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The Marine Institute (MI - Ireland) and the Instituto Português do Mer e da Atmosfera (IPMA - Portugal) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Lisbon today. The MoU will enhance cooperation in the Atlantic Ocean area between the two organisations, particularly in relation to strategic cooperation on marine research.

The agreement was signed by Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, and Dr Jorge Miguel Alberto de Miranda, President of the IPMA, at the latter’s headquarters in Lisbon today (23rd June 2022). The Secretary of State for Maritime Affairs, Jose Maria Costa and the Irish Ambassador to Portugal, Ralf Victory attended the signing ceremony.

The MoU recognises the importance of cooperation to enhance marine sciences and technology, and will focus on collaborations that build up our knowledge base for the Atlantic Ocean. The IPMA is a public institution and an equivalent marine science organisation to the Marine Institute.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, said, “I am delighted to be signing the MoU with the IPMA today. This strategic alliance will tap into the scientific talent pools in both organisations, develop research partnerships in the Atlantic area and build up our ocean of knowledge base for the benefit of our coastal communities”.

Dr Miguel Miranda, President of IPMA, said “Ireland and Portugal have been working together for many years on marine science issues and we know each other and work well together. It is very important for us to continue to cooperate and be a strong voice for marine science and the Atlantic into the future”.

Both organisations agreed to pursue an MoU in 2020, but the Covid 19 pandemic stalled progress. The duration of the agreement is five years, with an option to renew for a similar period. A joint MI-IPMA Working Group will be set up in September to implement and steer the MOU.

Irish ambassador Ralph Victory echoed the importance of marine science and highlighted that next week, a UN conference on the “Decade of the Ocean”, organised by Portugal and Kenya, would be held in Lisbon and see many countries discussing the ocean and marine research.

Jose Maria Costa, (Portuguese Secretary of State for Maritime Affairs) was very supportive of the MOU and stressed the importance of growing the relationship between Ireland and Portugal in relation to the Atlantic.

 

The implementation of cooperation within the MoU’s framework will include capacity building, training and exchange of expertise and staff, and developing strategic alliance to build research proposals. It will also include conducting joint research projects, co-organisation of conferences, seminars and workshops, and more.

The broad areas covered by the MoU are multi-faceted and will focus on:

  • Marine environmental monitoring
  • Harmful algae bloom, toxins and forecasting
  • Aquaculture and farmed fish/shellfish health
  • Marine Spatial Planning
  • Benthic Mapping, Biodiversity, Climate and Ocean Change
  • New seafood products
  • New approaches to improve seafood quality and safety
  • Fisheries and marine science cooperation within in the framework of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)
  • Marine research infrastructures.
  • Renewable energy science and technology
  • Promotion of joint, high-level scientific publications
  • Promote common and joint leadership opportunities in the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance
  • Cooperate on building mutually beneficial strategic research alliances that build research proposals that target funding under the EU Mission Starfish, the EU Horizon Europe and Atlantic Strategy programmes

Many of the scientific leaders in IPMA were present at the signing of the MOU. During informal conversations after the ceremony, they all mentioned the current cooperation with the Marine Institute in areas such as research vessel operations, monitoring of harmful algal blooms, fisheries and aquaculture and the need to grow this cooperation into areas that ensure the health of our ocean such as Marine Spatial Planning and the monitoring of biodiversity and the ocean environment.

There are very exciting times for marine science in the Atlantic. There is a great opportunity to address many important societal and government questions on the health of our oceans and how to achieve a sustainable blue economy for our coastal communities.

Published in Marine Science
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The Marine Institute and the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) at NUI Galway are conducting a survey of marine and marine-related businesses as part of the regular reporting on Ireland’s Ocean Economy.

Although the CSO and other State organisations provide some data on marine related economic activity, the Marine Institute says there is a need to supplement this data with company surveys across a number of sectors in the growing blue economy.

These include advanced marine technology products and services, offshore renewable energy, marine commerce and legal services, marine manufacturing, construction and engineering.

The survey began this month and will continue in July, with the results published later this year. In addition to general economic figures collected, this year’s survey includes a section on the impact of COVID-19 and other external factors effecting marine businesses.

Queries regarding the survey should be directed to Marie-Christin Lanser, scientific technical officer with the Marine Socio-Economic and Social Data Programme at [email protected] or Prof Stephen Hynes, director of SEMRU at NUIG at [email protected]

Published in News Update

It is “on time and on budget”. That’s the Marine Institute’s new 25 million euro research ship, RV Tom Crean, due for delivery this autumn.

Named after the Kerry polar explorer who worked with both Ernest Shackleton and Sir Robert Scott, the vessel has been designed by Norwegian consultants Skipsteknisk AS and has been built by Spanish shipyard Astilleros Armon in Vigo, Spain.

It will be at sea for 300 operational days each year – heading to sea for at least 21 days at a time - and aims to accommodate up to 3000 scientist days annually.

It also aims to be a “silent vessel”, meeting the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research, while also being capable of handling harsh sea conditions.

The RV Tom Crean replaces the Celtic Voyager, which Aodhán Fitzgerald has fond memories of during his early research days as a student.

Aodhan Fitzgerald is the Marine Institute’s research vessel managerAodhan Fitzgerald is the Marine Institute’s research vessel manager

Fitzgerald is the Marine Institute’s research vessel manager, and project manager for the new build.

He is recently back from sea trials and spoke to Wavelengths about how they went (below).

You can read more about the RV Tom Crean on the Marine Institute’s website here

Published in Wavelength Podcast

The Marine Institute welcomes 13 undergraduate students who will expand their knowledge of marine science as part of the 2022 Marine Institute Summer Bursary Scholarship Programme. Their 8 to 12 week placements will be based at the Marine Institute’s Headquarters in Oranmore Co. Galway, and at the Burrishoole facility in Newport Co. Mayo. They will gain valuable, practical experience across a broad range of marine science and related areas.

The programme enables students to obtain work experience in a number of broad service areas in the Marine Institute focuses on Fisheries, Molecular Chemistry, Aquaculture, Marine Infrastructure Asset Management, Oceanographic analysis, Ocean Economics, Research Office, Human resources, Library and Marine Communications.

“The summer bursary programme has been in place since the 1960s, with previous bursars going on to secure positions with the Marine Institute at all grades up to and including the current CEO,” said Helen McCormick, Senior Laboratory Analyst, and co-ordinator of the bursary programme at the Marine Institute. “This highly sought after work experience programme enables students to further their knowledge in marine science, while also expanding their professional networks,” she added.

As part of the Bursary Scholarship Programme, the students will prepare presentations about their work experience and the skills and knowledge they have learned during the placement. They will then present these presentations to their colleagues and other students at the Marine Institute.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, welcoming this year’s students, said “The bursary programme is for students who are passionate about the ocean and the marine sector, and supports the development of their skills, capabilities and networks. It equips students with the skills that will help them become ocean leaders of the future.”

The Marine Institute Summer Bursary Programme is available annually to undergraduate students from Universities, Institutes of Technology, and National Institutes for Higher Education, who have completed at least two years of study in a relevant discipline.

Published in Marine Science
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Tune into a live chat with Ireland’s marine scientists to celebrate World Oceans Day next Wednesday 8 June.

The conversation will be broadcast live on the Marine Institute’s socials — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube — at 10.30am.

Join Marine Institute scientists David O’Sullivan, Claire Moore, David Stokes and Caroline Cusack to hear what it’s like to survey our seas on Ireland’s national marine research vessels.

The RV Celtic Explorer and the RV Celtic Voyager are among the most intensively used research vessels in the world, and have played an essential role in fisheries surveys, seabed mapping, and oceanographic research.

Expeditions on the RV Celtic Explorer in Irish and international waters have resulted in many exciting discoveries — from deep-water shark nurseries and cold-water coral reefs to to hydrothermal vents fields in the mid-Atlantic.

The panel of scientists will share what they enjoy about their work at sea and some of their most memorable experiences while on board. They will also talk about their career paths and offer advice for those interested in pursuing marine and maritime careers.

This live broadcast is part of the Marine Institute’s Oceans of Learning series, which aims to remind everyone of the major role the ocean has on our everyday lives and to inspire a new generation of ocean champions.

More about the scientists taking part in the live chat:

David O’Sullivan, Advanced Mapping Services
David is part of the Advanced Mapping Services team at the Marine Institute and Ireland’s national seabed mapping programme, INFOMAR. David was offshore chief scientist for the SeaRover surveys (2017-2019) which mapped sensitive marine habitats at depths of up to 3,000 metres in Ireland’s offshore territory using the ROV Holland 1. The SeaRover team mapped cold-water coral reefs, documented new species within Irish waters and discovered a rare shark nursery 200 miles west of Ireland.

Claire Moore, Fisheries Scientist
Claire is a fisheries ecologist, and says she feels more like a detective then a biologist. She works on solving biological puzzles around the health and productivity of our oceans, piecing together valuable information collected at sea, in ports and labs, to produce statistical models that inform our decisions for a sustainable future.

David Stokes, Fisheries Scientist
David is an enthusiastic fisheries scientist with over 25 years’ experience in data collection and analysis, both in marine and freshwater. David has worked with the Marine Institute for the last 22 years to run the Irish Groundfish Survey programme on the RV Celtic Explorer, which originally started on the RV Celtic Voyager combined with chartered commercial fishing vessels.

Caroline Cusack, Biological Oceanographer
Caroline leads the Marine Institute’s annual ocean climate survey on the RV Celtic Explorer. She is also involved in ocean observation projects that monitor the health of our ocean. Recently she has carried out research related to developing marine ecosystem climate services.

Published in Marine Science

In the lead-up to World Oceans Day next Wednesday 8 June, this week the Marine Institute’s Oceans of Learning series looks to the future of marine research with the arrival of Ireland’s new research vessel, the RV Tom Crean.

Sea trials have commenced on the new 52.8m state-of-the-art research vessel in the Ría de Vigo estuary in Spain, which is one of the final stages before its delivery to Ireland.

The vessel build was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and on completion the RV Tom Crean shall replace the RV Celtic Voyager, which came into service as a marine research vessel in 1997.

The RV Tom Crean will provide a year-round service for expanded fisheries surveys, seabed mapping, deep-water surveys, oceanographic and environmental research. The multipurpose research vessel will enable 300 operational days at sea each year and up to 3,000 scientist days per year.

“We are delighted with the progress on the build of the RV Tom Crean, and it’s heartening to see the vessel build entering into these final stages on schedule and on budget,” Marine Institute chief executive Dr Paul Connolly said.

“The new vessel will be a huge asset in continuing to lead and support high-quality scientific surveys that contribute to Ireland’s position as a leader in marine science, far into the future.”

The vessel is designed to incorporate the latest proven technologies to ensure that it operates as efficiently as possible, with reduced fuel consumption and minimising the vessel’s environmental impact and carbon footprint.

It will be a silent vessel, capable of operating throughout the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and will be able to go to sea for at least 21 days at a time.

Based in Galway, the vessel will be used by the Marine Institute, other State agencies and universities to undertake research and surveys and it will also maintain and deploy weather buoys, observational infrastructure and the institute’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland I. It will accommodate up to 26 personnel on board, including 14 scientists.

The new vessel is named after Tom Crean, the renowned seaman and explorer who undertook three major ground breaking expeditions to the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th century. These sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore what were, at the time, unreached areas of the world.

Key milestones in the ship’s build include the laying of the ship’s keel in November 2020 and the completion of the ship’s hull in September 2021. This latter phase of the project involved upwards of 70 personnel working during some of the stages, which included the joining of the 32 individual hull units, installation of the vessel generation sets, electric propulsion motor, dock equipment and the vessel’s unique silent seven-bladed propeller.

In November 2021, the RV Tom Crean made its momentous first splash when its hull was launched at the Astilleros Armón shipyard in Vigo, Spain.

Work continued on the ship build during winter 2021 and spring 2022 with sea trials beginning last month. The Marine Institute website has a handy timeline of the ship’s build process.

Oceans of Learning is also celebrating the legacy Ireland’s other marine research vessels, the RV Celtic Voyager and RV Celtic Explorer, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in RV Tom Crean

Kilglass National School in Ahascragh, Co Galway has received the European Blue Schools Award for a mini-project that helped bring marine issues into the classroom.

The award is in recognition of the school’s Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor pilotless mini-boat project that “helped bring real-life marine content to their classroom, which is one of the leading principles of the European Blue Schools Programme”, said Evy Copejans, coordinator of the European Blue Schools Programme.

Congratulated the students of Kilglass NS for their achievement, Copejans said: “This is a very special occasion for Kilglass NS, as they are one of the first primary schools in Ireland to become a European Blue School.”

Presenting the award at Marine Institute headquarters in Oranmore to Peter Kane, who led the project at Kilglass NS, chief executive Dr Paul Connolly joined in congratulating the school on their achievement.

“To become a European Blue School, students are encouraged to become responsible and engaged ocean-literate citizens. The Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor unmanned mini-boat project demonstrated that the children from Kilglass recognised the importance of the ocean in our lives,” he said.

Kane said he was very proud to receive the European Blue Schools plaque: “Working on this project with the Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme provided us with an excellent opportunity to involve all of the school in a marine-themed project.

“Everyone took ownership of the project — from painting and naming the boat to the handover at the RV Celtic Explorer for its launch at sea, and also tracking it while at sea.

“The cross-curricular content provided by the Explorers programme enabled the children to get hands-on practical skills, including critical thinking and reasoning, problem solving, working in collaboration with other children, as well as developing their creative and communication skills.

“This project also helped the children to learn more about their role as global citizens and becoming ocean leaders."

The European Blue Schools Award is led by the EU4Ocean Coalition and supported by the European Commission.

Published in Marine Science

Ifremer, in partnership with the Marine Institute and others, will hold its fourth annual press conference on the status of European fisheries next Tuesday 24 May at 10am CEST (9am IST).

The conference will address the following topics:

  • Possible solutions for the future of the Common Fisheries Policy. How can fisheries contribute to a healthy marine ecosystem? With David Reid (Marine Institute)
  • How do European scientists monitor and assess the status of fish populations? The importance of European coordination of oceanographic campaigns, Els Torrele (ILVO)
  • How are the fish in the European Union? CSTEP report 2021 ‘CFP monitoring results’, Clara Ulrich (Ifremer)
  • The consequences of climate change on fisheries resources and fishing. ‘Exploitable’ biomass decline, fish populations displacement, instability, and unexpected events, Didier Gascuel (Agro Campus Ouest)

To watch the conference live, sign up at [email protected]

Published in Fishing
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As part of this year’s events for European Maritime Day, the Marine Institute and BlueWise Marine will host a special SmartBay Observatory ‘family fun day’ this weekend.

Ahead of its redeployment in Galway Bay off the coast of An Spidéal/Spiddal, the ocean observatory will be on display at Stiúideo Cuan in the Co Galway town this Saturday 21 May from 10am to 5pm.

The day will also feature fun and educational marine workshops for all ages along with circus workshops and performances, face painting and more.

Once returned to the sea bed, the SmartBay Observatory will remain collecting scientific data 24/7. The observatory also hosts two underwater video cameras which continuously stream live footage to the public via the SmartBay website.

The SmartBay Observatory has been undergoing maintenance and upgrades in recent months and will soon be redeployed to its location 1.5km off the coast of An Spidéal in a depth of 20 meters.

“Having the rare occasion to showcase the SmartBay Observatory on land presents a unique and fascinating opportunity to learn and discover more about how we monitor the ocean,” said Alan Berry, section manager of marine research infrastructures at the Marine Institute. "We are looking forward to welcoming all to a fascinating and fun-filled day.”

To join in the fun this Saturday, be sure to RSVP to [email protected]

Published in Marine Science

Teacher training courses this summer are now available to book as part of the Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme.

The five-day continuing professional development (CPD) courses will take place from 4-8 July in Galway, Dublin, Waterford, Kerry and West Cork.

This year’s programme follows on from a successful virtual course held last year, and will provide teachers with an opportunity to connect with their local seashore and learn new ideas for outdoor education, as well as bringing the seashore into the classroom.

“Everyone is eager to meet face-to-face this year with the school teachers,” said Cushla Dromgool-Regan, Explorers strategic education and communications manager with the Camden Education Trust.

“The team are looking forward to providing practical seashore activities, covering the sciences, learning about the marine environment and living things, environmental awareness and care, as well as introducing maths, PE and wellbeing games.

“With a combination of outdoor field trips to the shore and an introduction to marine themes in the classroom, this course is a favourite of teachers and can book up very quickly.”

Teachers are provided with a pack of Explorers teaching resources to take back to their classrooms and will also learn about the work of the Marine Institute ranging from marine research to sustainable fisheries, the environment and climate change.

The Explorers Education Programme is funded by the Marine Institute and managed by the Camden Education Trust with support services provided by Galway Atlantaquaria. The Explorers teams involved in this summer’s CPD training include Marine Dimensions (Dublin), Leave no Trace – Ireland (Waterford), Lifetime Lab (Cork), Sea Synergy (Kerry), and Galway Atlantaquaria (Galway).

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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