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The children from Glenageary Killiney National School (GKNS) are participating in the Marine Institute's Pilot Explorers Education Programme™, hosted by the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School in Dun Laoghaire this Friday. The programme complements the national school curriculum, presenting children with a deeper understanding of the impact of our ocean, climate change, conservation and a deeper understanding of living things that abound our shores. This programme is a pilot programme funded by the Marine Institute.

‘The children of 5th class in GKNS are delighted and excited to be taking part in this pilot programme, especially this year, as it is very relevant to our attempts to achieve the Green School Biodiversity Flag’ reports Ms Yates, class teacher of fifth class.

The children will participate in a sea safari on the beaches of Salthill and Sea Point in Dun Laoghaire examining marine life and studying the conservation aspects of the shoreline. They will discuss and debate ocean literacy and plan individual and group projects on their findings.

Fifth class hope to participate in The Marine Institute's Explorers Super Hero Pop Art & Creative Writing Competition which was launched by the Marine Institute on the 27 January and is open to all primary schools.

Published in Marine Science

A marine scientist running for the Social Democrats in the general election has described as “unrealistic” a Green Party proposal to designate 50 per cent of Irish territorial waters as marine protected areas writes Lorna Siggins

Wicklow councillor Jennifer Whitmore, who formerly worked for the Marine Institute before spending time in Australia, said her party aims to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) based on “scientific evidence and local community consultation”.

These MPAs would include “no-take zones”, while her party also favours developing a blue carbon strategy for identifying and protecting Ireland’s blue carbon sites, such as seagrass, kelp beds and salt marshes.

The Social Democrats are one of several parties seeking a ban on supertrawlers in Irish waters as part of election manifestos. Sinn Féin has prioritised a ban on supertrawlers but wants to see it extended to an EU-level restriction.

The Green Party also wants to ban offshore salmon farming and switch to “closed-loop” onshore salmon farms. It proposes that all processing plants and fishing vessels over an “agreed size” should be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, and it is seeking a ban on the practice of pair trawling.

The Green Party proposes to end oil and gas exploration and has set ambitious targets for offshore renewable energy.

Fine Gael has committed to ending licensing for oil exploration, and taking a phased approach to gas, while Solidarity-People Before Profit had spearheaded legislation to ban oil and gas exploration. The latter party also wants a ban on supertrawlers and support for conservation and sustainable commercial fishing. At local level, People Before Profit helped to establish the Save our Seafront campaign in Dun Laoghaire in 2002 to oppose commercialisation of the coastal rim.

Fine Gael has one of the lengthiest policies on the marine sector in its manifesto, much of which is drawn from the Government’s “Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth” strategy, including a commitment to “investigating the practicalities and merits” of establishing an offshore maritime area as Ireland’s seventh national park.

Fianna Fáíl priorities safeguarding Ireland’s interest in future EU-UK discussions on fishing, and promises to seek EU “Brexit contingency” funding for fishermen. It also promises to introduce an “Oceans Act “ to protect marine biodiversity and commits to reviewing the contentious Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act.

Labour promises to set up maritime conservation zones and expand the Naval Service, while Aontú wants to retain the “status quo” in fishing as part of its rural policy.

Read also: Where is the Dedicated Department for Ireland's 'Vast Marine Potential' in General Election 2020 Pledges?

Published in Marine Science
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The Irish Times writes, that a catastrophic storm during high tide will leave thousands of homes, businesses and landmark buildings in Dublin under water is inevitable over the coming decades, one of the country’s foremost climate change experts has warned.

Prof Peter Thorne said Ireland had been lucky to “dodge a bullet” until now during major storm events – because they have struck during low or neap tides – but it was only a matter of time until the elements combined for a devastating surge.

The Maynooth University academic, who was lead author on the fifth assessment report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and is aged 40, said he expected a major high tide flood event in his lifetime.

In the capital this would mean water from Dublin Bay surging into the Liffey while it was in full flow from the Wicklow mountains.

More on this story by clicking here. 

Published in Dublin Bay

Dr Heffernan has served as the CEO of the Marine Institute since 1993 and has held a highly successful role in building and leading the organisation. The semi-state agency has grown from a staff of one to 230, which now incorporates the Institute’s headquarters in Co Galway, the Newport Research Facility in Co Mayo and the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) in Dublin. 

Chairman of the Marine Institute Dr John Killeen said, “As CEO, Dr Heffernan has overseen tremendous growth. He has played a fundamental role in developing Ireland’s ocean research capacity, increasing collaboration in marine research and innovation in Europe, as well as driving sustainable development across a range of maritime sectors. Dr Heffernan leaves a lasting-legacy and has set the Institute on course to become a global leader in ocean knowledge. On behalf of the Board and Marine Institute staff, I thank Dr Heffernan for his dedication, strategic direction and leadership as CEO and wish him all the best as he begins a new voyage.” 

As CEO of the Institute, Dr Heffernan has overseen the arrival of Ireland’s two purpose-built marine research vessels, the RV Celtic Voyager in 1997 and the RV Celtic Explorer in 2003. The RV Celtic Voyager has provided a platform for scientists to undertake essential fisheries research, environmental monitoring, seabed mapping, oceanographic work, data buoy maintenance and student training. The RV Celtic Explorer has played a vital role in Ireland’s fisheries research, placing Ireland in a much stronger position to propose effective conservation measures for fish stocks and support the sustainability of the Irish fishing industry. A new state-of-the-art marine research vessel is also scheduled for completion in 2022, which will mark a major milestone in the Marine Institute’s effort to provide world-class marine scientific advice and services. 

In 2009, Dr Peter Heffernan instigated the development of the Inter-Department Marine Coordination Group (MCG). Chaired by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, the group brought together representatives of departments with an involvement in marine and maritime issues to coordinate inter-departmental action. The MCG produced Ireland’s first integrated marine plan for Ireland Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth in 2012 which set out two targets - increase the value of Ireland’s ocean wealth to 2.4% of GDP by 2030 and double the turnover from our ocean economy (from €3.2 billion) to exceed €6.4 billion by 2020. In 2018, Ireland’s ocean economy is estimated to have a turnover of €6.2 billion and GVA estimated at €4.2 billion equivalent to 2% of GDP.

In 2013, Dr Heffernan acted as an inspiration and Irish EU Presidency ambassador for the creation of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA) with the signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation between Canada, the European Union and the United States of America. Six years on and AORA has been recognised as an outstanding success story in the Atlantic area and an exemplar of international science diplomacy. To date, AORA has achieved an investment from Horizon 2020 EU funding of more than €140 million to support research in the Atlantic Ocean.

Ireland is now considered a world leader in the field of seabed mapping through the expertise of the Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institute. The Irish National Seabed Survey (INSS), which began in 1999 remains one of the largest seabed mapping projects ever undertaken in the world. Now known as the INFOMAR programme and scheduled for completion in 2026, Ireland will become the first nation in the world to have comprehensively mapped its entire seabed territory.

Research and Innovation are central to the role and mission of the Marine Institute. A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland, ‘Sea Change’ was prepared by the Marine Institute and launched in 2007. A new National Marine Research and Innovation Strategy 2021 was also prepared by the Marine Institute in 2017, to help ensure Ireland maintains its position at the forefront of marine research in Europe. 

The Marine Institute has achieved an outstanding success rate of over 40% in funding bids to the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. The total funding approved to date under this programme has now surpassed the €8m target, 18 months ahead of schedule. The work of the Marine Institute has seen significant collaborations with industry and other research centres and universities in Ireland, Europe and international stakeholders, strengthening Ireland’s ability in providing a foundation for applied research and innovation. 

Dr Heffernan was recently selected as a member of the European Commission’s Mission Board for Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Waters, one of five major research missions of Horizon Europe, the EU Research and Innovation programme (2021 – 2027). Dr Heffernan will be one of 15 experts on the Mission Board which will identify the first possible specific missions on healthy oceans by the end of 2019.

Published in Marine Science

Two centuries after the “white continent” was recorded officially for the first time by an expedition led by Irishman Edward Bransfield, Kerry round-the-world offshore racer Damian Foxall plans to explore Antarctica by sail.

Kerry-born Foxall will be accompanied on his “Team South” expeditions – which are open to the public - by marine biologists Lucy Hunt and Niall McAllister.

As The Irish Independent reports in its Review section today, the three highly accomplished sailors and scientists from Cork and Kerry will take their background in environmental education, research and adventure to head to Antarctica, to experience first-hand the impact of climate change and witness the fragile ecosystem inhabited by penguins, albatrosses, whales and seals.

"I look forward to stepping foot on the continent for the first time"

“Having been involved in over ten round-the-world races, I have seen the southern ocean and the world in a way that few get to experience - icebergs, albatross and forgotten sub-Antarctic islands,” Foxall says.

“ I look forward to stepping foot on the continent for the first time and to sharing this unique privilege with my team and our guests,” he says.

The trio will work with Quixote Expeditions, skippering the 65ft ketch, Ocean Tramp. The Antarctic expedition company has an ethos of community collaboration, education, scientific research and minimal footprint.

When not offshore racing,Foxall is a passionate adventurer and advocate for ocean health, while Niall MacAllister, who runs marine wildlife expeditions and sail training in west Cork, has recently been skippering on the research sailing sloop, Song of the Whale, for a series of marine mammal research programmes.

Lucy Hunt created the ocean health education programme for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017/18 and is now working on the new programme for 2021/22 Ocean Race, while directing her Sea Synergy marine education and awareness centre in her native Waterville, Co Kerry.

The trio has linked in with ornithologist and Antarctic guide Jim Wilson and polar explorer enthusiast Eugene Furlong, who are involved in the project to commemorate Edward Bransfield in his native Ballinacurra, Co Cork, in January 2020.

Team South expeditions start at 9,000 US dollars per person for two weeks, excluding flights. Photographers and film crews are among early bookings, and there is availability on some legs for equally curious citizen scientists and adventurous types, who won’t need much sailing experience.

The five consecutive expeditions start in December and end in March, and the last leg of the journey includes sailing the Antarctic Peninsula before crossing the Drake passage to the Falkland Islands.

A free berth is awarded each trip to a research scientist throughout the southern summer season which runs from November to March. More details are here

Read more about Team South and about Edward Bransfield who put Antarctica on the map in The Irish Independent here

Published in Marine Science

Citizen science pinpointed the first samples of a rare kelp in Irish waters, and now NUI Galway researchers are hoping that sea swimmers, divers and kayakers may help to find more writes Lorna Siggins

Samples of golden kelp (Laminaria ochroleuca), which is normally found in France, Spain and Britain, were identified for the first time almost a year ago in north Mayo.

The small population was discovered in Scots Port cove on the north-west facing Belmullet coastline, and recognised by Dr Kathryn Schoenrock of NUI Galway’s (NUIG) Ryan Institute.

The dominant kelp species found in Irish waters is Cuvie (Laminaria Hyperborea), and five main types of kelp provide important habitats for marine life.

Lo and other invasivesPhoto of sample of golden kelp found for first time last year in Irish waters in north Mayo - NUI Galway researchers appealing to citizen scientists to help locate more examples. Photo: Dr Kathryn Schoenrock, NUI Galway

“Golden kelp, which harbours less biodiversity, is a really important species in Spain and Portugal,” Dr Schoenrock explained.

“We would have expected to find the first samples here on Ireland’s south-east coast, given the proximity to Britain, France and Spain,” she says.

Scots Port is located 1,040 kilometres away from the nearest golden kelp population in Britain, and 1,630 kilometres away from the nearest population in France.

Genetic analyses would suggest that the Co Mayo population is more diverse than the British, resembling the richness described for populations in the Iberian peninsula, Dr Schoenrock said.

“The fact that it was found in a small enclosed cove in north Mayo may be a result of a Portuguese or Spanish vessel sheltering nearby,” she says.

“However, it can drift long distances and it could be more prevalent than we know.”

The samples found by citizen science participants in a Searsearch Ireland and Porcupine survey trip were collected by Dr Stacy A Krueger-Hadfield for genetic analysis at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in North America.

The discovery was the subject of a study which had recently been published in the scientific journal, Marine Biodiversity Records.

Dr Schoenrock said that citizen science initiatives like Seasearch Ireland and Coastwatch are an “excellent way to involve local communities that have a vested interest in the health of these ecosystems”.

“In conjunction with existing research bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Parks and Wildlife Services, and the Marine Institute, we need more programmes that can sustain long term ecological research of shallow marine systems over many years,” she said.

Seasearch Ireland national co-ordinator Tony O’Callaghan said that its participants had collected over 50,000 records of over 1,000 species.

He said the data set is “the best continuous record collected since the last major state-funded study of Ireland’s inshore marine environment, the Biomar survey, which was in the 90s.”

This project is funded under the EPA Research Programme 2014-2020.

Given that golden kelp has much lower biodiversity than native kelp forests, it is more suitable kelp to harvest, Dr Schoenrock noted.

“It can grow to a larger size and it doesn’t dominate habitats yet in Ireland,” she said.

State approval in November 2017 of a license to harvest native kelp by mechanical means in Bantry Bay has aroused opposition on environmental grounds in West Cork and resulted in ongoing litigation.

Published in Marine Science
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Angel shark are in such a perilous state of decline in Irish waters that a group of marine environmentalists has appealed for urgent action by Minister for Fisheries Michael Creed writes Lorna Siggins

Sharks, rays and skates are the most threatened seafish in Europe, and several species of shark caught in Irish waters are on the “red list” of endangered species issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

However, the marine scientists say that inaction by the State over the fragile angel shark populations in Kerry’s Tralee Bay and Mayo’s Clew Bay in particular has compounded the situation.

The Irish Elasmobranch Group is a not for profit grouping of scientists and researchers chaired by Dr Kevin Flannery of Dingle, Co Kerry.

It is focused on protecting Ireland’s elasmobranchs – as in sharks, rays, skates and any cartilaginous fishes with five to seven gill openings on each side.

Angel shark - so named because their fins resemble angelic wings- hunt in sandy shallow bays, and have the ability to hide in the sand as they wait for flatfish to eat.

Declining numbers have prompted the scientists to set up a working group, involving the Marine Institute and Inland Fisheries Ireland among others.

The spurdog, porbeagle shark and angel shark are “critically endangered”, while the basking shark is “endangered”, and the shortfin mako, blue shark and hammerhead shark are “vulnerable”

The group has called on Mr Creed to revise legislation to ensure there is no targeted fisheries of any elasmobranchs permitted in Irish waters, either by commercial vessels or by sea anglers.

Last year, a Spanish fishing vessel, Virxen da Blanca (italics) was detained in Irish waters with over 168,000 kilos of “bycatch” shark on board while “ fishing for tuna”.

A special sitting of Clonakilty District Court last September heard the vessel had 164,250kg of blue shark, 98kg of mako shark and 1,250kg of shark fins on board.

Shark fins can fetch a high price in Asia, where they are used in sharkfin soup. The fins are often removed while the shark is still alive and it can then no longer swim effectively and either suffocates or is eaten by other predators.

The scientists say that the maximum permitted “bycatch” of elasmobranch species should be set at 30% of catch onboard, for all EU vessels fishing in Irish waters.

 

 

It also says that rays and skates should be excluded from discard regulations on landing all by-catch. Instead, these fish should be returned to sea where their survival rate can be still quite high – unlike many finfish.

The group says Ireland should request that the EU ensure that the shortfin mako shark is listed as a prohibited species. Currently there are no limits to shortfin mako sharks being caught in EU waters and they do not even have to be logged as such.

It has asked Mr Creed to enact “clear and firm legislation for the increased protection of sharks in Irish waters”.

A Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food spokesman said Mr Creed supported all five of the group’s recommendations, but believed that a bycatch of all of these species should be “considerably lower” than the 30 per cent proposed.

The group did not make “any specific proposal” relating to the angel shark, but Mr Creed would be happy to consider same in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the spokesman said.

The department said that both it and the Marine Institute are working on “ways to improve the protection of the critically endangered angel shark in Irish waters”, and Ireland recently supported a proposal from the Government of Monaco that angel shark be included in annexes I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species.

This “provides a framework to enhance protection for this migratory species”, it said.

Published in Marine Science
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#islandnews - An island off Co. Kerry is aiming to produce clean energy which could be used to power public lighting and propel its ferry service, among other uses.

As the Irish Examiner writes, Valentia Island is planning to transform its energy needs through a potential hydrogen-based product.

The project which is community-led is based on a successful venture which has been continuing and developing on Scotland’s Orkney Islands since 2016.

Details of the proposed energy model will be outlined tomorrow in The Royal Hotel Valentia Function Room on the island in south Kerry.

The ultimate goal is to power the island, said Colum O’Connell, chairman of the Valentia Energy Group.

He said islanders would be able to pull up at hydrogen refuelling stations just as Orkney islanders currently do. Mr O’Connell said in the not-too-distant future Valentia could eventually be a powerhouse for storing and selling on the clean energy.

More on the story can be read here.

Published in Island News

Eight years after British celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall campaigned to end the EU’s wasteful practice of encouraging skippers to dump unwanted fish at sea, a new Marine Institute “app” aims to make life easier for Irish fishing vessels writes Lorna Siggins.

The mapping application to avoid discard “hotspots“ can be used by skippers working mixed fisheries, particularly in Irish and British grounds, who face a virtually impossible task due to the richly diverse nature of marine life.

The “app” draws on data to identify sea areas where they are more likely to catch unwanted fish which cut short the length of their fishing trip.

It was the EU’s own labyrinthine Common Fisheries Policy which had forced skippers to take measures like dumping unwanted species or undersized fish at sea – prompting one French skipper to observe that EU fish policy was designed as if the Atlantic was as simple as an “aquarium plugged into a computer”.

Irish industry organisations point out they had pioneered the development of selective gear technology long before Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “Fish Fight” campaign of 2011 made headlines. However, there is no fishing gear yet developed which is so selective that it can retain only targeted species.

Recognising this, the Marine Institute “app” identifies grounds with consistently high catch rates of juvenile fish and “choke” species – as in the first species to hit the quota limit, which then effectively halts all further fishing.

Skippers using the “app” have the option of avoiding these areas, making the best use of selective gear technology, the Marine Institute says.

The Marine Institute researchers used observer data collected from Irish, British and French vessels in the Celtic Sea, and developed mapping techniques to identify consistent patterns in catches on Irish grounds.

The interactive technology on the “app” includes individual maps per species, which can be viewed based on vessel category, season, and size of the catch.

“While much of the information contained within these maps will be familiar to those regularly fishing in these areas... this tool could act as an additional resource .. in avoiding unwanted catches through spatial avoidance,” Julia Calderwood and Dave Reid of the Marine Institute say.

The first phase of what the EU describes as the “landing obligation” came into effect on January 1st, 2015, for pelagic – mackerel, herring and blue whiting – fisheries. The discard ban applied to all quota species from January 2019.

The institute, based in Galway, has been working with partners from 12 countries to develop strategies for the gradual elimination of discards as part of a project called “DiscardLess”, funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) said it welcomed any initiative which would assist Irish vessels, given the degree of concern around the implementation of the discard ban. The IFPO plans to hold several workshops on the issue with vessel owners in co-operation with the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

Skippers using the “app” have been asked by the Marine Institute to provide feedback which may help to improve it through a short online questionnaire here

Published in Marine Science
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A unique marine research project, the first of its kind in Europe, studying the seas around Ireland, Western Scotland and Northern Ireland was launched this week in Derry–Londonderry. The SeaMonitor project is led by the Loughs Agency and supported by another eight leading marine research institutions using innovative marine species tracking technology to better understand and protect vulnerable marine life in our oceans.

Funding for the SeaMonitor project has been provided by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme (Environment Theme), which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), to the tune of €4.6m. Match-funding for this project has been provided by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland. This substantial investment will extend the existing network of ‘smart’ buoys and oceanographic models – delivered by sister projects COMPASS and MarPAMM – so that a line of acoustic receivers runs between the island of Ireland and Scotland.

The SeaMonitor project will deliver Europe’s largest telemetric marine array and spatial models supporting the conservation of basking shark, cetaceans, salmon, seals and skate. It will also provide three Management Plans; one for skate in the area from Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura and two for salmon in both the River Foyle and Clyde estuaries.
Loughs Agency Designated Officer, Sharon McMahon, explained: “For over twenty-one years, the Loughs Agency has been at the forefront of protection and conservation of our local waters and aquaculture. So we are really excited to be leading the way alongside expert colleagues from statutory and academic institutions and a range of stakeholders that will ultimately produce dynamic management plans for some of our most important and vulnerable species”.

Welcoming the project Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body, said; “The maritime territory across Europe is at risk from multiple challenges and must be protected for future generations of citizens. This tri-regional project will help to safeguard our precious shared marine environment by providing much-needed management and conservation work that will protect priority species and habitats, across Ireland, Northern Ireland and Western Scotland.”

John Speers, Marine and Fisheries Director at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, said “I am pleased to support the SeaMonitor project, which will use the best available technology to track some of our most important marine species. These animals spend the most of their lives hidden from view and are only occasionally seen at the surface, making monitoring them very challenging. The SeaMonitor project will help us better understand their life cycles and improve protection of these important marine species.”

Published in Marine Science
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About boot Düsseldorf: With almost 250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair and every year in January the “meeting place" for the entire industry. From 18 to 26 January 2020, around 2,000 exhibitors will be presenting their interesting new products, attractive further developments and maritime equipment. This means that the complete market will be on site in Düsseldorf and will be inviting visitors on nine days of the fair to an exciting journey through the entire world of water sports in 17 exhibition halls covering 220,000 square meters. With a focus on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology, equipment and accessories, services, canoes, kayaks, kitesurfing, rowing, diving, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, maritime art, marinas, water sports facilities as well as beach resorts and charter, there is something for every water sports enthusiast.

At A Glance – Boot Dusseldorf 

Organiser
Messe Düsseldorf GmbH
Messeplatz
40474 Düsseldorf
Tel: +49 211 4560-01
Fax: +49 211 4560-668
Web: https://www.boot.com/

The first boats and yachts will once again be arriving in December via the Rhine.

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