects, through JPI Oceans - the Joint Programming Initiative Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans, via three Irish partners – University of College Cork (UCC), Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway).

The Marine Institute is a research partner in the CleanAtlantic – Tackling Marine Litter in the Atlantic project, working with partners from Spain, France, Portugal and the United Kingdom. The EU funded CleanAtlantic project aims to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services in the Atlantic Area by improving capabilities to monitor, prevent and remove (macro) marine litter.

Research on microplastics has also been undertaken by scientists on board the Marine Institute's two research vessels, the RV Celtic Explorer and the RV Celtic Voyager. In April 2014, PhD student Amy Lusher from GMIT, researched the distribution of microplastics in the Atlantic Ocean, on a RV Celtic Explorer voyage from Galway to St Johns Newfoundland. On board the RV Celtic Voyager in October 2015, Dr Audrey Morley from NUI Galway conducted the first assessment of microplastic pollution in marine sediments taken form the Irish continental shelf. Recently, in December 2017, a team from GMIT's Marine and Freshwater Research Centre (MFRC) were on board the RV Celtic Voyager to carry out a survey of microplastics in Galway Bay.

Dr Peter Heffernan said the scale of plastic pollution in our ocean is alarming and our current human behaviours need to change.

"We have got to change human behaviour, we have got to change manufacturing and industrial behaviour. We have personal choice in this; we can choose not to use single-use plastics. We can choose to identify where products contain microbeads and decide at a personal level not to use them. That is a very powerful signal to the market," Dr Heffernan said.

The European Commission today adopted the Europe-wide strategy on plastics to protect the environment from plastic pollution while fostering growth and innovation. Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

Published in Marine Science
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

Email The Author

Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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)

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Car Brands

subaru sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
isora sidebutton

Featured Events 2020

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
viking sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating