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#MarineWildlife - Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan was on board the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's (IWDG) research vessel Celtic Mist yesterday 16 July to launch a new atlas of marine mammals in Ireland's coastal waters.

The Atlas of the Distribution and Relative Abundance of Marine Mammals in Irish Offshore Waters marks the culmination of six years of surveys involving more than 1,000 says at sea, and provides up to date information for 19 species of cetaceans: whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Ireland is home to a remarkable diversity of whales and dolphins, and the new atlas shows how common and widespread some of these species are - from the harbour porpoise and common dolphin to the much larger fin whale.

Not all Irish cetaceans are so common, however, and the atlas also highlights the importance of Irish waters for some of the Atlantic’s rarer deepwater species such as the sperm whale and several beaked whales.

These are species about which very little is known, the IWDG says more work will be required in the coming years to allow a better understanding of the conservation requirements of these animals.

Every six years, Ireland is obliged to report on the conservation status of all of its marine mammals as part of its commitments under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. The data from this atlas has already proved invaluable in underpinning Ireland’s 2013 report to the European Commission.

Speaking at the launch yesterday in Dun Laoghaire, Minister Deenihan commended the work undertaken to produce the atlas.

“This fine atlas is the culmination of many years of work by a large number of people and I’m happy to note that it was produced under a project funded over several years by my department in collaboration with the Marine Institute," he said.

"As minister, I have also extended the protection afforded to whales and dolphins through the designation of additional marine special areas of conservation. I would like to thank the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group for this excellent publication.”


The atlas is available as a PDF to download HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineScience - Suitable candidates in the marine science field are invited to apply for the accredited continuous professional development module (CPD) titled Applied Marine Biological Sampling and Data Collection

The module will take place from 30 September to 25 October 2013 and is offered by Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART).

Applied Marine Biological Sampling and Data Collection aims to provide attendees with the detailed practical knowledge and skills necessary to design and implement biological sampling and data collection campaigns on marine commercial platforms.

The module is aimed at postgraduate students of marine science and marine industry personnel.  

Four days of ship-time sampling and data collection onboard the RV Celtic Voyager and the IWDG's Celtic Mist off Cork and in the Shannon Estuary respectively are supported by three days of intensive laboratory practicals and lectures in GMIT.  

  1. onboard, at practicals and lectures is required from 7-13 October with all other elements accomplished through student-centred distance learning.   

Themes addressed include quantitative sampling of fisheries and benthos; surveying and monitoring methodologies for cetaceans and seabirds; tissue sampling and preservation; and oceanographic data collection and sampling.  

Completion of the module results in an award of 5 credits at NFQ level 9 under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).   
 
The Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) is a marine science partnership programme designed to further develop capacity in carrying out offshore operations on board research vessels for third level students of marine-related science and technologies.

This strategic collaborative inter-institutional programme is led and funded by Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the Marine Institute, and is also supported by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

The online application forms is available HERE or my e-mailing [email protected] Further details on the course and its instructors is included in a PDF available to read or download HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#CelticMist - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's (IWDG) research yacht Celtic Mist is currently docked in Dun Laoghaire awaiting the start of The Gathering Cruise around Ireland.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the 19-day event will see some 100 cruising boats proceed along the east and south coasts of Ireland from Dublin to Cork and Kerry.

Along the way they will be recording any sightings of whales or dolphins along the way using forms supplied by the IWDG.

Celtic Mist will join the flotilla as it departs Dun Laoghaire Harbour on 18 July headed for Kinsale on 24 July, and a second leg from Kinsale to Dingle from 25 July to 1 August.

And the IWDG is currently offering places on board to all members for both week-long legs of the cruise.

The vessel has eight berths that will comfortably sleep a team of one skipper and seven crew - indeed, anyone taking up this offer will be expected to prepare meals and perform other sailing duties!

For more details on how to join The Gathering Cruise on board Celtic Mist, see the IWDG website HERE.

In the meantime, Celtic Mist is offering all IWDG members a chance to sail on day trips from Dun Laoghaire this week - email [email protected] for details.

Published in Tall Ships

#MarineWildlife - The Guardian reports on new research which proves that military sonar has a direct effect on the behaviour of whales in our oceans - even leading to mass strandings.

The studies, part funded by the US Navy, found that beaked whales where particularly sensitive to sonar - and that even blue whales, the largest animals on earth, were distracted from feeding by the subsurface noise.

It's long been feared that the use of sonar is to blame for unusual behaviour among whales, who navigate and communicate with each other over long distances using sound.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) identified sonar activity by Royal Navy submarines as a possible cause of a the mass stranding of pilot whales in Donegal in November 2010, in which as many as 35 whales died.

Now for the first time, sonar has been proven to affect behaviour of cetaceans to a detrimental degree, confirming for many a connection between the use of sonar technology and recordings of whale and dolphin strandings identified since the 1950s. The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.

In more positive whale-related news, the IWDG reports that its next Cape Clear summer whalewatching course over the weekend of 26-28 July is "filling up nicely".

Places are still available but as it coincides with the tourism high season in West Cork, anyone interested is advised to book sooner than later to ensure they have someone to stay nearby.

The most recent weekend course over the June bank holiday witnessed numerous harbour porpoises and common dolphins, but its hoped the elusive whales will make an appearance next time round!

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - An Irish marine research vessel has returned from an Atlantic Ocean voyage with tales of exotic new wildlife in the depths southwest of Ireland.

As The Irish Times reports, remarkable finds such as two-century-old clams and oysters, an endangered sailfin roughshark, a massive sponge and a giant hydroid - a rare relation to jellyfish and coral - were among the marine wildlife recorded by researchers on the RV Celtic Explorer in the Whittard Canyon on the Irish Atlantic margin.

Dr Louise Allcock of NUI Galway, who led the Marine Institute team on the ocean survey, said it was "part of an ongoing effort to understand Ireland's deep-sea biodiversity".

In a similar process to that used by the group who made new marine discoveries at Rockall recently, the Marine Institute team used a submersible remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to collect images and samples from the ocean chasm that's twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Some of those samples may aid in antibacterial and pharmaceutical research, the team explained.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

In other marine wildlife news, the Belfast Telegraph fears that "chilly seas" could be keeping basking sharks at bay from Northern Ireland's waters, as the first sighting of the year was recorded last month.

Reports from various sources indicate that water temperatures are 2 to 3 degrees lower than normal for this time of year, inhibiting the blooming of plankton that are the main source of food for the second-largest fish in the sea.

And the numbers say it all, with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) confirming only 19 sightings of basking sharks around the island of Ireland as of the end of May this year, compared to 84 in the same period in 2012 - although more were spotted earlier this month off Malin Head, as the video below shows:

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineScience - Applications are now being invited under EUROFLEETS2, an EU-funded project providing scientists with 200 fully funded days of ship-time and 104 fully funded days of marine equipment to carry out ship-based research activities within any field of marine sciences

EUROFLEETS2 - which had its kick-off meeting gathering more than 60 marine scientists and fleet operators in April this year - aims to bring together the European research fleets to enhance their co-ordination and promote the cost effective use of their facilities.  

The Marine Institute’s research vessels, the RV Celtic Explorer and the RV Celtic Voyager, are both available to researchers through the EUROFLEETS ship-time call. Irish researchers can apply for ship-time on these and other European vessels participating in EUROFLEETS2.  

EUROFLEETS2 invites applications for the following marine research funding opportunities:       

Super-Integration: This call seeks to fund a truly cross-cutting proposal, multidisciplinary, multiyear and/or multiplatform, which needs to mobilise a combination of EUROFLEETS Research Vessels (RVs) together with other appropriate scientific tools like nationals RVs, research planes or onshore infrastructures with their own EC or national funding. All EUROFLEETS RVs and equipment are available for this call. More information at www.eurofleets.eu/np4/59

Embarked Equipment: This call offers fully funded marine equipment time within participating scientific marine equipment (two 3D HD TV cameras, two ROVs and the sea floor drill rig MARUM-Mebo) to be deployed from RVs or from underwater vehicles funded by other sources than EUROFLEETS2. More information at www.eurofleets.eu/np4/60     

The application deadline for both funding opportunities is 16 September 2013.

EUROFLEETS2 is a Research Infrastructures project under the seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission. For more information and eligibility criteria visit www.eurofleets.eu.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Galway Bay FM reports that the Marine Institute in Galway is to become one of the world's leading marine research centres.

The news comes in the wake of a groundbreaking deal signed in Galway on Friday afternoon (24 May) between the EU, the US and Canada to join forces on Atlantic Ocean research, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

All partners have agreed to commit to funding to study the interplay of the Atlantic with the Arctic Ocean, and discover ways that research on the oceans and marine wildlife can contribute to scientific advances in other areas.

Meanwhile, a monitoring system for waste waters is among the projects that will benefit from a near €1 million in funding from the Science Foundation.

Research Minister Seán Sherlock announced the funding for projects at NUI Galway that is hoped to deliver "commercialisation of research in a range of areas".

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Irish companies and researchers have distinguished themselves by developing innovative maritime services using satellite derived data in areas as diverse as marine renewables, fisheries protection, aquaculture and tourism.  

That was the message from Dr Volker Liebig, director of Earth observation programmes with the European Space Agency at the opening of a conference on 'Space Innovation - Powering Blue Growth' at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Cork last week.

Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock, who opened the two-day event, said: “There are over 40 Irish companies currently engaged in ESA programmes, many of which are directly addressing global challenges such as climate change, sea-level rise, maritime surveillance and marine environmental monitoring.

"This is a growing industry and one which will guarantee high-quality jobs for Irish people and benefit our economy into the future.”

The conference - jointly organised by the ESA, the European Commission (DG Maritime Affairs), Enterprise Ireland, University College Cork’s Coastal and Marine Research Centre, the Irish Coast Guard and the Irish Naval Service - focussed on the contribution of space to maritime policy implementation; showed how new scientific results and innovative services assist in achieving targets set by the Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union (IMP); and assessed how the ESA space development activities and the IMP can contribute to economic growth in Europe.
   
Geoffrey O’Sullivan, representing Marine Institute CEO Dr Peter Heffernan, said that the conference "ably demonstrated that Space Remote Sensing had a very positive contribution to make towards developing our blue economy.”

Examples given included fisheries management (including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing); environmental assessment; detection of oil spills and harmful algal blooms; site survey for offshore renewable energy and aquaculture platforms; search and rescue; and maritime domain awareness (MDA).

O'Sullivan added that the Conference "validated the SMARTOCEAN (ICT and the Sea) Strategy being promoted by the Marine Institute, in identifying clear opportunities for Irish researchers and SMEs to harness their significant ICT and marine research skills and drawing on 'Big Data' provided by satellite sensors to develop of range of new products, services and applications relevant to local and global markets.”

Closing the conference, Marine Minister Simon Coveney commented that “increasing maritime situational and domain awareness is paramount in promoting a more inclusive approach to maritime development in delivering both the EU Blue Growth Strategy (2012) and Ireland’s Integrated Marine Plan (Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth) launched in 2012.

"Space based systems,” he said, “are a key component of an integrated and sophisticated maritime surveillance network.”  

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Gathering more than 60 marine scientists and research fleets operators from all European eco-regions, the kick-off meeting of the European project EUROFLEETS2 was held in Brest, France from 19-21 March last at the invitation of the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) and the French Polar Institute Paul-Emile Victor (IPEV).

Thirty-one research organisations, research fleet managers, universities, and industrialists from 20 EU members states or associated countries participate in the EUROFLEETS2 project, whose main objective is the integration of research fleets currently managed at national level.

This project amplifies the effort initiated since 2009 with EUROFLEETS, which ends in August this year. Again co-ordinated by Ifremer, EUROFLEETS2 has a strong operational component. The project receives significant funding from the European Commission (€9 million of a total budget of approximately € 10.8 million) over four years.

“This provides a fantastic opportunity for Irish researchers to access a wide variety of vessel and equipment across Europe,” said Aodhan Fitzgerald of the Marine Institute’s Ocean Science Services Team. “The Marine Institute is proud and pleased to offer ship time on the national research vessels RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager as part of this project.”

EUROFLEETS2 is organised into three complementary activities – trans-national access; joint technological research; and networking - promoting information sharing, identification of new collaborative frameworks, development of common software tools and also testing innovative integration schemes.

Trans-national access offers the opportunity, fully funded by EUROFLEETS2, to international scientific groups to access research vessels on the basis of scientific excellence of the cruise proposals. After seven European calls for ship-time organised within targeted maritime regions, these scientific groups will embark on eight global/ocean and 14 regional European research vessels distributed all over European and world seas and oceans.

Two new initiatives are also planned in EUROFLEETS2: the first aims to attract scientific leaders and/or non traditional end users to make proposals for a flagship project involving several vessels (‘super-integration’ call for ship-time), while the second makes available an original set of five underwater vehicles or scientific embarked equipment.

Joint research, through dedicated actions, contributes to more modern infrastructures and enriched information services. Three key activities are considered: the definition of regional research vessels guidelines and generic designs, the development of innovative functionalities for underwater systems, and the implementation of data acquisition systems in standardised formats, contributing to a higher interoperability between research vessels.

Networking activity will consist in working groups for a better co-ordination of European research fleets. It will aim to establish a common strategic vision including polar research fleets, experiment new integration schemes like the virtual fleets and strengthen links with industry. Floating universities will complement the actions already undertaken for the training of young European scientists.

The long-term objective of EUROFLEETS2 is to prepare the insertion of a group of innovative and inter-operable regional research vessels in the ESFRI(European Strategic Forum on Research Infrastructures) roadmap.

Calls are now open for fully-funded ship time in polar and subpolar regions as well as for expressions of interest in super-integration.

For the former, EUROFLEETS2 can provide 200 fully funded days of ship time and 104 fully funded days of marine equipment to carry out ship-based research activities within any field of marine sciences. The application deadline is 24 May 2013.

As for the latter, the call seeks a cross-cutting proposal that needs to mobilise a combination of EUROFLEETS research vessels together with other appropriate scientific tools like national research vessels, research planes or onshore infrastructures with their own EU or national funding. All EUROFLEETS research vessels and equipment are available for this call. The expression of interest is not binding but desirable.

The deadline for applications is 15 May 2013. Logistically accepted pre-proposals will be invited to submit a full proposal from 14 June till 16 September 2013.

For more information and eligibility criteria visit www.eurofleets.eu.

Published in Marine Science

#Marine - 'Foods of marine origin' are covered by the new call for research proposals under the Government's funding programmes, as announced by Marine Minister Simon Coveney on Tuesday.

In addition, the minister announced his intention to co-fund projects related to the marine sector with the Marine Institute.

Minister Coveney said that "co-funding arrangements between research funders, where appropriate, are logical in the context of the National Research Prioritisation process and, in this instance, it makes perfect sense for my department and the Marine Institute to come together to fund research relating to marine origin foods”.

The new call for research proposals, in general, aims to build and maintain research capability in the Irish public research system, which contributes to underpinning the sustainability and competitiveness of the Irish agri-food, forestry and fisheries sectors and the achievement of growth targets set out in the Food Harvest 2020 plan.

Apart from the marine food sector, areas covered by the call include animal and crop production, food and health, forestry, the wider bio-economy as well as the safety, quality, integrity and sustainability of the supply chain.

Minister Coveney added: “I have no doubt that the research community will take full advantage of this opportunity by submitting excellent proposals and I look forward to following the process over the coming months.”

The deadline for proposal applications is Tuesday 7 May at 1pm. All documentation in relation to the call for proposals is available on the Research Section of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine website.

Published in News Update
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