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Thousands of volunteers answered Clean Coasts and National Spring Clean joint call-to-action to organise a clean-up to protect our ocean today, June 8th. 

Last May, Irish environmental charity Clean Coasts joined forces with National Spring Clean, to provide communities around Ireland with free clean-up kits to host a clean-up during the week around World Ocean Day.

World Ocean Day is celebrated annually on June 8th to highlight the important role the ocean has for our life and the planet. In 2022, the focus will once more be on the 30x30 campaign: to create a healthy ocean with abundant wildlife and to stabilize the climate, it is critical that 30% of our planet’s lands, waters, and ocean are protected by 2030.

One of the issues affecting our ocean is marine litter which has become a global problem for both humans and marine life. However, communities around Ireland have demonstrated their desire to be part of the solution by taking part in several beach cleaning and clean-up calls to action.

Volunteers who registered online received a clean-up kit to roganise a beach clean for World Ocean Day. Photo: Clean Coasts Ballynamona by Cathal NoonanVolunteers who registered online received a clean-up kit to organise a beach clean for World Ocean Day. Photo: Clean Coasts Ballynamona by Cathal Noonan

Statistics show that the number one cause of marine litter is litter dropped in towns and cities. Building on the success of the Spring Clean 22 campaign, which took place in the month of April and saw 500,000 volunteers organising over 5,600 clean-ups, the National Spring Clean programme is joining Clean Coasts this year in supporting these communities around Ireland.

Sinead McCoy, Coastal Communities Manager said: “We were so overwhelmed with the support received from the public. In under 72 hours over 230 clean-ups had already registered on the Clean Coasts website. Now over 4,000 volunteers are set to take action for World Ocean Day by organising or joining a clean-up event around Ireland.”

Volunteers who didn’t manage to secure a clean-up kit can still take action by joining an existing clean-up, a list of which can be found on the Clean Coasts website.

World Ocean Day events are happening in the context of a very few busy months for the organisation, which saw other initiatives to protect and learn more about the ocean being launched recently. These initiatives included the launch of our Enjoy and Protect campaign and several events, such as SUP clean-ups or surf lessons followed by a #2minutebeachclean around all the coast of Ireland. In addition to that, Clean Coasts joined Galway City Council for a #TeamSeas clean-up of the Claddagh Basin and lower Eglington Canal, where over 2 tonnes of litter were removed from an area that would normally be hard to clean. Other events include the release of two marine biodiversity directories, the launch of our Love Your Coast Photography Competition, marram grass planting events and more.

Team Seas Clean up

Finally, to celebrate World Ocean Day and following the launch of two Marine Biodiversity directories last month, yesterday Clean Coasts has also issued a fourth Enjoy and Protect guide about wildlife photography, specifically designed not just for amateur photographers wishing to enter the Love Your Coast Photography competition, but also for the general public who wish to capture the beauty of our coastline while doing something to protect it. [See editor's notes for details]

In 2021, the initiative changed its name from “World Oceans Day” to “World Ocean Day”. By dropping the “s”, its organisers wanted to highlight the fact that we are all connected by a large ocean. This shared ocean supports all life on the planet, by producing most of the oxygen we breathe and regulating climate. No matter where we live, we all depend on the ocean to survive.

This means that each piece of marine litter removed from a beach, river, lake, park or street in Ireland, will have a positive impact on a global scale.

Other Clean Coasts events and initiatives this summer 

Enjoy and Protect (guides) 

With the ‘Enjoy and Protect’ campaign, Clean Coasts are asking people to enjoy and celebrate our stunning coastline, beautiful beaches, epic cliffs and all outdoor areas, but also to protect these natural treasures. Get out and make the most of Ireland’s wonderful coast, but also do your part to preserve our marine environment and keep it safe and beautiful for future generations to enjoy too, with simple actions and small lifestyle changes. More info here.

Enjoy and Protect (events)

To celebrate the launch of the ‘Enjoy and Protect’ campaign, we have been hosting a series of events in Ireland, including a SUP clean-up of the Dun Laoghaire Harbour and a Surf Lesson and #2minutebeachclean in Strandhill, co. Sligo.

Love Your Coast

The 13th Clean Coasts’ Love Your Coast photography competition is now open for entries. Amateur photographers were invited to capture the uniqueness of our coastal communities, environments, or waterways and enter their best shots over the past couple of months. 

There is a prize fund of €5,000, up for grabs across five categories: Coastal Heritage, Coastal Landscape, People & the Coast, Wildlife & the Coast and Creativity and the Coast. More info here. 

#TeamSeas

As part of Ocean Conservancy #TeamSeas Project, Clean Coasts and Galway City Council partnered up to support a clean-up of the Claddagh Basin and lower Eglington Canal, where over 2 tonnes of litter were removed from an area that would normally be hard to clean.

As part of this project, the Lower Eglinton Canal and Claddagh Basin were drained, and litter was removed by a professional contractor. This has removed a significant amount of litter from our waterways and stopped it from herebreaking down further. 

Love Your Beach Week

Clean Coasts are delighted to once more partner with Galway City Council for Love Your Beach Week, which will launch on June 8th.

The week entails a series of beach cleans and other events, such as workshops, talks on biodiversity and climate change, music and beach volley. More info here. 

Cork Harbour Festival 

Cork Harbour Festival returns this June 3-13 with over 50 amazing events in 15 beautiful locations across Cork City & Harbour, to celebrate Cork’s unique maritime heritage as the second largest natural harbour in the world.

For this event, Clean Coasts will join forces with Cork County and City Councils and Subowti for a Kayak & SUP River Clean Up. More info here 

Wild Roots

Last weekend, June 3 – 5, Clean Coasts promoted simple actions to protect our environment at Wild Roots festival in Sligo. Wild Roots is an art, music and adventure festival taking place for the first time set in the stunning Hazelwood area, protected by ancient woodland and close to the tranquil waters of Lough Gill. As well as performances from international and local acts, there was stand up paddle boarding, kayak tours, sailing and boat tours on Lough Gill. Clean Coasts were at the shop street area talking about the Think Before You Flush campaign that we operate in partnership with Irish Water, as well as ways to get involved with the Clean Coasts programme. We had games, prizes, #2minutebeachclean and information on protecting our environment.

Brown Thomas Corporate volunteering

Earlier in June, Clean Coasts met the Brown Thomas team for a series of beach cleans in four different locations around Ireland as part of the organisation’s corporate volunteering programme.

Clean ups took place on Bull Island, co. Dublin, Galway City, Limerick City and Garretstown Beach, co. Cork, and participants removed a total of almost 50 kg of marine litter from the Irish Coast.

PayPal

As one of this year’s chosen charities of PayPal, Clean Coasts has been working with employees from PayPal to develop a coastal programme in Co. Louth. The programme includes marram grass planting to combat erosion, family beach cleans event, beach information and interactive hubs, and looking into an online erosion monitoring model that can be used on the Clean Coasts website. There has also been cross-collaboration with local registered Clean Coasts groups in Co. Louth including Cooley Community Alert and Costa Aláinn Termonfeckin.

Marine Biodiversity Directories

To celebrate National Biodiversity Week in May, Clean Coasts released two marine biodiversity directories.

The Marine Zones and Habitats directory explores these zones and habitats a little further, from above the high tide line, right out to the edge of the continental shelf. Ireland’s coastline and marine environment is teeming with life, playing host to 24 species of whales and dolphins, 35 species of sharks, 2 species of seal, 24 species of seabirds, over 250 species of marine plants and hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates. The Marine Species directory talks about some of these species, where they can be found and more. More info here.

Wexford marram grass planting

Wexford County Council have made steps to combat erosion at some coastal beaches, including Morriscastle Strand. The dune beside the entrance to the beach has been suffering from quite severe erosion, so the Council arranged for chestnut pail fencing to be erected in sections that would help keep off people from any planting that could happen. Clean Coasts teamed up with Wexford County Council to do marram grass planting sessions within these fenced areas. The first day was with locals of Kilmuckridge and surrounding areas on 30th April, and the second day was with students from Colaiste an Atha, Kilmuckridge, on 19th May which the day before Morriscastle Strand received the 2022 Blue Flag Award.

School coastal education and action

Bettystown, Co. Meath – Teaming up with Bettystown Tidy Towns, Clean Coasts engaged with local schools around the local area to educate with marine topics and tackle marine litter. Clean Coasts facilitated workshops and beach cleans at Bettystown beach with these school groups: Drogheda Grammar School on 9th March, Colaiste na hInse on 16th March, Malta Services Drogheda on 29th March, Bettystown Youth Reach on 30th March, English Language Institute on 6th April, St. Oliver’s Community College on 27th April, and Scoil Oilibheir Naofa on 31st May. There are upcoming days with Slane N.S. and also a Clean Coasts stand for World Ocean Day festival on the 11th June.

Cooley, Co. Louth – Teaming up with Cooley Community Alert, Clean Coasts engaged with local schools around the local area to educate with marine topics and tackle marine litter. Clean Coasts facilitated workshops and beach cleans with Scoil Naomh Loran (Omeath) on 7th March, Rathcor N.S. (near Templetown) on 8th April, Knockbridge N.S. (Blackrock) on 4th May, and Muchgrange N.S. (Templetown) on 5th May. 

Marram Grass planting workshop in Portmarnock Beach

Clean Coasts hosted a Marram Grass planting workshop in Portmarnock, co. Dublin, In conjunction with Dublin CARO and Fingal County Council. Find more info here.

Published in Marine Wildlife

A “Clean Oceans” fishing gear retirement scheme has been announced by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue to mark World Oceans Day.

The project, which is aimed at collecting old and damaged fishing gear, is to take place this autumn and is being led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

The “Clean Oceans” initiative was established in 2019 to address the growing problem of plastics and other waste in the world’s oceans.

Almost 600 tonnes of waste has been hauled up in nets by fishers and by the wider Irish seafood industry during a series of pier and shore clean-ups, according to BIM. The initiative is supported by the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund.

“Protecting Ireland’s marine environment means protecting the marine habitat and protecting Ireland’s coastal communities today, and for future generations,” Mr McConalogue said.

“The livelihoods of those who live and work in these communities depend on their working environment being pristine. I am greatly encouraged by the huge efforts being made by fishers, and by the wider Irish seafood industry as part of the “Clean Oceans” initiative,”he said.

“This is an industry which is demonstrating the positive impact that is being made through working together to actively address the serious problem of plastics in our oceans,” he said.

The “Clean Oceans Initiative Fishing Gear Retirement Scheme”, as it is called, is being piloted in Ros-a-Mhíl, Co Galway later this year.

Fishers from the Ros-a-Mhíl fleet are being invited to dispose of their old and damaged gear as part of a free drop-off service at the pier. The fishing gear will then be recycled, upcycled, or disposed of responsibly, BIM says.

Vessel owners will be asked to register details of the materials they drop off to record their origin, and to allow BIM to track how they are used in the future.

BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said that “genuine efforts are being made by the Irish seafood industry to do what it can to address the issue”.

He said collaboration across the industry and with the wider marine sector has been critical to the success of the “Clean Oceans” initiative.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The "underwater treasure" around over 3,000 km of Irish coastline is the theme of three talks hosted by Galway Atlantaquaria to mark World Oceans Day.

As Dr Noirín Burke of Galway Atlantaquaria says, Ireland can “boast an incredible range of different underwater environments and a diversity of marine life that is still mostly unknown - although 40% of the Irish population lives within five kilometres of the sea”.

“There is probably no better day to celebrate this underwater treasure than World Oceans Day,” she says.

The June 8th date was designated by the United Nations to “acknowledge our world’s shared ocean and our personal connection to the sea, as well as to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and the important ways people can help protect it”, she says.

Three speakers booked by Galway Atlantaquria will offer three very different perspectives of marine management, citizen science and biodiscovery - all with the same focus of conservation.

Tony O’Callaghan, will give an overview of the activities carried on by Seasearch Ireland, which he co-ordinates.

Seasearch involves 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 Ireland and Britain.

Volunteers involved in its citizen science projects map out various types of sea bed found in the near-shore zone around the island to establish “the richest sites for marine life, the sites where there are problems and the sites which need protection”.

Also speaking is Sibéal Regan, education and outreach officer with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The IWDG is also involved in the Fair Seas campaign, initiated by a number of leading national environmental organisations and networks to campaign for rapid expansion of marine protected areas in Irish Waters, with a target of at least 10% of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected' by 2025 and at least 30% by 2030.

Regan will focus on the new report, entitled “Revitalising Our Seas, Identifying Areas of Interest for Marine Protected Area Designation in Irish Waters”, which Fair Seas will release on World Oceans Day.

The final speaker is Sam Afoullouss, PhD student at NUI Galway’s marine biodiscovery laboratory.

He will describe the variety of underwater environments that can be found around Ireland, from the rich kelp forests in shallow waters to the flourishing coral gardens in the ocean’s darkest depths, and will speak about a “still untapped medicinal potential”.

Having given a highly successful TED talk at the end of last year, Afoullouss will “dive into the science behind natural remedies”.

He will also explain why the ocean's “great and still largely unexplored biodiversity is ideal for deriving and inspiring future treatments, but only if we protect its waters and life”.

The marine talks are free, from 7pm to 8.30pm on Wednesday June 8th at Galway Atlantaquaria, and booking is essential on https://bit.ly/396PGnt

Published in Marine Wildlife

The harmless-looking goldfish is so voracious that attempting to save its life by releasing it into the wild could be “catastrophic” for native biodiversity, a new study suggests.

A study by Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) scientists assessed the ecological impact of the pet fish if released into the wild by comparing it to the white cloud mountain minnow.

The goldfish and white cloud mountain minnow are the two most commonly traded fish species in Northern Ireland.

The goldfish has established non-native populations around the world since it was “domesticated” a thousand years ago.

By contrast, the white cloud mountain minnow has a limited invasion history to date, the QUB researchers point out.

This study published in NeoBiota – a website for the European Group on Biological Invasions - showed goldfish to be “voracious, consuming much more than the white cloud mountain minnow or native species”.

“In terms of behaviour patterns, goldfish were also found to be much braver, a trait linked with invasive spread,” the study says.

Lead author Dr James Dickey from the QUB School of Biological Sciences said the research “suggests that goldfish pose a triple threat”.

“Not only are they readily available, but they combine insatiable appetites with bold behaviour,” he said.

“While northern European climates are often a barrier to non-native species surviving in the wild, goldfish are known to be tolerant to such conditions, and could pose a real threat to native biodiversity in rivers and lakes, eating up the resources that other species depend on,” he said.

“Our research highlights that goldfish are high risk, but we hope that the methods developed here can be used to assess others in the pet trade across Ireland and further afield,” Dr Dickey said.

“Readily available species are most likely to be released, so limiting the availability of potentially impactful ones - alongside better education of pet owners - is a solution to preventing damaging invaders establishing in the future,” he said.

The QUB research was funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)

The findings were presented at the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species in Oostende, Belgium along with a range of other leading research from QUB on alien species.

Published in Marine Science

A newly formed Irish environmental coalition says it is “demanding” a fifteen-fold increase in Ireland’s marine protected areas (MPAs).

The Fair Seas campaign wants at least 10 per cent of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected” by 2025, and “at least” 30 per cent by 2030.

“Today Ireland’s MPA coverage is at a mere 2.13% lagging behind even our closest neighbours in Scotland at 37%,” the campaign says.

“Ireland has not met its previous target of 10% protection by 2020,” it says warning that “Fair Seas will hold the government to account so it does not miss its upcoming targets”.

Minke Whale, Photo: Pádraig Whooley, IWDGMinke Whale, Photo: Pádraig Whooley, IWDG

“Ireland’s maritime area is seven times the size of our landmass and is home to spectacular wildlife including endangered basking sharks, humpback whales, blue whales, otters, seals, puffins and even deep-sea coral reefs,” the campaign says.

It aims to see Ireland becoming a “world leader in marine protection, giving our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive”.

MPAs, which give legal protection to the conservation of species and habitats, are a “vital tool” in improving ocean health, it says.

Common dolphins Photo: Sibéal Regan, IWDGCommon dolphins Photo: Sibéal Regan, IWDG

The Fair Seas campaign says it will publish its first expert report, underpinned by scientific data, this summer, and this will identify where it believes MPAs should be designated.

Legislation for the designation and management of MPAs is currently being drafted and the Heads of Bill is expected before Government in December 2022.

“In January 2022 Ireland showed its passion for the ocean by speaking out against Russian missile testing,” Fair Seas campaign manager Aoife O’Mahony said.

Puffin Photo: George KarbusPuffin Photo: George Karbus

“Voices from the fishing industry, government, environmental groups and the public were all echoing the need to protect our marine biodiversity and commercially important fish stocks. Fair Seas is calling on those same voices to ask the Irish government to follow up and secure a network of effective well-managed MPAs,” she said.

“Fair Seas is a new and inclusive approach to environmental campaigning,” Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow said.

The IWDG is part of the new coalition, along with the Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Coastwatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Friends of the Irish Environment, SWAN and the Irish Environmental Network

Fair Seas says it is funded by Oceans 5, the Becht Family Charitable Trust, Blue Nature Alliance and WyssFoundation.

Humpback Whale - common dolphin Photo: Daniella Morgernstern, IWDGHumpback Whale and a common dolphin Photo: Daniella Morgernstern, IWDG

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan says he is “ deeply concerned” at the news that military exercises are to be conducted by Russia within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Area due to the impact on marine mammals.

In a statement last night, Noonan said he had written to both Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the Russian Ambassador to Ireland to express his concerns.

“While we do not know the nature of these exercises, we do know that underwater sounds such as active military sonar can have devastating consequences for cetaceans including some of our rarest marine mammal species, notably the deep-diving and rarely-seen Blue whale, Sperm whale and beaked whales,” Noonan said.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm NoonanMinister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan

“ It can cause significant disruption to their hearing systems and normal behaviour, and may lead to permanent or even lethal injury,” he said.

“Ireland’s marine mammals have been the focus of considerable research efforts over the last three decades and the understanding of species occurrence, abundance and distribution has improved markedly in that time,” he said.

As Afloat reported earlier, Cuvier’s beaked whales are known to inhabit the area where Russia plans a military exercise early next month

“Most recently the ObSERVE project, run jointly by my department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, mapped cetaceans through aerial and ship-based surveys over a three year period and across an extensive area of our off-shore waters,” he said.

“The second phase of this project – ObSERVE 2 – is currently ongoing,” Noonan said.

Russia's Ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said that controversy around the exercise was "hugely overblown".

He told a press conference on Monday that the planned exercises by Russian naval vessels off the southwest Irish coast were "not in any way a threat to Ireland or anybody else" and that no harm was intended by it.

Filatov said three or four ships would be involved, but he did not know if missiles or submarines would be used.

60 fishing vessels

Up to 60 fishing vessels affiliated to the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) have pledged to peacefully disrupt the exercises due to the threats to marine life and biodiversity.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland that there were currently "half a billion tonnes" of blue whiting in the area that move up along the coastline, representing "a one million tonne fishery".

"This is a very important ground where fish come to spawn... and we don't know what's going on out here.

"We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we're fishing there then these boats, these warships, shouldn't be having war games."

Murphy said an issue of "real concern" was that their fishing gear at the back of their boats could get tangled with a submarine.

In a comment to RTÉ, the Russian Embassy said it would be “reckless” for the fishing organisation to send vessels to the area within the exercise.

Head of German navy resigns

Earlier this week, the head of the German navy resigned after attracting criticism at home and abroad for saying that Ukraine would never regain the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Speaking at an event in New Delhi, India, on Friday, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach also said it was important to have Russia on side against China, and suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved “respect”.

“Is Russia really interested in having a tiny strip of Ukraine’s soil? No,” he said, in remarks which were recorded on video.

“Or to integrate it in the country? No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because he knows he can do it and he knows that it splits the European Union,” Schoenbach said.

“What he (Putin) really wants is respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost … It is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves,” he added, calling Russia an old and important country.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

A BIM scientist has welcomed two recent reports in the scientific journal Nature recording how fisheries management and marine conservation have helped to reduce overfishing.

A recent Nature paper entitled “Rebuilding marine life” says that “substantial recovery of the abundance, structure and function of marine life could be achieved by 2050, if major pressures—including climate change—are mitigated”.

Writing in the current issue of The Skipper, Dr Ronán Cosgrove, BIM Fisheries Conservation Manager, says measures on management and conservation since the 1980s have boosted recovery to the point where two-thirds of large-scale commercial stocks are exploited at sustainable rates.

Cosgrove says that the number of marine species at risk of extinction has decreased while populations of marine mammals such as humpback whales and several seal species have significantly increased.

"The number of marine species at risk of extinction has decreased"

While it’s a case of much done and much more to do on the latter, climate change is the “critical backdrop against which all future rebuilding efforts will play out”, he says.

Drawing of the modified 100mm T90 codend by Dr Matthew McHughDrawing of the modified 100mm T90 codend by Dr Matthew McHugh

“Threats such as increased ocean warming, acidification, sea level rises, and ancillary impacts will need to be dealt with through effective mitigation of greenhouse gases and development of carbon capture and removal technologies,”he says.

Cosgrove says the latest edition of the Marine Institute Stock book includes a positive assessment of Irish fisheries.

The number of sustainably fished stocks rose from 33 in 2020 to 35 in 2021 with gradual progress towards long-term sustainable utilisation of the resource base since 2012, he says.

He attributes this to a variety of management measures and increasingly high-quality scientific advice from the institute.

Gear selectivity also helps develop sustainable fisheries, he says, such as increases in mesh sizes and introduction of large square mesh panels to reduce mortality in some fisheries.

Cosgrove records how BIM’s latest gear collaboration with industry has further boosted the performance of the highly selective T90 codend, a key gear measure in the Celtic and Irish Seas. The work was supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

“Due to increased mesh openings, T90 consistently reduces catches of small fish. Thanks to increased water flow through the open meshes, greater quantities of larger market sized fish are swept into and retained in the codend,” he explains.

Testing of a new four-panel 100 mm T90 cod end design was led by BIM’s Daragh Browne, working with an Irish seiner and Cathal Boyle and colleagues at Swan Net Gundry.

The gear modification has been trialled in Canadian and Icelandic fisheries and was successfully tailored to the Irish seine net fishery with extensive design input from Swan Net Gundry, he says.

“Haddock is a key target species for seiners with additional monthly quotas allocated to this fleet,” he notes.

“Conducted on a self-sampling basis due to Covid restrictions, a comparison of the new T90 codend compared with a standard two-panel T90 codend demonstrated a 70% reduction in small grade haddock, and 157% and 133% increases in medium and large-grade haddock. Very few undersize fish occurred in either gear as expected with 100 mm T90 codends,”Cosgove says.

“While price data have yet to be analysed, large haddock are worth substantially more than small haddock meaning the new gear greatly assists in maximising the value of available quota,”he says.

Major reductions in small fish also reduces fishing mortality - leading to improved sustainability of the haddock stock.

The Nature papers are here

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00668-1

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2146-7

The MI stock book is available at www.marine.ie.

Cosgrove’s full report in The Skipper is here

https://theskipper.ie/good-news-for-fisheries-sustainability/

Published in Fishing
Tagged under

BirdWatch Ireland, the national charity protecting birds, has asked people who regularly visit coastal harbours and beaches and who take to the seas “ to help in tracking one of the most breathtaking sights in Nature.”

This is the phenomenon involving starlings, known as a murmuration and which in other European countries is associated with harbours and piers, but about which more data is needed in Ireland.

Niall Hatch of BirdWatch outlined to Tom MacSweeney on his Maritime Ireland Radio Show what they would like to hear about from the public.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Did you know that our Native oysters have been an important food source for centuries - the Romans even exported them back to Italy!

The first report of a recognised commercial oyster fishery in Belfast Lough was in 1780 and although the native oyster has been considered extinct there since 1903, in the summer of 2020, live oysters were discovered for the first time in over 100 years – evidence that the environmental conditions for establishment are right.

The charity, Ulster Wildlife Trust, is hoping to establish the first native oyster nursery in Northern Ireland in Bangor Marina on Belfast Lough to support the declining population and to help create a natural long-term carbon store to tackle climate change. So under F, G and H Pontoons, Ulster Wildlife's Heidi McIlvenny with Harbour Master Kevin Baird and his staff will deploy a native oyster nursery.

Highly prized Loch Ryan OystersHighly prized Loch Ryan Oysters

Around 26 cages will be suspended under the pontoon walkways and will be populated with highly prized Loch Ryan Oysters. The Loch Ryan Oyster Bed, one of Scotland’s largest, dates to 1701 when King William 111 granted a Royal Charter to the Wallace family.

The native or flat oyster stays fixed in one place and is a filter feeder meaning it uses its valves to pump water filtering out microscopic algae and small organic particles from the surrounding water. A single oyster can filter up to 200 litres of seawater per day, which can significantly improve water quality and clarity.

Already thriving in another Marina in Conwy Wales, over time the oysters will start releasing oyster larvae into the harbour which will be carried out to settle on the seabed, ultimately resulting in cleaner waters and better marine biodiversity.

Classified as a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework and a Feature of Conservation Importance for which Marine Conservation Zones can be designated, the oyster has a lifespan of six years.

Harbour Master Kevin Baird would like to get local schools involved after the oysters are in place. “It’s a great environmental project with many very positive benefits”. He added “There will be no disruption to marine traffic”.

Published in Belfast Lough

New antibiotics in the world’s oceans and the curative properties of marine animals like sponges will be explored in a European project involving researchers at University College Cork (UCC).

The EU has awarded a total of €7.5 million under its Horizon 2020 programme to the research into the largely unknown potential of the world’s oceans in protecting people, animals and crops from disease.

The Marine Biodiversity as Sustainable Resource of Disease-Suppressive Microbes and Bioprotectants for Aquaculture and Crop Diseases project, as it is officially known, has been given the name “Marbles”.

The research team will look specifically for new antibiotics and anti-fungals as well as microbes that can serve as “bio-protectants” in agriculture and aquaculture.

Synthetic chemicals currently used in pharmaceutical, agriculture and aquaculture have a devastating impact on marine life and this research is looking for sustainable solutions, according to the UCC research team.

The project will assess the potential of microorganisms derived from marine sponges, microalgae and fish for disease suppression.

They explain that “disease-suppressive” microorganisms will be drawn from "microbiomes", the complex collection of microorganisms that live in and around their marine hosts.

The world’s growing population and the current climate and biodiversity crises are driving the need to harness new compounds with pharmaceutical and nutritional applications sustainably, the UCC team says.

Prof Alan Dobson and Dr David Clarke from the UCC School of Microbiology and the Environmental Research Institute said that they were particularly excited about collaborating with the other 13 European partners from both academia and industry.

One project they hope to focus on involves isolating and genetically characterising disease suppressive microorganisms from the microbiome of Atlantic salmon.

These may then be generated into cocktails of microbial consortia, which could then be used either within fish feed as probiotics, or applied externally to boost the skin’s immune response in the salmon, they state.

This will improve disease control and overall fish health, and should decrease the dependency of using antibiotics in fish aquaculture systems while also reducing the potential spread of antimicrobial resistance in aquatic ecosystems, they state.

Published in Marine Science
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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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