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Underwater noise levels and movement of marine mammals are being tracked in European waters by a scientific team led by Dr Joanne O’Brien and a team from the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Galway.

The devices were deployed in Turkey and Spain in recent days by ATU’s Dr María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo Galván.

The research project, which is part of the EU “Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in European Seas” (STRAITS) initiative, will study the movement of sea animals at four strategic locations.

The aim is to “better understand their biology and ecology, and aid in conservation and management”, the team says.

Acoustic listening deviceThe acoustic listening device ready for deployment

The four locations are:

  • the Danish Straits, between the Kattegat Sea and the Baltic Sea;
  • the North Channel in the Celtic Sea;
  • the Straits of Gibraltar, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea;
  • the Straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

The EU “Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in European Seas” (STRAITS) initiative, will study the movement of sea animals at four strategic locations.Areas the equipment is being deployed around the European Straits/major swim ways Image by Dr Kim Birnie-Gauvin

Led by the Loughs Agency in Northern Ireland, the four-year €3.5m project is funded by the Horizon Europe Framework Programme, and the team is drawn from ten world-leading organisations.

ATU’s focus will be specifically on the movement of marine mammals. Dr María Pérez Tadeo, postdoctoral researcher at ATU’s marine and freshwater research centre, travelled to the Straits of Dardanelles last week.

The Straits of DardanellesDardanelles Strait, Turkey

Pérez Tadeo was accompanied by ATU Erasum intern Yaiza Pozo Galván and they set up the equipment and co-ordinated the deployment of the first passive acoustic monitoring devices for the STRAITS project.

The research visit to Turkey was funded by the Marine Institute.

“We brought the equipment to Turkey to set it up and it was then deployed in the Straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles by Dr Aytaç Özgül, Dr Atlan Lok and Dr Evrim Kurtay, researchers from Ege University, who dived to attach it to their moorings,”they said.

“ There was a heavy storm over here not long after the dive so we were extremely lucky getting the equipment in the water beforehand, since the weather window was very brief. Equipment was also shipped to Spain and was deployed last Wednesday in the Strait of Gibraltar by Dr Ricardo F Sánchez Leal and his team, researchers from the Spanish Oceanographic Institute,” they said.

“The study of animal movements offers one of the best ways to monitor animals from regional to continental or even global scales, and from minutes to decades,” the ATU team says.

“Although animal tracking is not new, it is only recently that the technology has enabled the tracking of animals over larger areas and longer timescales,”it says.

ATU marine scientist María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo GalvánATU marine scientist María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo Galván setting up the acoustic equipment onshore before its deployment

“ This advancement has yielded key information about the biology and ecology of these animals, but much more knowledge could be gained if efforts to tag and detect animals were performed collaboratively, as part of a network. This is one of the primary goals of STRAITS,”it explains.

Published in Marine Science
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Several fish stocks are improving according to the Marine Institute's annual Stock Book, just published, which provides impartial scientific advice to the Government on the status of 74 key fish stocks of interest to Ireland.

Haddock, monkfish, megrim, tuna, and some Dublin Bay Prawn stocks have increased and continue to be sustainably fished. Cod, herring and whiting have declined and are slow to recover. Work will continue to rebuilding of these stocks says Marine Minister Charlie Mc Conalogue.

He said the Institute's findings will guide his negotiations at the EU December Fisheries Council meeting on December 10/11 and with Third Countries, including the UK.

The Marine Institute has published the 2023 edition of the Stock Book. This detailed annual publication provides the latest impartial scientific advice to government on the status of 74 key fish stocks of interest to Ireland.

McConalogue said, "I am delighted to receive the Fish Stock Book for 2023. This provides essential information reviewing the state of fish stocks in 2023 and provides management advice for the setting of quotas for 2024. The exemplary work done by the Marine Institute scientists, feeds into the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), to generate best available independent scientific advice which guides my negotiations at the December Fisheries Council and with Third Countries, including the UK. It is important that the science and advice is made accessible to industry and other stakeholders through the continued annual publication of the Fish Stock Book.”

The Minister added, “Again in 2023 there is a trend towards improved state for many fished stocks. This solid evidence basis is giving assurance that our policy at national and EU level is making progress on delivering long-term sustainability. Stocks of haddock, monkfish, megrim, tuna, and some of the Dublin Bay Prawn stocks have increased in recent years and continue to be sustainably fished. There are some stocks such as cod, herring and whiting that have declined and are slow to recover, work will continue to rebuilding of these important stocks.”

This is the 31st edition of the annual book, which contains the latest management advice used by decision makers to set sustainable catch levels and fishing quotas for 2024. The publication is an invaluable reference guide for a wide audience, including the Minister’s team of negotiators, the fishing industry, marine scientists, environmental NGOs and third level institutes.

In 2022, Irish vessels landed approximately 157,000 tonnes of wild caught fish worth more than €296 million at first sale. This, in turn, supports a valuable processing industry and other activities in our coastal communities.

Ensuring long term sustainability is a key objective of the Common Fisheries policy. To that end, every year, the Marine Institute undertakes an extensive data collection programme on board commercial vessels, in the ports and on multiple scientific fisheries surveys. Over 200 days, equating to more than 2,000 scientist days, are spent at sea monitoring fisheries resources on Ireland’s state of the art marine research vessels, RV Tom Crean and RV Celtic Explorer.

Onshore and at sea sampling programmes measure over half a million fish and estimate age for a further 56,000 individuals across all commercial species. Irish data are compiled with that from other countries through the intergovernmental organisation ICES. Marine Institute scientists carry out the stock assessments and develop the scientific evidence and advice at ICES. The Stock Book integrates the latest scientific advice from ICES with relevant information on Irish fisheries.

Michael Gillooly, Interim CEO of the Marine Institute said, "I am delighted to see the publication of this year’s Stock Book which is the culmination of a lot of hard work by Marine Institute scientists throughout the year. Our scientists collect, manage and analyse the data need to assess how many fish can be sustainably harvested from this renewable resource. Marine Institute experts collaborate with ICES to develop the robust and independent scientific advice for management. The scientific advice and services provided by our scientists to stakeholders are essential to supporting a sustainable ocean economy, protecting and managing our marine ecosystems and meeting EU obligations. This work is essential to ensure sustainable seafood supplies which is backbone of the coastal economy in many areas."

Dr Ciaran Kelly, Director of Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services at the Marine Institute said, "Over the last two decades Ireland has invested significantly in gathering data and improving knowledge of our fisheries resources and marine ecosystems. This paying off in terms of improved science based advice and more sustainable outcomes for seafood production and our ocean. Marine Institute scientists continue to make a significant contribution to the work of ICES and it is noteworthy that the incoming chair of the ICES Advisory Committee (ACOM) is Dr Colm Lordan who has led the work on this year’s Stock Book.”

The 2023 Stock Book is available electronically on the Marine Institute's website and as an interactive online application ( Most of the scientific work that delivers the Marine Institute's Stock Book is funded under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

Published in Marine Science

A team of 12 marine scientists onboard the brand new UK polar research ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, set sail on 20 November to Antarctica to study the impact of environmental changes on Antarctic ecosystems and sea ice. The results of their study will help scientists understand how the Southern Ocean is being affected by global warming and its consequences on the animals living there, such as krill, copepods, whales, and penguins.

The team, which includes physicists, ecologists, and biogeochemists, will be investigating how the upper ocean changes in response to the annual melt of sea ice. The research is of utmost importance as polar ecosystems play a pivotal role in regulating cycles of carbon and nutrients, both in the Southern Ocean and across the world via ocean circulation.

During the ten-day mission, the researchers will deploy Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) below vast areas of free-floating sea ice, which play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle. The £9m BIOPOLE project is the first official science cruise of the RRS Sir David Attenborough, and the team will be putting the ship's full capabilities to the test.

First sea ice encountered on the RRS David Attenborough Photo: Rich TurnerFirst sea ice encountered on the RRS David Attenborough Photo: Rich Turner

The BIOPOLE cruise will also include hydrographic surveys and using BONGO and mammoth nets to collect zooplankton. The Controlled Temperature Lab on the ship will be used to investigate the size and growth of copepod lipid sacs, which are a source of food for creatures and a critical part of the carbon cycle.

The team will deploy three autonomous underwater gliders, two of which have autonomous under-ice navigation modules. This will allow the gliders to travel 20-30 km under the ice and collect data over a longer period and wider geographical area. The research will help scientists better understand how the Southern Ocean is being affected by environmental change and could have significant implications for the future of the planet.

The BIOPOLE cruise will also be monitoring the visible, record-breaking low in sea ice extent experienced during the last Southern winter. By gaining improved knowledge of the polar ecosystem, scientists hope to have a better understanding of how to mitigate the effects of environmental change on the planet.

A copepod (an adult female Calanus propinquus) from the water column above the Bellingshausen Sea continental shelf. Photo: BASA copepod (an adult female Calanus propinquus) from the water column above the Bellingshausen Sea continental shelf. Photo: BAS

Published in Marine Science
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Lionfish may be one of the most infamous invasive species in the western North Atlantic, but their spread is only the tip of the iceberg, according to an international research team.

The new study involving Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) scientists has found that only one per cent of known species on Earth have “invaded” around the world.

The Global Ecology and Biogeography journal study suggests an “enormous potential for future waves of biological invasions on land, in freshwater lakes and rivers, and in the ocean”.

“The magnitude of environmental and socioeconomic impacts due to new invasions is likely to rise substantially in the coming decades, particularly as trade and transport accelerate and shift, connecting distant countries and their unique species pools,” the paper says.

Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity globally and are the main cause for the extinction of vertebrates in the last century, with an estimated cost of at least $162 billion (USD) a year, the study notes.

The study team found that greater numbers of non-native species tend to come from more diverse species groups.

It notes that some groups have been “excessively introduced, including mammals, birds, fishes, insects, spiders, and plants”.

“Understudied groups – such as microorganisms – are likely vastly underestimated in non-native species inventories,” the authors state.

The study also found that most reporting of biological invasions has occurred on land rather than aquatic habitats.

It says that greater research efforts will likely reveal “substantial numbers of new non-native species and associated impacts in freshwater and ocean habitats”.

Dr Ross Cuthbert, co-author on the study and QUB researcher, said that “biological invasions can cause extinctions, cost trillions of dollars in damage and control, and spread diseases”.

“Their impacts are rising rapidly, making large-scale understandings and predictions of invasion patterns crucial to protect environments, economies, and societies,” he said.

“Management efforts are urgently needed to prevent future introductions and to control the most damaging invaders already established,” he added.

The research is here

Published in Marine Wildlife

Leading ocean conservationists, including marine biologist Dr Sylvia Earle, will participate in a public online broadcast from Rio de Janeiro to mark Darwin Day this Sunday, November 12th 2023.

Philippe Cousteau, founder of EarthEcho International and grandson of Jacques Cousteau, will speak about protecting marine ecosystems and activating youth, while Dr Sarah Darwin will reflect on the changes to the planet since her great-great-grandfather Charles Darwin voyaged around the world.

The initiative is part of DARWIN200, a pioneering two-year global voyage (2023-2025) of 40,000 nautical miles aboard the historic tall ship Oosterschelde.

It aims to “train and empower 200 determined young conservation leaders and inspire solutions to the planet’s biggest environmental challenges”.

The ship is visiting 32 ports along the two-year journey, and will be in Rio de Janeiro until November 12th for a week of youth conservation leadership programmes and public events.

The full day of live and interactive talks, called Darwin Day, will be broadcast from the Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (Golden Lion Tamarin centre), with free online viewing.

Speakers will include retired NASA astronaut Col Terry W Virts will provide his perspective on seeing planet Earth from his travels aboard the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

World-renowned ethologist and conservationist Dr Jane Goodall will share her reasons for hope, while marine biologist Dr Sylvia Earle will offer her perspective on making a better future for nature.

DARWIN200 project leader Stewart McPherson will present a summary of a week-long effort to plant trees in the Atlantic rainforest.

Acclaimed National Geographic photographer and Nikon Ambassador Ami Vitale will talk about observing and photographing species on the brink of extinction, and what we can do to save critically endangered wildlife.

Project Tamar’s Nina dei Marcovaldi will give an overview of sea turtle conservation in Brazil, and deliver “an inspiring message of the possibility of inter-generational change”.

Explorer Paul Rose and the National Geographic Pristine Seas Team will join from their team’s expedition vessel in the Federated State of Micronesia to discuss protecting the remaining pristine ocean.

The event can be watched live on YouTube on Sunday here

More information here

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Riverside planting, recreating natural channels and reconnecting groundwater links could help offset high thermal extremes caused by climate change in rivers, a new study recommends.

The study led by the University of Birmingham, along with the University of Nottingham and the Scottish Government’s Marine Directorate, highlights that intense shortwave radiation during hot and dry periods is likely to be the biggest factor in high river water temperatures.

This factor, combined with declining water levels and volumes, and slower flow velocities during droughts, will warm up rivers more quickly, it says.

However, cooling effects from groundwater inputs, channel shading and evaporation can offset high temperatures in certain circumstances, the study published in the scientific journal Hydrological Processes says.

The scientists have identified three primary mechanisms that drive river water temperature increases during droughts.

These are: atmospheric energy inputs; physical habitat influences (shading and river channel shapes controlling flow); and the contributions of different water sources – groundwater tends to cool rivers in summer.

“Rising river water temperatures can have significant and often detrimental implications for aquatic life, impacting both individual species and entire ecosystems,” the study’s co-author, David Hannah, professor of hydrology and UNESCO chair in water sciences at the University of Birmingham, said.

“Drought conditions often coincide with high atmospheric temperatures, and such trends will become more intense and frequent with climate change - with major implications for river water temperatures due to the combination of intense solar radiation and lower (and slower) water flows,” he said.

“However, certain management interventions such as riverside planting and river restoration initiatives – including recreating natural channel forms and reconnecting groundwaters – could help to offset high thermal extremes during droughts if interventions are well targeted,” he said.

Lead author Dr James White, from the University of Birmingham, said the work “ highlights critical future research questions that will help us to better model river water temperature dynamics during droughts – helping river managers to work out how thermal extremes could be better managed through mitigation and adaptation strategies”.

The research was supported by the British Environment Agency, and the paper is here

Published in Marine Science
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The Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) has initiated a study with the Marine Institute on whether certain marine environmental surveys require a licence.

The study will focus on marine environmental surveys “for the purposes of scientific discovery and research”, and marine environmental surveys “for the purposes of site investigation or in support of an application for planning for major developments”.

The new State regulatory authority for marine planning, says that “the output of this study, expected Q1 2024, will inform MARA if changes in the licence regime are warranted”.

“If so, MARA will engage with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to prioritise drafting legislative amendments to exempt some ‘low risk’ activities that are marine licensable,” it says.

The Marine Institute said it “is engaging with internal and external marine experts to help identify and propose activities that may be suitable for exemption”.

“This will be carried out by assessing marine data collection processes, publicly available data and survey techniques used in other mature markets”, it says.

“A comprehensive catalogue of the types of activities will be reviewed. The approaches adopted in other jurisdictions will also inform the process,” it says.

MARA chief executive officer Laura Brien said “the range of activities which require a marine licence is wide ranging from large complex works to smaller, low-risk works”.

“This is an important project which could result in an innovative approach to our licensing regime and ensure applications are treated in a proportionate way,” she said.

“The outcome of this work will be of interest to a number of our stakeholders, including industry, in particular those dealing with Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) and other maritime developments,” she said.

More information is available from Mara’s marine licensing team at email address [email protected]

Published in Marine Planning

Dr Colm Lordan, an Irish marine scientist with over 25 years of experience at the Marine Institute and involvement with the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) since 1993, has been appointed as the new Chair of the Advisory Committee (ACOM) at the 111th ICES Council meeting.

The ACOM provides independent scientific advice on the sustainable management of marine resources and ecosystems in the North Atlantic Ocean to a range of requestors, including the European Union, the UK, Iceland, and Norway. Dr. Lordan's appointment as the Integrated Advice Manager in the Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services (FEAS) section comes at a pivotal time of accelerating the pace of change and increasing anthropogenic pressures on marine ecosystems.

As the new head of ACOM, Dr. Lordan will lead the foremost marine science advisors from the ICES 20 member countries to generate state-of-the-art evidence-based advice to meet conservation, management, and sustainability goals. "I very much look forward to working with, and leading, ACOM," he stated.

Dr. Ciaran Kelly, Director of Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services at the Marine Institute, congratulated Dr. Lordan on his appointment and highlighted the Marine Institute's leadership and standing in the international marine science field. In fact, Dr. Lordan is the third secondment of a Marine Institute scientist to a position of international scientific importance.

Dr. Lordan will begin his three-year term on December 1, 2023.

Published in Marine Science
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The 10th International Conference of the European Global Ocean Observing System (EuroGOOS) is currently taking place in Galway, Ireland from October 3rd to 5th, 2023. This event is attended by a diverse group of ocean science professionals from policymakers to technology developers, forecasters and users. The conference has been officially endorsed by the UN Decade of Ocean Science as an official Ocean Decade Activity.

The conference focuses on a range of themes, including marine knowledge value chain, ocean data and forecasting services, EU priorities such as the Digital Ocean Twin, and the science behind Europe’s oceanographic capacity. The primary goal of the conference is to enhance global ocean observations, providing the vital data needed for improved forecasts and early warning systems to protect people and the planet.

Michael Gillooly, Interim CEO of the Marine Institute, welcomed the delegates, emphasising the importance of the conference for EuroGOOS. The conference comes at a pivotal time when experts are working towards protecting the health of the shared ocean by coordinating programmes in areas such as ocean observations.

Dr. Colm Lordan, Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services, Marine Institute, delivered a keynote address at the event discussing the data, science, and evidence needed to inform the development of offshore renewable energy. Dr. Lordan highlighted the importance of the transition to secure offshore renewable energy, ensuring it delivers net gains for sustainable seafood production while protecting and restoring marine ecosystems.

Ireland, through the Marine Institute, has been a member of EuroGOOS since 2005 and has supported EuroGOOS throughout its transition to becoming a legal entity in 2012.

Published in Marine Science
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Researchers on technology for the rapid diagnosis of fish disease on aquaculture sites have been awarded Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funding.

A team led by Dr Niall Maloney of the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) and Prof Enda McGlynn of Dublin City University (DCU) is working with Catherine McManus of Mowi Ireland on the project.

“Current methods for the diagnosis of pathogens in aquaculture are time-consuming and are carried out in laboratories that are sometimes far from farm sites,” Dr Maloney says.

“ By developing technology for use directly at the farm site, we can reduce sample to answer times and ensure more timely and appropriate disease management practices can be implemented,” he says.

The team says it will develop a test that works in a similar fashion to the COVID-19 tests that were used in homes and workplaces throughout the pandemic, but with some modifications.

Oxide nanostructures, which are thin and narrow will be grown on the paper used in these tests in Prof McGlynn’s laboratory.

“By increasing the surface to volume ratio of the test line using these structures it is hoped that assay performance can be improved by providing a larger area for the capture of pathogens,” they state.

“ A portable thermal reader will also be developed to scan the assay test lines to determine the number of infectious agents present,” they explain.

The support by SFI is drawn from the National Challenge Fund announced recently by Higher Education Minister Simon Harris.

The National Challenge Fund is a €65 million programme established under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and funded by the European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility,

“An important part of Challenge-based funding is engagement with stakeholders and potential beneficiaries to ensure we are making informed decisions on the future direction of this project,” Dr Maloney says.

“This type of engagement will ensure that we focus our efforts on the real-world challenges faced when trying to diagnose infectious disease in aquaculture and ensure we can achieve maximum impact,” he says.

Published in Aquaculture
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