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#MarineScience - A public information evening on the Galway Bay 'Ocean Observatory' is scheduled for this coming Tuesday 19 January.

Speakers from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the Marine Institute and SmartBay Ireland will be on hand to explain developments at the Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site.

The event from 7pm to 9.30pm at Tígh Giblin in Spiddal will also have a question and answer session.

Meanwhile, an information day on the second joint call for proposals for Marine Biotechnology ERA-NET will be held from 11am to 3pm on Friday 22 January at the Marine Institute.

See the Marine Institute website for more details HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineWildlife - Toxic chemicals banned in Europe nearly 30 years ago are still polluting the seas off the continent.

And marine scientists fear their continued presence could spell the end for the killer whale and other species in European waters, as the Irish Examiner reports.

The warning comes from newly published research on concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in marine wildlife – specifically orcas and other dolphins – in Irish, British and Mediterranean waters.

Co-authored by Dr Simon Berrow of GMIT and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, the paper in the latest issue of journal Scientific Reports claims that despite the outright ban on the use of PCBs since 1987, they persist in "dangerously high levels in European cetaceans".

High exposure to PCBs, once used in the manufacture of paints and electrical equipment, weakens the immune systems of cetaceans and has a severe effect on their breeding rates.

The paper is available online HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineScience - More than 60 marine researchers from third level institutes, Government agencies and SMEs braved the elements to get to the Marine Institute in Oranmore on Thursday 7 January for information and advice on the many EU funding opportunities for marine research.

The workshop – titled Cross Cutting Marine Opportunities in EU Funding, as previously reported on Afloat.ie – was organised by the Marine Institute’s Research Office.

Welcoming participants, John Evans, director of policy, innovation and research at the Marine Institute, highlighted the success of Ireland’s marine researchers to date in winning competitive EU funding.

“Irish researchers have won 3.6% of the available funding for Blue Growth topics under the most recent round of results announced by the European Commission for Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 2, and this rises to 4.6% when marine related topics relating to sustainable food security are considered," he said.

"This is becoming a consistent pattern, with Irish marine researchers winning more European competitive funding than would be expected from a country our size.”

Evans also spoke of the need for a focus on national research collaboration to maintain and improve this competitive position, and the importance of relevant national strategies as tools for researchers preparing funding proposals, specifically Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth – An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland, and the National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2015-2020.

The Marine Institute's Dr Fiona Grant, national contact point for marine aspects of Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 2, gave an overview of the priority topics for Blue Growth with a total of €148.5m available funding with contributions from the Climate, Energy and Transport parts of the Horizon 2020 programme.

'Linking healthy oceans and seas with healthy people’ was one of the key topics covered. Dr Grant mentioned the concept of the ocean as a "blue gym", citing a recent European Marine Board position paper that shows the significant impact of the oceans on human health and wellbeing.

Dr Sean McCarthy of Hyperion Ltd gave very practical advice on how to write a competitive Horizon 2020 proposal, with lots of insights for both new and experienced funding applicants. He told scientists to focus on the potential impact of the research proposal.

“Begin your proposal with impact – the impact is the big issue. Then write the science around the impact,” he said.

Other advice from Dr McCarthy included contacting the national contact point to ensure a better success rate.

“When writing your proposal it’s important to understand how the research priorities have been selected and the national contact point can give you insight into this,” he added.

Gerry Finn, director of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly and national contact point for the INTERREG Atlantic Area, gave an overview of the INTERREG Atlantic Area Programme 2014-2020 and success stories from the 2007-2013 ERDF programmes., under which €12.9m in ERDF funding was approved to 56 Irish projects.

Also speaking on the day was Michael O’Brien, EU Programme liaison officer, who gave an overview of eligibility criteria and guidelines on what makes a successful proposal under this financing mechanism. Four priority areas have been identified which include:

  • Stimulating innovation and competitiveness.
  • Fostering resource efficiency.
  • Strengthening the territory’s resilience to risks of natural, climate and human origin.
  • Enhancing biodiversity and the natural and cultural assets.

Over €140m will be available under the call from 2014-2020 which is expected to be launched in the middle of 2016.

O’Brien advised that the technical parameters "are not formally agreed yet by the member states and there may be further changes over the coming weeks. The working group for the programme meets again shortly to advance the progress on the programme manual and application process.”

Published in Marine Science

#Innovation - Two very different aquatic breakthroughs have been listed among Silicon Republic's top 10 Irish innovations of 2015.

Afloat.ie has previously reported on University of Limerick graduate Cathal Redmond, who took home €7,000 as a runner-up in the James Dyson Awards for his revolutionary new diving apparatus.

Redmond will use the funds to develop his Express Dive concept, a lightweight device that allows divers to refill their air supply on the goal – for a fraction of the cost of standard SCUBA gear.

Also covered this past summer on Afloat.ie was the discovery of a new habitat for coral in Irish waters.

Prof Andy Wheeler led an international team of marine scientists on the coral survey in June that ventured into the Porcupine Bank Canyon some 300km off Dingle and found an unexpected variety of life.

He added that it is "not unfeasible that there is over 100 sqkm of coral habitat that was previously unaccounted for."

Silicon Republic has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineWildlife - On Monday 7 December, Ireland today joined with a number of other countries in a demarche to the government of Japan about its whaling activities.

The demarche expresses “serious concern” at Japan's decision to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean under what it calls its “New Scientific Research Whale Programme in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A)”.

The demarche recalls the decision of the International Court of Justice in 2014 which held that Japan’s previous Southern Ocean whaling programme was not “for purposes of scientific research” under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1946 and was therefore unlawful.

The countries participating in the demarche note that the last Annual Meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission held in June 2015 was unable to confirm that Japan had done enough to justify commencement of lethal sampling in the 2015/16 season.

In expressing concern to Japan, Ireland and the other participating countries urge the government of Japan as a member of the International Whaling Commission to respect the commission’s procedures, stress that there is no scientific basis to include lethal methods in NEWREP-A, and strongly request the government of Japan not to engage in this whaling programme.

Other member states of the EU and New Zealand also participated in the joint demarche.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Whaling - Japan is set to resume whaling for minke whales off Antarctica in the new year in spite of a ruling by the International Court of Justice banning such activity.

According to BBC News, Japan says it has taken the court's decision into consideration – and maintains that it will only resume whaling in the Southern Ocean for "scientific" purposes.

But Australia, which won its case against Japan at the International Court of Justice in 2014, has restated its opposition to the move, with the country's environment minister Greg Hunt saying: "We do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called 'scientific research'."

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Irish marine research was cited by an expert panel at the International Whaling Committee that struck down Japan's 'scientific whaling' plan for lacking detail to determine how many minke whales would be hunted and for what exact purpose.

BBC News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Fishing - Minister for Natural Resources Joe McHugh has announced a new collaborative research initiative involving Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) marine scientists and a number of former eel fishermen to further develop national knowledge of the species and its medium- to longer-term potential for recovery.

Based on management advice from IFI, the existing conservations measures in Ireland’s Eel Management Plan (EMP), agreed by the EU under EC Regulation 1100/2007, will remain in place up to mid-2018.

“IFI has submitted advice and recommendations on Ireland’s EMP in the period 2015-18. These recommendations are cognisant of the independent scientific recommendations from the Standing Scientific Committee on Eels (SSCE) which underline the risk in opening fisheries at this time," said Minister McHugh.

“I am anxious that a scientific fishery involving some of the stakeholders is undertaken for the next three years to increase data and knowledge ahead of further review and I have secured funding to start the research in 2016. This would facilitate a better informed decision on the outlook for the stock over the next few years and beyond and also the prospects for a return to commercial fishing activity.”

The minister also pointed out that IFI would examine the data derived from the new initiative annually and review recommendations on management measures if the research supported this.

While some river basin districts appeared to attain the escapement targets set in the EU regulation, the minister said regulation clearly required attainment of targets over the long term.

“Progress has been made since 2009 when the protection actions were introduced with some rivers basins showing encouraging signs, but we cannot undermine that progress by undoing key conservation measures because we have some green shoots.”

Minister McHugh also emphasised that he fully appreciates the demographics of the former fishermen and the difficulties experienced by them since 2009.

“I want to use the new scientific research to better explore the potential for short to medium term recovery of the fishery and prospects for fishing in the future," he said. "We have put in place measures to protect eel stocks but based on the research outcome I will be better placed to consider the longer term socio-economic impacts on fishermen and communities and what measures it may be possible to put in place for fishermen.”

The measures currently in place under Ireland’s EMP principally involve a cessation of the commercial eel fishery and closure of the market, and mitigation of the impact of hydropower installations.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, illegal trade in eels is a growing business, with hundreds of millions of young eels taken from France's Atlantic coast to China each year.

Published in Fishing
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#MarineScience - A live camera feed from the new 'ocean observatory' in Galway Bay is now online, providing a bounty of information for marine scientists.

The Marine Institute is hosting both live and archived data from the Atlantic Ocean cabled undersea observatory off Spiddal on its website, including data from sea temperature and salinity to the concentration of chlorophyll.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the observatory comprises a range of sensors and monitoring equipment attached to the 4km subsea cable connecting the new Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site with the mainland.

The test site was in the news recently as computer giant Apple pledged €1 million to help ocean energy start-ups put their devices through their paces.

Click HERE the live feed and other data from the ocean observatory.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - The Marine Institute is hosting a one-day event for marine researchers and SMEs looking at cross-cutting opportunities in Horizon 2020 and the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme.

The first part of the day, on Thursday 7 January 2016 from 9.30am to 5.30pm, comprises a half-day course delivered by Dr Seán McCarthy on how to write a competitive proposal for Horizon 2020.

The aim of this course is to train researchers, research managers and research support services in writing professional and competitive proposals for the 'blue growth' programme.

It will describe the relevance of Horizon 2020 to EU policies, and identify common problems in proposal writing and the success criteria for proposals.

The course provides tips on how to collect information, how to select strategic partners and how to avoid duplication in proposal writing. The final section describes a strategy for proposal writing.

Later, Michael O'Brien of the North & Western Regional Assembly will hold an information session on the Interreg Atlantic programme.

This programme area is rich in maritime heritage and marine resources and boasts a strong Atlantic cultural identity. The area is also challenged by ongoing deficits in innovation and SME competitiveness capacity as well as environmental threats including climate change and threats to the biodiversity of the Atlantic area.

The agreed Programme Priorities respond to these challenges and will furthermore exploit opportunities in niche areas such as green growth, renewable energies and eco-Innovation.

The eligible priorities for the 2014-2020 programme period are:

  • Stimulating innovation and competitiveness.
  • Fostering resource efficiency.
  • Strengthening the territory's resilience to risks of natural, climate and human origin.
  • Enhancing biodiversity and the natural and cultural assets.

In the afternoon there will be opportunities for one-on-one advisory meetings with national contact points. Meeting rooms will also be available for breakout sessions if required.

For more information on the day and how to attend, visit the Marine Institute website HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - The Marine Institute welcomed more than 300 Transition Year students during Science Week as part of the Galway Science & Technology Festival and the Sea for Society FP7 project.

The pupils met marine scientists and staff to learn about the wide variety of work they do, and how the science of the sea impacts on our daily lives, for example the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.

Dr Paul Connolly, director of fisheries ecosystems and advisory services, gave an overview of the broad work programmes of the Marine Institute and the many benefits we derive from the ocean.

Students also saw a short video on the recently commissioned Galway Bay Ocean Observatory, which streams live data and video from the seabed off the coast of Spiddal.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan said: "We're delighted see so many students here and hope they'll be inspired by the people they meet and by work that we're doing here to understand our unique ocean resource.

"I'm sure we'll see some of them again as ocean explorers, marine biologists, oceanographers, or geographers mapping the seabed, or as engineers, developing novel marine renewable energy devices. I believe they will have many opportunities, particularly with a national and EU focus on the potential of the 'blue economy' with the Government plan Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth and the European Commission's Atlantic Strategy."

Vera Quinlan, of INFOMAR, the national seabed mapping programme by the Marine Institute and Geological Survey of Ireland, demonstrated her work mapping the seabed using the latest technology – and discovering mountains in the Atlantic ocean higher than Carrauntoohil.

Quinlan has developed Ireland's first augmented reality (AR) sandbox based on a concept first developed as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project led by the visualisation collaboration KeckCAVES at the University of California.

The visiting Transition Years were the first students to try out the AR sandbox, a scientific educational tool to help users to explore the importance of topography, contouring, geology and seabed mapping.

"We constructed the AR sandbox as part of the education and outreach program for INFOMAR and we believe that it will help share the story, the science, and the adventure that is INFOMAR," said Quinlan.

Fisheries scientists explained how they assess fish stocks so that we know the sustainable limits for fishing. Students learned about ocean acidification and had an opportunity to carry out experiments on pH levels.

They also learned about the science behind seafood safety, and met the scientists that make sure the Irish shellfish we eat are free from naturally occurring toxins.

AquaTT, lead Irish partner in the Sea for Society FP7 project, helped to promote the project and the Blue Society concept, highlighting that the ocean is home to millions of undiscovered species; provides us with food and transport as well as essential biological, mineral and energy resources; regulates our climate; and is at the heart of the water cycle, producing half of the oxygen we breathe.

In addition, students got to test-drive a mini submarine (ROV) with the help of the Research Vessel Operations team, and were introduced to a wide variety of marine career opportunities as well as maritime training opportunities by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO).

The Marine Institute will be at the Galway Science & Technology Festival Exhibition this Sunday 22 November alongside Galway Atlantaquaria with the Explorers Education programme for primary schools.

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.

 

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