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Scientists Ask Boat Owners to Keep Lookout for Japanese Kelp in Irish Harbours & Marinas

23rd March 2021
Wakame or Japanese kelp in Greystones Harbour in County Wicklow
Wakame or Japanese kelp in Greystones Harbour in County Wicklow Credit: Seasearch

Scientists from NUI Galway and Seasearch Ireland are asking divers and marina users to keep an eye out for Undaria pinnatifida, commonly known as Wakame or Japanese kelp. This species was first recorded in Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland in 2012, Wakame has subsequently been recorded at Carlingford Lough in 2014 and Kilmore Quay in Wexford in 2016.

Since then it has been recorded by Seasearch diver Frances O'Sullivan of the Dalkey Sub Aqua club recorded it in Dun Laoghaire Harbour in 2017 and by Seasearch Ireland and KelpRes divers at Greystones Harbour in 2020. Given the widespread nature of the records on the east coast, it is thought that the species is likely to occur in suitable habitats between these areas and may have spread to other areas of the coast.

Wakame can be distinguished from other kelp species found in Ireland by the undulating margins of the blade, distinctive midrib, and belt-like stipe that often has reproductive sori at the margins. The distinctive midrib in a large blade distinguishes this species from other kelp species in Irish waters (e.g. dabberlocks - Alaria esculenta -which has a distinctive midrib but thin blade).

Seasearch Ireland and the KelpRes team at NUIG are asking any marine users who see a kelp species matching the description below to send a photo to [email protected] to confirm the identification and then our colleagues from the KelpRes team in NUIG intend to collect samples of the seaweed for genetic analysis.

Undaria pinnatifida, commonly known as Wakame or Japanese kelp identificationUndaria pinnatifida, commonly known as Wakame or Japanese kelp identification

Kathryn Schoenrock-Rossiter explains the rationale for the sampling: "Studying the genetics of invasive species is important in terms of identifying vectors for introduction and spread. For example, in the invasive freshwater Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) a study combing genetic analysis with fieldwork revealed leisure boats from the United Kingdom as the most likely source (vector) of introduction. By using genetic tools to investigate Wakame populations we can estimate whether a single introduction event or multiple have occurred and potentially determine where from (e.g. Europe)."

Rory O'Callaghan, Seasearch Ireland: "International experience with wakame would indicate it is much more likely to occur in marinas and on other man-made structures. From here it can attach to boats and be carried to other parts of the country when boats are moved. As divers, we are particularly conscious of the need for good biosecurity practices such as cleaning or drying out their boat before moving it to another location."

Seasearch is a project by the Marine Conservation Society for divers and snorkelers, who have an interest in what they're seeing underwater, want to learn more and want to help protect the marine environment around the coasts of Britain and Ireland.

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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)

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