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The Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme team recently took part in the launch of a series of new primary-school education resources, Explorers: Turtle Talk with Sea Turtles, at their recent team training held in Laois.

Patricia Orme, corporate services director with the Marine Institute, congratulated the Explorers team involved in creating the resources.

“The books, presentations, and short videos all provide teachers with practical content to help develop children’s competencies,” she said. “It is also great to see that themes that explore how to help reduce plastics in the ocean and how to mitigate climate change are keenly promoted throughout the sea turtle books.”

The resource pack is freely available to download from the Explorers website and supports cross-curricular teaching, STEM and learning about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It includes creating turtle words and mind-maps, writing poems and songs and describing a turtle’s life cycle, as well as making tote bags and turtle toys from recycled fabrics.

“It is also wonderful to see the Explorers outreach team’s enthusiasm for creating five life-size sea-turtles ‘far from open water’,” Orme added.

“The five turtles — leatherback, loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley, hawksbill and green — are now being spotted around the country, inspiring sea turtle madness and mayhem. I am sure we will see many more of these magnificent animals being created in the classrooms, inspiring new stories and adventures.”

‘Scientists now understand that leatherback turtles are long-distance seasonal visitors to Irish waters’

Explorers: Turtle Talk with Sea Turtles is packed with information and facts, and takes the teachers and children on a journey of species identification, habitats, location and lifecycle. It also follows the journey of the five species that have been recorded in Irish waters — some caught in ocean currents and others that purposefully come to Ireland to track their favourite food: jellyfish.

Cushla Dromgool-Regan of the Explorers programme and lead author of the information books, workbooks and presentations, said that she is “delighted with the uptake of the books and eagerness of the outreach team, teachers and children who are planning to use these resources to learn more about the ocean over the next term.

“The books are full of descriptive fun facts and information about sea turtles from around the world that will fascinate children and teachers alike.

“Scientists now understand that leatherbacks are long-distance seasonal visitors to Irish waters, migrating to temperate waters to feed and returning to their native waters to mate and to nest. The largest leatherback ever recorded was a male, washed ashore in Wales in 1988, weighing in at 916 kg. It measured almost 3m overall and 2.5m across the span of its front flippers,” Dromgool-Regan said.

All turtles found in EU waters are strictly protected under the Habitats Directive, which aims to conserve rare and threatened species. Six of the seven species around the world are under threat and now face extinction, and are listed as either ‘vulnerable’, ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

“Many individuals and organisations are helping to promote the conservation of these animals and the habitats in which they live,” Dromgool-Regan added. “Engagement at all levels is required to support these efforts. We all have an important role to play in changing our behaviour and caring for our environment, and it is wonderful to see children keen to take up this challenge.”

Published in Marine Science

Inland Fisheries Ireland’s West/North West team were the winners of 2023’s Annual Inter Agency Sea Angling Challenge.

Now in its 22nd year, the 2023 event took place in Clew Bay, Co Mayo on Friday 8 September with competitors representing IFI, the Marine Institute and other marine agencies.

The yearly event began in 2001 as an idea from staff of the two agencies. These friends and colleagues have been a part of the organising team since its inception, which has helped ensure participants have consistently high-quality angling options in the selected competition areas.

In addition to the relaxing hook and line fishing that takes place, the aims of the event are to provide an informal networking opportunity, increase and improve awareness of sea angling (particularly among newer staff) and provide opportunities to discuss issues within the sport.

Patricia Orme, director of corporate services at the Marine Institute said: “The annual angling challenge is a fantastic way for staff from multiple Irish marine agencies to build connections and learn more about the area of angling, all while taking part in some friendly competition. We hope to see the event continue for many more years.”

The social and educational event allows anglers to enjoy the productive marine waters off the coast of Ireland.

In recent years, teams have included current and former staff from IFI River Basin Districts, the Marine Institute and Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA). They have also been joined over the years by teams from Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and the Loughs Agency.

Published in Angling

The Department of Transport has been advised by Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) that the Marine Institute will undertake site investigation survey works at the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) in Co Mayo.

The survey is expected to be completed over a 10-day period from Sunday 17 September, subject to weather and operational constraints.

Geophysical and geotechnical survey work and benthic sampling will be carried out at Test Area A, 16km from Belderra Strand, and Test Area B, 6km from Belderra Strand on the Erris Peninsula. Benthic sampling will be carried out along the proposed cable corridor at AMETS.

The survey vessel RV Celtic Explorer (callsign EIGB) will carry out the site investigation works. Throughout operations, the vessel will be displaying appropriate lights and shapes, and will also be restricted in its ability to manoeuvre.

Other vessels operating in the AMETS area are requested to give the survey vessel a wide berth during survey operations. Mariners are also advised to keep continuous watch on VHF Channel 16 when navigating the survey area at AMETS.

Coordinates and a map of the survey areas as well as contact details can be found in Marine Notice No 55 of 2023, attached below.

Published in Power From the Sea

The Joint Action ‘Ecological Aspects of Microplastics’ was launched as one of JPI Oceans’ pilot activities to study the sources, distribution and impact of microplastics in the marine environment.

Since 2014, 15 European countries and Brazil have committed €18.2 million for 10 pan-European research projects on the ecological aspects of microplastics in the marine environment under the framework of JPI Oceans.

Within the second call, six projects were selected for funding and started their work in 2020.

As we reach the end of the three-year term of the projects, the teams’ leading these endeavours will unveil their findings on 14 and 15 September at the Marine Institute in Rinville, Co Galway.

Dr Niall McDonough, chair of JPI Oceans and director of policy innovation and research support services at the Marine Institute said: “This forum provides an important opportunity for scientists, policymakers and research funders to discuss and learn from the research outcomes from these 10 marine microplastics projects.

“The assembly serves as a bridge to other European initiatives like the EU Mission: Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030 and the EU4Ocean Coalition for Ocean Literacy. We are hoping to agree on how to best communicate these results to decision-makers and stakeholders and to ensure tangible, lasting impact.”

A highlight of the meeting, in partnership with the Plastic Pirates go Europe! campaign, is a microplastics sampling exercise along the beautiful shores of Galway Bay, allowing hands-on participation among attendees.

Published in Marine Science

Marine Institute chemists who specialise in biotoxins have won a significant international sustainability award for their work.

The Biotoxin Chemistry team who work within the Marine Environment and Food Safety Services (MEFSS) section of the Marine Institute were recently awarded the highest level (Green) of My Green Lab (MGL) certification.

MGL is a non-profit organisation and a globally recognised leader in the ‘green lab’ movement. The MGL programme seeks to reduce the environmental impact of laboratories in four key areas — energy, water, waste and chemical use — through a combination of organisational initiatives and behaviour change.

The aim is to empower scientists to make choices that not only benefit their work but also the environment and communities around them.

The Biotoxin Chemistry team are the second laboratory within the Marine Institute to be awarded MGL certification, with the Newport facility also being certified earlier this year.

‘The Biotoxin Chemistry team’s dedication exemplifies the institute’s commitment to environmental responsibility’

As part of the MGL certification process, the Biotoxin Chemistry team enrolled in 2023 International Freezer Challenge and won the Top Small Lab Award (Government Sector).

This year, 1,991 laboratories across 170 different research institutions, representing 27 countries took part in the challenge, resulting in an energy reduction of an estimated 20.7 million kWh over the past year.

The team comprising seven staff made great efforts to incorporate a cold-storage management plan involving clearing out and cleaning fridges and freezers. Their endeavors resulted in multiple units being taken out of use and an estimated energy reduction of 66.75 KWh/day (equivalent to the electricity consumption of six average Irish households).

Joe Silke, director of MEFSS, reaffirmed the Marine Institute’s commitment to sustainability: “The Biotoxin Chemistry team’s dedication exemplifies the institute’s commitment to environmental responsibility by their recent achievement of the highest level of My Green Lab certification.

“This not only showcases our commitment to reducing our laboratory's ecological footprint but also underscores the broader positive impacts that green lab initiatives can have on our working environment, finances, reputation and staff engagement.”

Published in Marine Science

Over the next two weeks, the Marine Institute will host a first-of-its-kind European science expedition when it makes a stop in Galway.

The European Molecular Biological Laboratory (EMBL) is carrying out a pan-European census of coastal ecosystems and their response to the environment in the TREC (Traversing European Coastlines) expedition.

Working along with the ocean schooner Tara, the expedition will explore the interactions between the two major ecosystems — land and sea — on our planet in order to better understand how these ecosystems interact, and how the organisms within them respond to changes both natural and those from human disturbance.

The EMBL mobile lab will be based at the Marine Institute in Rinville for daily coastal sampling, and the tall ship Tara will undertake offshore sampling at the same time.

The Marine Institute says it will benefit from hosting the TREC expedition as it focuses on how Ireland, as a coastal nation and part of the larger European coastal ecosystems, is subject to the impact of environmental changes.

Baseline information on coastal ecology gathered will serve as a reference point for future assessments, evaluations and comparisons to measure the impact of coastal climate change.

Moreover, TREC explores carbon capture pathways, helps understand global warming effects and examines communities of species and study antibiotics in the environment to protect Ireland's coastal biodiversity. The findings will offer valuable insights to the Marine Institute for managing and preserving Ireland’s coastal regions and marine life.

The EMBL’s sample processing van — pictured in St Abbs, Scotland on 19 August — will be in Galway to assist TREC scientists with their work | Credit: EMBLThe EMBL’s sample processing van — pictured in St Abbs, Scotland on 19 August — will be in Galway to assist TREC scientists with their work | Credit: EMBL

Commenting on the visit, Joe Silke, director of marine environment and food safety services at the Marine Institute said: “We are proud to be the local partner for TREC’s stop in Galway. The research being conducted addresses crucial issues such as pollution, biodiversity loss and invasive species, expanding on and directly relevant to the Marine Institute’s work in Ireland's coastal habitats.”

The TREC expedition brings together more than 150 research teams from over 70 institutions in 29 European countries. The Galway stopover is one of 46 regions all along the coast from Mediterranean to Scandinavian countries that they will sample over the next two years, and will be in Galway from Saturday 2 to Thursday 14 September.

At the Galway stop, the scientific activities include soil, sediment, water, aerosol, selected species and environmental data sampling involving EMBL’s mobile laboratories and the Tara ocean schooner.

The equipment and technologies in the mobile labs mean scientists can perform molecular research in direct proximity to the sampling site. This preserves the samples immediately after taking them from the field and reduces any changes or degradation that might happen during transit.

Alongside the scientific expedition, TREC is also organising several free public engagement events in Galway, encouraging the local community to find out more about marine science and molecular biology, many of which are family friendly.

These include tours of the Tara at Galway Docks on Sunday 10 September; interactive science talks with TREC scientists at Taylor’s Bar on Friday evening 8 September; ‘TREC in the City’ travelling exhibition and public workshops at various locations from 9-13 September, and Nexus Island, an augmented-reality game-based workshop at multiple locations (also 9-13 September).

Local schools are also invited to register for group visits of the Tara. Limited sessions are available 11-14 September.

For more information on these events and to register for the vessel tours, see the EMBL website HERE.

Published in Marine Science
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The Marine Institute, in partnership with several Irish agencies, will be hosting the 12th Shellfish Safety Workshop at its headquarters in Rinville, County Galway, on October 17th, 2023.

The workshop is open to those who work in shellfish aquaculture and food safety, including individuals from the shellfish industry, regulators, scientists, and researchers.

The workshop, which began in 2000 and last took place in October 2019, aims to promote high-quality and safe shellfish through presentations, discussions, and debates. The event will also generate key questions and potential areas for future research.

The workshop's principal objectives include continuing to build a shared understanding and interpretation of food safety risks arising from biotoxin and microbiological contamination and presenting recent and ongoing key research that benefits and supports the shellfish aquaculture industry and regulators.

The event will feature keynote presentations from international colleagues on developments of key importance to shellfish safety in Ireland, as well as updates and findings presented from national monitoring and research programs for phytoplankton, biotoxins, and microbiological contamination.

The workshop will also feature a poster session and exhibition stands, providing an opportunity for further discussion and to meet with representatives and colleagues from a variety of state agencies, academic and research institutions, and the shellfish industry in an informal environment.

Dave Clarke, Shellfish Safety Manager at the Marine Institute, described the event as "a fantastic opportunity for those working in the shellfish sector to meet and discuss the current issues, latest trends and patterns, and the latest research advances in the field."

Individuals interested in attending can register for the free, in-person event on the Marine Institute's website. A confirmed agenda and timeline will be provided by the end of September.

The Marine Institute, in conjunction with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and Irish Farmers Association Aquaculture (IFA), is hosting the Workshop.

Published in Aquaculture

After 25 years in service with the Marine Institute, the RV Celtic Voyager is now going up for sale.

The RV Celtic Voyager came into service in 1997 as Ireland’s first custom-built multi-purpose research vessel. It has been central to the Marine Institute’s work and research, enabling Ireland as a nation to engage in high-quality marine science and to actively contribute to international research programmes.

The vessel has served the nation well over the past quarter of a century, providing marine scientists, researchers and crew members with many years of experience at sea and enabling us to deepen our ocean knowledge.

The research vessel has played an essential role in fisheries scientific research, and a vital role in seabed mapping in Irish waters as part of the INFOMAR programme.

More than 200 shipwrecks around the coast of Ireland, including the RMS Lusitania, have been mapped by the Celtic Voyager. In 2007, the survey of Galway Bay revealed for the first time a detailed seafloor and geology of the bay, confirming the location of the Galway Bay Fault.

The vessel is currently lying afloat in Howth, Co Dublin. Interested parties can contact the sole agent, Hanseatic Offshore Brokers (details below), to register interest and to arrange viewing. The closing date for registration of interest is Friday 1 September 2023.

Hanseatic Offshore Brokers GmbH
Große Bleichen 32,
20354 Hamburg, Germany
Mobile: +49 173 1 555 351
Email: [email protected]

Published in Marine Science

Irish pelagic fishers and processors are joining an international scientific initiative to provide vital information which helps inform the management of Northeast Atlantic mackerel, one of Ireland’s most valuable species.

BIM is working in collaboration with the Marine Institute and pelagic fishers and processors to install mackerel scanners in processing plants in Killybegs, Co Donegal.

Two units have been installed with further units to be fitted in factories over the next two years, with grant aid from the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

“Mackerel remains Ireland’s most valuable wild caught export, valued at €95m in 2022,” said Dr Michael Gallagher, pelagic sector manager with BIM. “Given the importance of mackerel to the Irish seafood industry, it is critical that we collaborate to collect the best quality data for this valuable resource.

“BIM and the Marine Institute work closely together and we saw a real opportunity to reach out to fishers and processors to progress this initiative. Dr Edward Farrell of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has also played a central role in coordinating the installation and set-up of the scanners.”

Dr Andrew Campbell, pelagic fisheries team lead at the Marine Institute highlighted the importance of robust scientific data.

“In addition to annual scientific surveys and the triennial mackerel egg survey, tag-return data from this type of study also yields invaluable stock structure and age composition insights,” Dr Campbell said. “This data feeds into assessments to allow meaningful catch limits to be set for sustainable management.”

Two tagging units installed in Killybegs at the end of last year are already capturing important data. “In total, 66 tagged fish have been detected to date and we are hopeful that more valuable tag return data will be generated from the Irish mackerel fishery as more scanning units are installed in cooperation with the pelagic industry,” Dr Campbell added.

Up to 2011, mackerel were tagged by inserting small metal tags into the abdomen of the fish before release, which were then picked up by metal detectors at processing plants when the tagged fish were caught. This labor-intensive, manual process meant workers had to sift through the mackerel to pick out the tagged fish each time they heard the metal detector ping on processing lines.

"The international tagging programme has actually been in operation for over 55 years,” said Dr Edward Farrell, KFO’s chief scientific and sustainability officer. “Over 40,000 fish have been tagged annually, which is done simply by jigging for mackerel on surveys in the North Sea and off the west coast of Ireland and west of Scotland.

“In 2011, radio frequency Iidentification (RFID) replaced these metal tags and now when the tagged fish pass through the scanners in processing plants, valuable data is automatically collected without any need to touch the fish.”

BIM is hosting a pelagic information session on 29 September at the KFO offices in Killybegs where this project and other topics will be shared. To register for this in-person and online event, visit the Eventbrite page HERE.

Published in Fishing

The Marine Institute's annual Poster Presentation Day was held on Friday, 28th July 2023, where student bursars showcased their summer internship research. For the first time, the 20 students not only presented posters but also gave flash presentations to supervisors, fellow bursars, and Marine Institute staff. The bursary programme, which has been active since the 1960s, offers students a unique opportunity to professionally contribute to the marine science industry before completing their tertiary education.

This year bursars worked in areas including fish husbandry, fish trap census research, ecological monitoring, data collation and organisation, marine research, INFOMAR data visualisation, DNA extraction and analysis, historical fisheries data reconstruction, climate research and outreach, finance, communications, and linking art and science.

Eight students’ efforts were spotlighted as exceptional. These students and their project areas were:

  • Rosemary Lane – Crayfish Plague Monitoring
  • Craig Ferguson – INFOMAR Seabed Mapping
  • Saoirse Cusack – Finance
  • Michael Officer – Marine Research Infrastructure
  • Colleen Kyan – Social Media and Communications
  • Brice Dourieu – Shellfish Research
  • Laura Foster – Infragravity Wave Modelling and Communications in Climate Services
  • Dan O Connell – Linking Art and Science

“It’s really wonderful to see the talent and innovation that our bursars display each year,” says Patricia Orme, Director of Corporate Services, on the topic of the Summer Bursary Poster Presentation Day. “An event like today gives us the opportunity to acknowledge all the hard work that the students have been doing for the past number of weeks. The posters were of exceptional quality, and their work added significant value to their teams and will result in lasting impacts within the Marine Institute. They should all be very proud of their efforts as the quality of work and output this year was excellent.”

Published in Marine Science
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