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The Marine Institute has today launched the 2021 Stock Book, the annual publication which provides the latest impartial scientific advice on the status of 74 key fish stocks of interest to Ireland. It is available for download or through an interactive online application (www.marine.ie).

This is the 29th edition of the annual book, which also contains the latest management advice used by decision makers to set sustainable catch levels and fishing quotas for 2022. The publication is an invaluable reference guide to a wide audience, including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the fishing industry, marine scientists, environmental NGOs, third level institutes and financial institutions.

In 2020, Irish vessels landed approximately 190,000 tonnes of wild caught fish worth more than €250 million at first sale. This, in turn, supports a valuable processing industry and other activities in our coastal communities.

Ensuring long term sustainability is a key objective of the Common Fisheries Policy and all stakeholders. To that end, every year, the Marine Institute undertakes an extensive data collection programme - multiple scientific surveys cover approximately 327,000 square nautical miles over 263 days, equating to 1,545 scientist days-at-sea. 

Onshore and at sea sampling programmes measure over half a million fish and estimate age for a further 50,000 individuals across all commercial species. Irish data is compiled with that from other countries through the intergovernmental organisation ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas). Marine Institute scientists play a key role in carrying out the assessments and developing the scientific evidence and advice at ICES. The Stock Book integrates the latest scientific advice from ICES with relevant information on Irish fisheries.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD said "I am impressed by the quantity and quality of data collected by our marine scientists in the Marine Institute. This work must inform all aspects of fisheries management and support the effective protection of our marine ecosystem in the seas around our coast and for the fisheries on which our fleet are reliant. It is important that the results of all the work is made accessible to industry and other stakeholders and I very much welcome the Stock Book for 2021 which I have now received."

Michael Gillooly, Interim CEO of the Marine Institute, said, "The seas around Ireland are among the most productive and biologically sensitive areas in EU waters. The Marine Institute conducts comprehensive and broad science programmes in order to sustainably monitor and develop this valuable resource.

"The scientific advice and services provided by our scientists to stakeholders are essential to supporting a sustainable ocean economy, protecting and managing our marine ecosystems and meeting EU obligations. As part of the services provided, our scientists also participate in, and lead, international working groups that assess fish stocks and provide scientific advice on how many fish can be safely removed from this renewable resource. This is essential in sustaining our ocean economy for our coastal communities."

Dr Ciaran Kelly, Director of Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services at the Marine Institute, said, "The interactive app developed by the Marine Institute is shaping thinking on how independent scientific advice can be delivered to fisheries managers and other stakeholders in the future ensuring that the best available scientific evidence for decision making is easy to access and transparent to all."

The gradual increase in the number of stocks that are sustainably fished, in line with Common Fisheries Policy objectives, has continued. Stocks of haddock, anglerfish (or monkfish), megrim, tuna, and some of the Nephrops (Dublin Bay Prawns), have increased in recent years and continue to be sustainably fished. Work also continues on stocks such as cod, herring and whiting.

The 2021 Stock Book is available electronically on the Marine Institute's website here and as an interactive app here. Most of the scientific work that delivers the Marine Institute's Stock Book is funded under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

Published in Marine Science

The Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D. met virtually today with the members of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF).

Minister McConalogue welcomed those representatives from the six Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums who were attending the NIFF for the first time, noting that the process of renewing Forum membership has been working well.

“I am delighted with the level of commitment that people have shown in engaging with the Forums because, without that commitment, this initiative would not have emerged as the influential voice for the inshore sector that it has become,” the Minister said.

The Minister discussed issues, that are important to the inshore sector, with the Forum members, including the recommendations in the final report of the Seafood Sector Task Force. The Minister thanked the NIFF for its participation in the Task Force and the valuable contributions it made to those discussions.

The Minister said, “I am urgently examining the Task Force report with a view to quickly implementing a comprehensive response to the impacts of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on our fishing sector and coastal communities.”

The Minister and inshore representatives also discussed a range of other topics including the “hook and line” mackerel fishery and the sustainable management of the brown crab fishery, which is one of the most important stocks for inshore fishers and for the seafood sector.

The meeting included contributions from Bord Bia, the Marine Institute and Bord Iascaigh Mhara. The Minister thanked all those attending for their constructive engagement throughout the meeting.

Published in Fishing

To celebrate Science Week, the Marine Institute and the Explorers Education Programme are supporting the 2021 Galway Science and Technology Festival, which kicked off on Sunday 7 November and continues to Sunday 21 November.

“We are delighted to engage with parents and children again this year to inspire the next generation to be ocean champions and pursue marine careers,” said the Marine Institute’s Patricia Orme.

The Explorers Education Programme and Galway Atlantaquaria are providing school classes with guided tours of Ireland’s largest native species aquarium.

Primary school children will receive an Explorers resource pack and access the aquarium’s virtual tour. Explorers’ Wild About Wildlife on the Seashore short films will also be showcased for Science Week.

Dive beneath the surface to explore our deep sea in The Wild Atlantic – Sea Science exhibition at Galway City Museum. Free to visitors, the gallery features new exhibitions on climate change, surveys at sea, and life along the seashore.

In the ROV simulator, explore ocean depths like a marine scientist and discover cold-water corals, shipwrecks and a rare shark nursery.

Visitors to the exhibition can pick up a free children's activity book to continue exploring the marine world from home.

Those engaging virtually can learn about our ocean and climate with ‘The Science Guy’ Mark Langtry in the Marine Institute’s Sea Science Series available on the Galway Science & Technology Festival website.

Mark brings the wonders of sea science to the screen with his entertaining, sometimes explosive, and educational sea science shows. The four-part series includes episodes on ocean acidification, creating ocean currents, and experiments on temperature and salinity.

And discover how scientists at the Marine Institute are increasing our understanding of the ocean through their research with the ‘Our People’ video series, which profiles the study and career paths of our people and the work they do at the Marine Institute.

Meanwhile, the Marine Institute is running a competition on the Galway Science & Technology Festival Facebook page. View the short film Ireland's Marine Life and guess the correct number of species featured for the chance to win a LEGO City Ocean Exploration Submarine Set.

In Ireland’s Marine Life, follow Fiadh, a gannet journeying over and underwater and meeting sea creatures along the way — from tiny hermit crabs and jellyfish to dolphins and basking sharks.

Published in Marine Science

The annual Irish Groundfish Survey (IGFS) for 2021 will be carried out by the Marine Institute off the North West, West and South Coasts of Ireland from Saturday 30 October to Tuesday 14 December.

The IGFS is a demersal trawl survey consisting of approximately 170 fishing hauls of 30-minute duration each in ICES areas VIa, VIIb, VIIg and VIIj.

As part of the requirements for the 2021 survey, fishing will take place within a two-nautical-mile radius of the positions indicated in the appendices to Marine Notice No 57 of 2021, which can be downloaded below.

The survey will be conducted by the RV Celtic Explorer (callsign EIGB) which will display appropriate lights and signals. The vessel will be towing a high headline GOV 36/47 demersal trawl during fishing operations.

The Marine Institute requests that commercial fishing and other marine operators keep a two-nautical-mile area around the tow mid-points clear of any gear or apparatus during the survey period outlined above.

Further details can be found in the Marine Notice attached below.

Published in Fishing

Primary classrooms throughout Ireland are celebrating cephalopods throughout the month of October with the launch of the Explorers Education Programme’s new educational resources focusing on squid.

Marine scientists around the world have been studying squid for many years, learning about their evolution, what they eat and what eats them, as well as their habitats and distribution in the global ocean,” says the Marine Institute’s Patricia Orme.

“When talking about cephalopods, we often think of the charismatic octopus, or the cuttlefish and their ability to change colours. However, squid also have special qualities, including the ability to see long distances in the dark, and being able to fly above the water.”

Squid have also been a point of interest for storytellers, artists, film-makers and museum curators the world over, says Cushla Dromgool-Regan of the Camden Education Trust.

“Led by the work of scientists, researchers and storytellers, the Explorers team are delighted to have produced a series of resources that will inspire teachers and children to learn more about the ocean, and possibly become ocean explorers themselves,” she adds.

Find the new resources on the Explorers microsite, and follow the Explorers Education Programme on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more fun facts about squid … and even the fearsome Kraken!

Published in Marine Science

The Department of Transport advises that an analogue survey consisting of multibeam, side-scan sonar and magnetometer will be carried out off the South Coast of Ireland by the Marine Institute on behalf of Providence Resources from Saturday 23 to Sunday 31 October, weather permitting.

In addition to the analogue survey, seabed samples and camera imagery will be acquired at approximately 10 stations in the survey area.

The survey will be conducted in Block 48/24 Barryroe, in the North Celtic Basin, around 45–50km from the south coast of Ireland, and will be undertaken by the RV Celtic Voyager (callsign EIQN). The vessel will be towing a side-scan sonar and magnetometer from time to time with cables of up to 300m long.

As this vessel will be restricted in its ability to manoeuvre when surveying, other vessels are requested to keep a wide berth. The vessel will display appropriate lights and signals.

For details of coordinates of the survey area, see Marine Notice No 55 of 2021 which is available to download below.

Published in News Update

What is the ‘blue bioeconomy’? Who are the people working on it in Ireland and where do they get support?

Marine scientist and influencer Finn van der Aar will host the first in a series of online events later this month for those who want to learn more about this developing sector and the innovative researchers and businesses operating within it.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will also showcase the relevant supports available and an overview of projects already operating within the blue bioeconomy.

“Bioeconomy-The Blue Perspective” takes place next Friday morning 22 October from 10am to 11.30am. For the agenda and details of how to register, see the event’s Eventbrite page.

This event is organised by the Páirc na Mara Marine Innovation Development Centre, Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Marine Institute as part of Bioeconomy Ireland Week.

Published in Marine Science

The Explorers Education Programme has been expanded to deliver modules to primary schools in all of Ireland’s coastal counties.

Established in Galway over 15 years ago and funded by the Marine Institute, the Explorers programme now reaches schools all around the coast — including Leitrim, the coastal county with the shortest coastline — via outreach teams offering a wide range of marine science modules for the classroom and field trips to the seashore.

With this expansion, the programme says its teams will also be able to offer online and blended learning modules to classes from inland counties.

“With an increasing awareness of ocean literacy and the value of ocean sciences in Ireland, we can’t wait to share all of what the Explorers team have to offer with primary schools in these new counties,” said Cushla Dromgool-Regan, strategic education and communications manager with the Camden Education Trust.

“We have been very lucky to have been working with a group of marine education experts and outreach officers for a number of years, and we are now extremely pleased to be working with additional new members joining the team.

“They have all showed how extremely passionate they are about sharing their ocean knowledge with children, as well as supporting teachers with the delivery of marine-themed content that can be used on the primary schools curriculum.”

Explorers team members will be working with primary school teachers introducing a range of exciting marine projects and resources over the coming months, covering topics such as marine biodiversity and environmental awareness to a range of STEM topics leading up to Maths Week in October and Science Week in November.

“The teams can reach classes delivering face-to-face project modules held in the class, seashore safaris, as well as through online and blended learning. Our new Explorers Back to School Brochure also provides information about our modules and links to the centres for bookings,” Dromgool-Regan said.

The outreach teams that deliver the Explorers programme to primary school children include: Leave No Trace Ireland; Galway Atlantaquaria; Sea Synergy Marine Awareness Centre in Co Kerry; Old Cork Waterworks Experience; Oceanics Surf School in Tramore; and Marine Dimensions in Bray.

Enquiries about bookings can be made directly to the above centres. Schools and classes located within inland counties should be sent to the Explorers support services team at Galway Atlantaquaria to check on an outreach centre’s availability.

The Explorers Education Programme also has a wide range of teaching materials that are freely available on the explorers.ie website.

Published in Marine Science

Professor Dave Reid of the Marine Institute received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) at their virtual Annual Science Conference 2021.

Prof Reid is a principal investigator in the Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services team at the Marine Institute. As an ecosystem scientist, he is involved in a number of EU-funded projects and leads a team of students and researchers.

The ICES Outstanding Achievement Award honours scientists who have made a notable contribution to the organisation of ICES in the field of marine science over a sustained period of time.

Prof Reid’s first leadership involvement with ICES was chairing the Planning Group on the HAC (file type) Data Exchange Format, a role he held for six years and since then he has participated in 25 working groups, 30 workshops, two strategic initiatives, four steering groups and the Science Committee.

He has also chaired 10 workshops, eight working groups and two steering groups, and is currently an active member of 12 of these groups.

Congratulating Prof Reid, the Marine Institute’s interim chief executive Michael Gillooly said the award recognised his contributions to marine science and his longstanding commitment to ICES.

“It is a great honour for Prof Reid to be acknowledged by his colleagues at the Marine Institute and the international scientific community for his endeavours in science, research, and leadership,” he added.

Prof Reid says he is most proud of his involvement in the ICES Working Group called WKIrish, an ecosystem-based approach to fishery management for the Irish Sea.

“This was a collaboration between ecosystem scientists, with fish stock assessors and fishers in the industry,” he said. “We were trying to explain why the Irish Sea had become less successful as a fishing ground. The fishers had asked for this study, and they really engaged with it. They were with us for the whole journey, and the study had great results.

“The most inspiring aspect of my career by far is the chance to work with young scientists at the start of their career. I’ve always found this incredibly stimulating — they are smart, lively, switched on and sparky people.

“Working with people like that not only keeps me semi-young, but I also get to train them, see them develop and continue on to careers in marine science and some of my ex-graduates are now working at the European Commission and governments around the world.”

Published in Marine Science
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In celebration of National Heritage Week 2021, the Marine Institute has launched a new Interactive Marine Archive where you can explore two rare historical collections on Irish sea and inland fisheries.

The digitised collections include the Sea and Inland Fisheries reports from 1839-1987, which show what fish were being taken from our seas, where they were landed and their values at market annually, among other revealing tidbits.

Also available is the Scientific Investigations collection which spans from 1901-1926 and contains papers and journal articles of new scientific discoveries of that time, such as how Maude Delap closed the life cycle of the jellyfish and the deep-sea documentations of Anne Massey.

“These reports contain valuable data about the pre-exploitation state of Irish fisheries,” said Stephanie Ronan, librarian at the Marine Institute. “Digitising these historical books and extracting key information enables these data to be visualised and explored, making them easily and widely accessible to researchers and the public today.”

Dr Maurice Clarke, marine ecosystems lead at the Marine Institute, added: “It is only in examining the past, and beginning our journey of discovery with the appropriate baseline data, that we can offer advice on the impacts of climate change and fishing to government.

“For example, the work done a hundred years ago on the herring fisheries in Ireland — which yielded tens of thousands of tonnes annually, while today the yields are in the mere hundreds of tonnes — shows the impacts that climatic changes had even then.”

An interactive timeline takes you through 150 years of Irish fisheries history and the highlights for each year from the Sea and Inland Fisheries reports and Scientific Investigations series.

The Habitat Map displays the location of oyster beds licenses granted in 1875 throughout Ireland. Select a location and find out where the license was granted, to whom, when and the area of the beds in acres, roods and perches. The archive also includes annual landing data for species such as cod, haddock and salmon.

You can explore the work and achievements of many of the key scientists in Ireland, from Ernest Holt, George Farran and Arthur Went to the Marine Institute’s John Molloy.

And find out more about the vessels that have supported Irish fisheries research throughout the years, from the Helga — a 150ft steam liner used in 1901 — to the Marine Institute’s modern RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager which are used by scientists today.

The Interactive Marine Archive project was funded under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund Marine Biodiversity Scheme.

Published in Coastal Notes
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Sharks in Irish waters

Irish waters are home to 71 species of shark, skates and rays, 58 of which have been studied in detail and listed on the Ireland Red List of Cartilaginous fish. Irish sharks range from small Sleeper sharks, Dogfish and Catsharks, to larger species like Frilled, Mackerel and Cow sharks, all the way to the second largest shark in the world, the Basking shark. 

Irish waters provide a refuge for an array of shark species. Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry provides a habitat for several rare and endangered sharks and their relatives, including the migratory tope shark, angel shark and undulate ray. This area is also the last European refuge for the extremely rare white skate. Through a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) project, Marine Institute scientists have been working with fishermen to assess the distribution, diversity, and monthly relative abundance of skates and rays in Tralee, Brandon and Dingle Bays.

“These areas off the southwest coast of Ireland are important internationally as they hold some of the last remaining refuges for angel shark and white skate,” said Dr Maurice Clarke of the Marine Institute. “This EMFF project has provided data confirming the critically endangered status of some species and provides up-to-date information for the development of fishery measures to eliminate by-catch.” 

Irish waters are also home to the Black Mouthed Catshark, Galeus melastomus, one of Ireland’s smallest shark species which can be found in the deep sea along the continental shelf. In 2018, Irish scientists discovered a very rare shark-nursery 200 nautical miles off the west coast by the Marine Institute’s ROV Holland 1 on a shelf sloping to 750 metres deep. 

There are two ways that sharks are born, either as live young or from egg casings. In the ‘case’ of Black Mouthed Catsharks, the nursery discovered in 2018, was notable by the abundance of egg casings or ‘mermaid’s purses’. Many sharks, rays and skate lay eggs, the cases of which often wash ashore. If you find an egg casing along the seashore, take a photo for Purse Search Ireland, a citizen science project focusing on monitoring the shark, ray and skate species around Ireland.

Another species also found by Irish scientists using the ROV Holland 1 in 2018 was a very rare type of dogfish, the Sail Fin Rough Shark, Oxynotus paradoxus. These sharks are named after their long fins which resemble the trailing sails of a boat, and live in the deep sea in waters up to 750m deep. Like all sharks, skates and rays, they have no bones. Their skeleton is composed of cartilage, much like what our noses and ears are made from! This material is much more flexible and lighter than bone which is perfect for these animals living without the weight of gravity.

Throughout history sharks have been portrayed as the monsters of the sea, a concept that science is continuously debunking. Basking sharks were named in 1765 as Cetorhinus maximus, roughly translated to the ‘big-nosed sea monster’. Basking sharks are filter feeders, often swimming with their mouths agape, they filter plankton from the water.

They are very slow moving and like to bask in the sun in shallow water and are often seen in Irish waters around Spring and early Summer. To help understand the migration of these animals to be better able to understand and conserve these species, the Irish Basking Shark Group have tagged and mapped their travels.

Remarkably, many sharks like the Angel Shark, Squatina squatina have the ability to sense electricity. They do this via small pores in their skin called the ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’ which are able to detect the tiny electrical impulses of a fish breathing, moving or even its heartbeat from distances of over a kilometre! Angel sharks, often referred to as Monkfish have a distinctively angelic shape, with flattened, large fins appearing like the wings of an angel. They live on the seafloor in the coastal waters of Ireland and much like a cat are nocturnal, primarily active at night.

The intricate complexity of shark adaptations is particularly noticeable in the texture of their skin. Composed of miniscule, perfectly shaped overlapping scales, the skin of shark provides them with protection. Often shark scales have been compared to teeth due to their hard enamel structure. They are strong, but also due to their intricate shape, these scales reduce drag and allow water to glide past them so that the shark can swim more effortlessly and silently. This natural flawless design has been used as inspiration for new neoprene fabric designs to help swimmers glide through the water. Although all sharks have this feature, the Leafscale Gulper Shark, Centrophorus squamosus, found in Ireland are specifically named due to the ornate leaf-shape of their scales.

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