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The Marine Institute has collaborated with 10 European partners as part of the research project Alertox-Net: Atlantic Area Network for Innovative Toxicity Alert Systems for Safer Seafood Products.

Alertox-Net has focused on developing a marine toxin warning network to facilitate the market delivery of safer marine food products in European waters.

Funded by the INTERREG Atlantic Area European Regional Development Fund, Alertox-Net has provided a better prediction system of potential seafood toxicity risk while providing scientific advice to meet the needs of stakeholders.

The Marine Institute says this future-proofing detection and alert system is focused on emerging toxins so that the shellfish aquaculture industry will be prepared and ready to detect potential emerging toxins.

Joe Silke, director of marine environment and food safety services at the Marine Institute, said: “Alertox-Net is providing technical solutions for faster and easier detection methods for emerging toxins to the European shellfish industry, and these resources are currently being collated into one integrated expertise network.”

Alertox-Net has also helped to deliver scientific, technical services and provide advice to regulatory authorities, which will underpin future development in Europe's aquaculture sector.

A recent project meeting included talks on the validation completed on a multi-method for regulating emerging toxins, and the creation of an open access database on toxin isolation and structure elucidation.

The meeting also acknowledged the 20 papers which have been published as part of the Alertox-Net project.

Published in Aquaculture
Tagged under

The public has been warned against against recreational gathering of shellfish such as mussels, clams, cockles or oysters over increased levels of illness-causing toxins.

Routine shellfish monitoring by the Marine Institute along South West and West coasts detected increased levels of these naturally occurring compounds in recent weeks.

Such levels are common at this time of the year and are due to microscopic phytoplankton species blooming in coastal waters during the warmer and longer days of summer, the institute says.

Toxins they produce can accumulate in filter feeding shellfish and can make people ill, even if the shellfish is cooked, it adds.

The specific toxins of concern may cause diarrheic shellfish poisoning (DSP), a temporary gastroenteritis-like illness, or the less common paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), which can result in serious illness.

Commercial shellfish businesses in affected areas have been closed temporary in the interest of public safety — though safe alternatives are available from other parts of the country through approved suppliers.

Dave Clarke is manager of the Marine Institute’s shellfish safety programme.

“In Ireland we operate a world class-shellfish safety programme to ensure food safety prior to harvesting,” he says.

“This sophisticated monitoring programme is designed to protect the consumer and ensure the highest quality of Irish shellfish on international and home markets.

“This summer, so far, has seen high levels of toxic phytoplankton and toxins in shellfish requiring temporary closures until the problem abates. It is stressed, however, that these only affect shellfish. Swimming and other coastal recreations are not affected.

“We would strongly advise the public to avoid picking their own shellfish along the shoreline, and to only source shellfish from an approved retail establishment.”

Published in Fishing

A postgraduate researcher is investigating the biotoxin production potential of Azadinium and related species in Irish waters, particularly in estuaries used for shellfish aquaculture such as Killary Harbour and Bantry Bay.

Stephen McGirr — a PhD candidate at the Institute of Technology Sligo and a Cullen Fellow at the Marine Institute — is studying Azadinium, a planktonic single-celled plant that lives in marine waters around Ireland.

Under certain conditions, Azadinium produces biotoxins which can build up in shellfish that feed on them. If eaten by humans, this can lead to shellfish poisoning.

Understanding more about the biology of this species would help both the shellfish aquaculture industry and protect human health.

“The genus Azadinium was first linked to incidents of shellfish poisoning in the 1990s and both toxic and non-toxic forms of the Azadinium species have since been identified in Irish waters,” McGirr says.

“More knowledge of the biology of the species is needed to support monitoring efforts currently underway to assist the aquaculture industry.”

Ireland’s aquaculture industry employed 1,925 people on 288 aquaculture production units, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s Business of Seafood Report 2018. In 2018 it is estimated that Ireland produced 24,200 tonnes of farmed shellfish valued at €56 million.

“Aquaculture is a valuable industry to our national economy as well as for many of Ireland's coastal communities,” McGirr adds.

“The closure of aquaculture production sites due to biotoxins produced by organisms such as Azadinium impacts the industry and can also be detrimental to local economies.”

Stephen’s research supports the Marine Institute's National Phytoplanton Monitoring Programme, which monitors phytoplankton populations and dynamics around the Irish coastline.

‘Aquaculture is a valuable industry to our national economy as well as for many of Ireland's coastal communities’

McGirr says the Marine Institute’s Cullen Fellowship Programme is giving him the opportunity to learn and develop his skillset, working alongside scientists who are experts in their field, as well as gaining hands-on experience using state-of-the art equipment in the Institute's laboratories.

“I have joined two surveys on the RV Celtic Voyager along the south and western coastline of Ireland to collect both water column and sediment samples for our analyses.

“I have also presented my research at international conferences, including the International Conference on Molluscan Shellfish Safety held in Galway and the International Conference on Harmful Algae, held in Nantes, France.”

McGirr is currently focusing his efforts on translating the product of his research into articles for peer-reviewed scientific journals. His research supervisors are Joe Silke, Marine Institute and Dr Nicolas Touzet, IT Sligo.

The Cullen Fellowship Programme builds marine research capacity and capability by equipping graduates with the skills and expertise in raising awareness about our ocean, as well as Ireland's rich marine biodiversity and ecosystems.

The programme has provided grant aid to the value of €2.06 million supporting 24 PhD and three MSc students over the last five years. The research addresses a number of the 15 research themes identified in the National Marine Research and Innovation Strategy 2017-2021.

This project (Grant-Aid Agreement No CF/15/01) is carried out with the support of the Marine Institute and funded under the Marine Research Programme by the Irish Government.

Published in Marine Science

More than 90 shellfish producers and processors, scientists, agencies and stakeholders attended the 11th Shellfish Safety Workshop earlier this month to discuss the latest advances in the field in Ireland.

The workshop, which took place on Tuesday 8 October in the Radisson Blu Hotel Athlone, was hosted by the Marine Institute and co-sponsors Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

The event offered an opportunity to exchange information on the latest research and information on the cause and control of shellfish products harvested and farmed around Ireland's coast.

Speakers included Dr Conor Graham, of GMIT Marine and the Freshwater Research Centre, on the development of the world’s first scientific-based shellfish traceability tool, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Other speakers included Dr Monika Dhanji Rapkova, of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, on the learnings on regulated and emerging biotoxins in British shellfish.

Dr Eileen Bresnan (Marine Scotland Science) presented a talk on the regional distribution of harmful algal events in North Atlantic Area. Dave Clarke of the Marine Institute also talked about the insights and perspectives on monitoring algal and biotoxin events in Irish coastal waters from the past 20 years.

Micheál O'Mahony of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority presented on the recently published European baseline survey of norovirus in oysters, while Dr Sinéad Keaveney (Marine Institute) discussed the survey in the Irish context.

There were also a series of flash presentations from representatives of the Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Dublin City University, Sligo Institute of Technology and Health Services Executive.

The proceedings of the workshop are currently being compiled for publication and in the coming weeks will be available for download from the Marine Institute’s Open Access Repository.

Published in Marine Science

Studies carried out by a research team led by Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) have resulted in the development of the world's first scientific-based shellfish traceability tool.

This unique tool used ‘trace elemental fingerprinting’ of shellfish soft tissues and shells to identify the harvest location of blue mussels and king scallops with a 100% success rate — including mussels reared from two sites located just 6km apart within the one bay.

The technique used not only correctly identified the site of harvest of scallops, but was also able to distinguish between harvesting events just six weeks apart, both with 100% success.

The Marine Institute provided scientific advice and input into the initial stages of the research project, as well as providing samples of mussels and scallops for the studies led by Dr Conor Graham of the GMIT Marine and Freshwater Research Centre in collaboration with Dr Liam Morrison of Earth and Ocean Sciences and the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway.

The research was also conducted in association with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, European Food Safety Authority and University College Dublin.

Lead scientist Dr Graham said: “In recent years consumers have become more food-conscious, seeking traceability of produce, and while such tools exist for agriculture, until now no scientifically based system existed to trace both farmed and wild shellfish produce to their source.

“The aquaculture of shellfish such as mussels and oysters and the wild fisheries for scallops, razorfish and clams is a multi-million industry in Ireland supporting thousands of jobs in rural maritime communities around our coasts. This research aimed to create the world’s first bivalve shellfish scientifically based traceability tool for Irish produce to promote this ecologically sustainable food.”

Trace elemental fingerprinting is somewhat similar to genetic analyses, the Marine Institute explains, except that instead of identifying the variation in a number of genes to create a unique genetic identifier, it analyses how large numbers of trace elements contained naturally within the flesh and shells of shellfish vary uniquely according to growing sites.

Although the shells of mussels and scallops are composed primarily of calcium carbonate, other elements are incorporated into their shells at relatively low levels as they grow, which is determined by the bioavailable concentrations of these elements in the surrounding water column in which the shellfish live.

The research was recently published in two scientific papers (on king scallops and blue mussels, respectively) in international peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment.

Details will also be presented by Dr Graham at the Marine Institute’s 11th Shellfish Safety Workshop next Tuesday 8 October at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Athlone. The event will include presentations from representatives from a variety of state agencies, academic and research institutions and the shellfish industry.

The Marine Institute is the national reference laboratory in Ireland for the monitoring of marine biotoxins and microbiological/viral contamination of bivalve shellfish, and provides this information to the competent authorities under legislative and statutory requirements.

Published in Marine Science

Projects for pearl mussels and conservation of breeding curlew are among the 23 schemes being carried out nationwide under the European Innovation Partnership (EIP), as highlighted in a new exhibition in Dublin.

Agriculture House on Kildare Street is currently showcasing the innovation under the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine’s EIP/locally led schemes in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch yesterday (Wednesday 17 April), Marine Minister Michael Creed said: “We are committed to building a sustainable agricultural system that respects the environment. The agriculture sector is determined to play its part in responding to the challenges before us on climate, water quality and biodiversity.

“We are investing €59m in these locally-led schemes to achieve these goals at a local level by stimulating and developing innovative new approaches to tackling environmental challenges in a targeted way. This targeted approach to specific challenges in specific areas can complement our larger national agri-environmental schemes.”

The exhibition highlights the varied works undertaken by the EIP Project groups including projects on biodiversity, organic production, pollinators, water quality, flood management, soils, farming in an archaeological landscape and targeting un-utilised agricultural biomass.

The exhibition is open to the public to visit before going nationwide to other DAFM offices for display there. Following its display in Dublin, the exhibition will be moving to the department’s office at Johnstown Castle Estate in Wexford.

Further details of the EIP and locally led schemes can be found on the DAFM website HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

#Mussels - Marine Minister Michael Creed has announced the selection of a project team to run the new Freshwater Pearl Mussel Programme.

The programme is one of a number of European Innovation Partnership (EIP) projects being rolled out by the Department under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

Two of these projects focus on areas agreed in advance with the European Commission: conservation of the hen harrier and of the freshwater pearl mussel.

A project team to lead the Hen Harrier Project was appointed in 2017, and the minister this week announced that a project team has now been selected to develop the actions at local level for the freshwater pearl mussel.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is allocating a total budget of €10 million for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel Scheme.

The selection was made on foot of a competitive tender by the department. Following careful assessment of the proposals received, the selection committee identified The Pearl Mussel Project Limited as the approach which best reflected the aims and objectives of the new scheme.

“I am very pleased at the quality of proposals put forward in response to my department’s tender,” said Minister Creed. “I am delighted that the new Freshwater Pearl Mussel programme is moving closer to design and implementation.

“The new project team will now commence developing the various actions to be carried out by farmers in the areas concerned in consultation with my own department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, as well as with farmers on the ground.”

The winning project team is joint approach led by Dr Patrick Crushell of Wetland Surveys Ireland, bringing together a team with Dr Derek McLoughlin and other experienced ecologists, agricultural advisors and environmental scientists. The team will be supported by Tómas O’Connor of O’Connor Pyne & Co, Chartered Accountants.

The new scheme will be open to farmers in eight selected catchments for freshwater pearl mussel in Ireland, with special emphasis on restoring the hydromorphology of the species’ aquatic habitat while also improving the quality of semi-natural terrestrial and wetland habitats.

The catchments are Currane, Caragh and Kerry Blackwater in County Kerry, Ownagappul in County Cork, Bundorragha, Owenriff and Dawros in County Galway/Mayo and Glaskeelan in County Donegal.

“Being a locally-led scheme, this process will also include the local knowledge and inputs from farmers on the ground,” the minister added. “Once the terms and conditions have been agreed, the recruitment of farmers to this critical scheme will commence. This is a pilot project administered by an independent group with a strong local focus, working in partnership with my department.

“This is a novel and innovative way of responding to local agri-environment challenges and we look forward to working with, and supporting our partners in the delivery of the schemes.”

Yesterday, as reported on Afloat.ie, Minister Creed met his French counterpart Stephane Travert in Paris as part of a series of bilateral meetings on the implications of Brexit for the agri-food and fisheries sectors.

Published in Fishing
Tagged under

#MarineScience - A newly commissioned scanning electron microscope will bolster Irish shellfish safety efforts, according to the Marine Institute.

As the designated National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for monitoring marine biotoxins — from outbreaks of phytoplankton blooms, for example — in shellfish production areas, the institute carries out a range of seafood safety programmes.

These ensure that Irish seafood products going to national and international markets adhere to the highest food safety standards. 

Joe Silke, manager of the shellfish safety monitoring team, says the new generation of scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) “have been an incredible step forward in microscopic technology. 

“Our new instrument offers unrivalled imaging performance and provides high resolution capabilities necessary to observe tiny features on the surface of single celled toxic algae. Placing such samples in the machine will allow us extremely high magnification of these features and certainly opens up a new world of what we can examine and analyse.”

Some 2,750 phytoplankton and 3,000 shellfish samples are tested annually under the national phytoplankton and biotoxin monitoring programmes. This includes weekly testing of shellfish from all production sites as well as weekly seawater sampling and analysis to detect harmful and toxic species.

“The SEM is therefore vital in providing our teams with the ability to identify phytoplankton cells down to species level, and effectively is essential in helping us expand our services,” Silke added.

The microscope will also expand the broader research capabilities of the Marine Institute, with potential applications to marine biodiscovery. 

This will include “aiding in as yet to be identified novel organisms and their features, as well as in applied aspects of marine environmental research, such as microplastics for which there is significant current interest,” said Dr Jeff Fisher, director of marine environment and food safety at the Marine Institute.

Published in Marine Science

Shellfish landings — particularly brown crab and whelk — saw a significant boom in 2016 compared to previous years, with a value of €56 million to the economy.

But species such as lobster and periwinkle saw “unexpected changes in volumes” compared to 2004 levels, according to the Marine Institute’s Shellfish Stocks and Fisheries Review for 2016-2017.

“Although landings can obviously increase or decline due to changes in fishing effort or catch rates, the scale of change in some species, in fisheries that are known to have stable or increasing effort and where catch rate indicators are stable, is contradictory,” the report warns.

“Other sources of information from industry questionnaires also indicate significant differences between official landings and landings derived from estimates of catch rates, annual individual vessel landings, days at sea and individual vessel fishing effort.”

The review concentrates on cockles, oysters, scallops, lobsters and razor clams, of which the North Irish Sea fishery for the latter saw significant expansion between 2011 and 2017, in tandem with a decline in stock.

Earlier this year, consultations were held on proposals for new conservation measures to protect razor clams in the North Irish Sea and brown crab in Irish waters, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

As for cockles, the main fishery in Dundalk Bay experiences variable rates of overwinter survival, resulting in a biomass that in some years “is insufficient to support a fishery”. The situation is even more serious in the Waterford Estuary.

“Continuing commercial fisheries for cockles in Natura 2000 sites [like Dundalk Bay] will depend on favourable conservation status of designated environmental features that may be affected by this fishing activity or a clear demonstration that changes to designated features are not due to cockle fishing,” the review states.

Oyster stocks, meanwhile, are “generally low in all areas, except Fenit”, prompting a need for “management measures to restore recruitment and re-build spawning stocks”.

The full review is available to download from the Marine Institute website HERE.

Published in Fishing

#Shellfish - Predicting risk and impact of harmful algal bloom events that cause impact to the shellfish aquaculture sector (PRIMROSE) is a new €2.7-million marine science project led by the Marine Institute.

The project is funded by the Interreg Atlantic Area Operational Programme and includes 10 research and SME partners from five countries along the Atlantic Arc from southern Spain to the Shetland Islands.

During the next three years, the PRIMROSE project will form a network of scientists and industry members to produce an inter-regional toxin and microbiological advisory and forecasting capability to the European aquaculture industry.

“The project will produce applications based on reusing existing monitoring data, modelled coastal hydrodynamics, satellite and other novel aerial observations, meteorological, historical and recent trend data to predict and give early warning of toxic blooms and elevated microbiological events,” said project coordinator Joe Silke, from the Marine Institute.

“This will allow fish and shellfish farmers to adapt their culture and harvesting practices in time, in order to reduce potential losses.”

The Marine Institute will implement the lead role of co-ordinating the project and ensure that all the work packages, actions, deliverables and results are achieved.

Already a strong partnership approach has been established during the project preparation. By consolidating and further developing the regional knowledge capital that exists, the consortium is confident of a successful outcome.

Partners will participate in a suite of six work packages and will develop a sustainable product that will be largely automated to predict and produce regular published reports for the long term once the project is finished.

In recent years, there has been much discussion of satellites being able to track surface algal blooms. Understanding biological phenomena in the ocean requires a complex approach, though there is some merit in using satellite derived chlorophyll images to delineate high biomass near surface algal blooms.

Much cutting edge harmful algal bloom research work has focused on subsurface profiles, where certain species are present in thin layers of limited geographical extent often associated with strong density interfaces. Phytoplankton blooms, micro-algal blooms, toxic algae, red tides, or harmful algae, are all terms for naturally occurring phenomena.

Clearly, in order for a toxic, harmful algal bloom, or a microbiological forecast to be realistic, physical factors including changes in water column structure and transport pathways are necessary.

“PRIMROSE is the next step towards providing an operational advisory service by integrating physical oceanographic drivers with a variety of biotoxin, phytoplankton count and microbiological data,” said Silke. “A distributed advisory service and a network of thematic experts distributed across the participating countries will then network to provide regular advisory products and forecasts of impending toxic and harmful algal events.”

PRIMROSE brings together experts in the areas of modelling, Earth observation, harmful algal bloom and microbiological monitoring programmes and end users to assemble a number of key data sets and build upon and explore new forecasting options.

The consortium includes three UK partners (Seafood Shetland, Scottish Association for Marine Science and Plymouth Marine Lab) two Irish partners (Marine Institute and Bantry Marine Research Station), one partner in France (IFREMER), three in Spain (AZTI, Instituto Oceanographico Espanol and AGAPA) and one in Portugal (Institute Technico Superior/University of Lisboa).

The Marine Institute recently issued a recruitment call for a data analyst and project co-ordinator for the PRIMROSE project, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Marine Science
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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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