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Displaying items by tag: NPWS

A new joint initiative between the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) aims to revitalise the freshwater pearl mussel through a pilot captive breeding programme.

Pearl mussels are capable of surviving for up to 140 years, making them Ireland’s longest living animal.

But environmental changed have put them on the verge of extinction. The species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and is one of the 365 most endangered species in the world.

In Ireland, 19 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) have been designated in an effort to conserve the pearl mussel in its native habitats.

‘We are hopeful that over time this joint project will lead to a positive outcome for the freshwater pearl mussel in Ireland’

And the new programme — to be based at the Marine Institute’s Newport Research Facility in Co Mayo, close to one of the last remaining reproducing populations of freshwater pearl mussels — is hoped to safeguard the survival of the rare species into the future.

“Captive breeding programmes are already well established in several countries, and we are hopeful that over time this joint project between the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service will lead to a positive outcome for the freshwater pearl mussel in Ireland,” said Dr Áine O'Connor of the NPWS.

One of the reasons for the decline of the freshwater pearl mussel is the low survival rate among juveniles, which are extremely sensitive to slight changes in environmental conditions. This is leading to an ageing population, not capable of replenishing itself.

Juvenile survival is dependent on a clean riverbed, with little silt, sediment or algal growth. These mussels also have a very unusual life cycle, in that they are dependent on the Atlantic salmon and brown trout to host their larvae, called glochidia, for about 10 months. The captive breeding programme is targeted at this crucial life stage.

‘This small experimental population will be given a year to see if the juveniles grow to the stage where they can settle themselves in a suitable habitat’

Work on the programme began this past June when a tank in the Marine Institute’s hatchery was set up with 300 juvenile salmon. In July, 30 adult mussels were removed from the Newport River and transported to the tank.

The project team are currently waiting to see if mussels will release glochidia and whether these will naturally attach themselves to the gills of the salmon.

If successful, the Marine Institute and NPWS will maintain this small experimental population for a year to see if the juveniles grow to the stage where the mussels can detach from the fish and settle themselves in a suitable habitat.

“Historically, we know the Burrishoole catchment [in the area around Newport] contained pearl mussels, which gives us some confidence that the water supply to the hatchery on Lough Feeagh is suitable for long-term maintenance of the mussel populations,” said Marine Institute zoologist Dr Elvira de Eyto.

The pilot captive breeding programme is a partnership between the Marine Institute and NPWS in conjunction with freshwater pearl mussel specialists Evelyn Moorkens and Ian Killeen.

Published in Marine Wildlife

To celebrate Cruinniú na nÓg 2020 this Saturday 13 June, the National Parks and Wildlife Services and Galway Atlantaquaria are inviting 6-18 year olds to become marine broadcasters.

All you have to do is record a short video about a marine topic, such as an animal or plant from the seashore, and send to [email protected] before 5pm tomorrow, Friday 12 June. The first 50 entries will also receive a free beginner's guide to Ireland's seashore.

Videos should be no longer than two minutes and your videos will be uploaded onto a Marine Broadcaster playlist on the Galway Atlantaquaria YouTube channel, with a selection to be showcased as part of Cruinniú na nÓg this Saturday.

The channel also provides some inspiration to help you make your own broadcast. For more information on how to enter, see the Galway Atlantaquaria website HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#Flooding - Galway county councillors have blamed the National Parks and Wildlife Service for blocking flood prevention measures.

Galway Bay FM reports on a special sitting of Galway County Council, which heard a number of members take the NPWS to task over what they perceived as putting protections for wildlife over those of hundreds of families in the county affected by the recent severe flooding along the Shannon.

Cllr Michael Connolly claimed relief works planned for Meelick were halted over concerns with a single fish species – while Cllr Michael Fahy scoffed that digging emergency channels was more important than "bats and the bees".

Galway Bay FM has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
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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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