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Displaying items by tag: marine science

The work of a marine scientist and conservationist who pioneered a response to the Torrey Canyon supertanker environmental disaster of 1967 has been marked by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The late Stella Turk, a leading expert on molluscs on the British and Irish coasts, is among 241 people to have been acknowledged as history “shapers” in the publication’s new edition.

Turk ( née Phillips) was born in St Mary’s on the Scilly isles in 1925, and developed an interest in natural history from a young age. After she married Frank Archibald Turk, a conchologist and marine life expert, she further developed her expertise on the Cornish coast.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry records how the Torrey Canyon disaster of March 1967 had an enormous influence on her work

The supertanker struck a reef between Cornwall and Scilly and leaked some 30 million gallons of crude oil into the sea, polluting a large section of the Cornish coast.

Turk observed that “the rock pools were stripped bare” , and pointed out that quantifying the losses was made difficult by a lack of records of the pre-existing flora and fauna.

“ This seems to have focused the Turks even more sharply on the task of surveying and compiling lists of biological records for the county, continuing their extensive fieldwork, and corresponding with numerous national experts for assistance in specialist groups,” the Oxford publication says.

Turk founded the Cornish Biological Records Unit, which for many years she ran from her home in Reskadinnick, and later worked closely with the Cornish Wildlife Trust.

From 1990, she pioneered what is now Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Strandings Network, which is of international standing.

In 2019, two years after her death in 2017, a research facility at the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus was named after her.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history, worldwide, from prehistory to the year 2017. From January 2021 the dictionary includes biographies of 64,071 individuals, written by over 14,000 contributors.

Published in Marine Science
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1st December 2020

Marine Technical Co-Ordinator

P&O Maritime Services is a global company providing specialist maritime service solution through ownership, operation and management of a fleet of specialised vessels.

In Ireland, we manage Ireland's Marine Science vessels 'RV Celtic Explorer' and 'RV Celtic Voyager'.

Based in Galway, the Marine Technical Co-Ordinator will be responsible for Technical procurement and assist the Technical Manager with ship and scientific related projects.

Requirements:

  • Relevant Bachelor of Engineering qualification or equivalent.
  • It would be advantageous to have a minimum of 3 years relevant experience onboard ship as Engineer – preferably having a 2nd Engineer COC.
  • Workshop & Fabrication skills plus a working knowledge of CAD / Engineering Drawing.
  • Strong negotiation and communication skills.
  • A background of working within an asset management role is desirable but not essential.
  • Good Computer skills and experience with a computerized PMS / Purchase ordering system.

For a full job description or to apply for this role please send CV and covering letter to [email protected]

Published in Jobs
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Irish cold-water corals can survive in extreme conditions within Ireland’s largest submarine canyon on the Porcupine Bank, a new study has found.

The coral even grows on precipices of high cliffs, and can withstand sea current speed of over 114 centimetres per second, according to the study published today in the science journal Nature.

This is the highest current speed ever recorded in a cold water habitat, according to University College Cork(UCC) scientist Dr Aaron Lim who led the research.

An example of a 3D reconstruction of a cold water coral habitat from -750 m water depth at the Porcupine Bank CanyonAn example of a 3D reconstruction of a cold-water coral habitat from -750 m water depth at the Porcupine Bank Canyon Photo: Aaron Lim

Dr Lim’s team used the Holland 1 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on the State research ship Celtic Explorer to explore how coral are living in the Porcupine Bank Canyon which is 3,500 metres deep.

The Marine Institue's Holland 1 ROV being deployed from the RV Celtic Explorer as it 'holds' the deep sea monitoring system (attached to the front) before descending to the deep sea (credit Aaron Lim). The Marine Institue's Holland 1 ROV being deployed from the RV Celtic Explorer as it 'holds' the deep sea monitoring system (attached to the front) before descending to the deep sea Photo: Aaron Lim

He was part of the 2018 expedition which explored and mapped the canyon some 320 km west of Kerry, finding it full of cold-water corals forming reefs and mounds which create a rim on the lip of the canyon.

This latest expedition found coral in a range of deep marine settings.

The scientists had to use deep marine monitoring stations and three-dimensional reconstructions as part of the work. .

“These cold-water corals are growing at the very edge of a near-vertical cliff face, in Ireland’s largest submarine canyon some 850 m below the surface in very intense conditions. They’re quite literally living on the edge,” Dr Lim said.

UCC's deep sea monitoring system at the edge of the submarine canyon where it collects marine environmental data for months at a timeUCC's deep sea monitoring system at the edge of the submarine canyon where it collects marine environmental data for months at a time

As he explained, cold-water corals help to form deep-water reefs and mounds which can range from as little as ten metres to over 100 m high.

Some coral mounds have existed offshore Ireland for 2.6 million years, he said. 

“Some of these habitats were predominantly alive, while others were mostly dead and so the aim of the study was to understand what is driving this?” Dr Lim said.

UCC marine geologist Luke O’Reilly described the canyon as “a strange-place; deep, dark and cold but full of life”.

“Together with the Marine Institute, we developed a monitoring system which could withstand these pressures and conditions for months at a time,” O’Reilly said.

Prof Andy Wheeler, head of UCC’s school of biological, earth and environmental sciences, noted that the coral can cope with the strong sea currents, but tend to feed when it slows down – such as when the tide turns. 

The team have recently deployed monitoring stations in the canyon to gather information on survival over longer time scales. 

The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and Horizon 2020, with co-funding by the Marine Institute and Geological Survey, Ireland. Shiptime was funded by the Marine Institute's National Shiptime Programme.

The study is published here

Published in Marine Science

Two researchers from Trinity College, Dublin (TCD) are among leaders of a €10.4 million project to assess the significance of marine resource exploitation over the past 2,000 years.

Archaeology, history and environmental science experts will collaborate in the “4-Oceans” project, funded by the European Research Council.

It has been billed as the “first-ever globalised evaluation” of the role of marine resources on human societies over two millennia.

TCD professor of environmental history Poul Holm and assistant professor of medieval environmental history Francis Ludlow are among a four-strong team of principal investigators.

This project combines expertise in marine environmental history, climate history, natural history, geography, historical ecology and zooarchaeology - spanning the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

Working with Prof Holm and Prof Ludlow as project leaders will be University of Cambridge medieval archaeology expert James H Barrett and NOVA University, Lisbon assistant professor Cristina Brito.

Prof Holm said the €10.4 million grant would facilitate “an unparalleled understanding of humanity’s recent interactions with the oceans”.

“Specifically, combining history and archaeology with marine science and socioeconomics, the 4-Oceans team will examine when and where marine exploitation was of significance to human society,”he said.

It would also explore “how major socio-economic, cultural, and environmental forces variously constrained and enabled marine exploitation”.

It would also research “the consequences of marine resource exploitation for societal development”, he said.

His colleague, Prof Ludlow said that “long-term data and an understanding of changes in ecosystems and human behaviour over many centuries is critical to informing the continued development of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Decade for the Oceans”.

So far, the historical dimension has been missing from this, he said, and the 4-Oceans project would “introduce much-needed chronological depth... through the understanding of our past”, he said.

Professors Holm and Ludlow will oversee €5.4 million of the €10.4 million research funding total allocated to 4-Oceans.

So far, TCD researchers have secured 37 European Research Council investigator grants to the value of about 68 million euro during the course of the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework for research and innovation, which is worth nearly €80 billion in total over six years.

TCD Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast welcomed the securing of the latest award.

Published in Marine Science
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As hopes fade of Fungie’s return to Dingle, research suggests that “missing” dolphins are more likely to have migrated than died.

Dolphins in the Shannon estuary which were initially presumed to have perished had in fact moved to nearby bays, according to research published by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The study by Kim Ellen Ludwig of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) found that the “missing” dolphins had “emigrated” to Tralee and Brandon bays in Kerry, south of the Shannon estuary.

The Shannon estuary’s population of around 140 dolphins provided a good sample for the study, which Ms Ludwig conducted in collaboration with the IWDG.

The IWDG – a registered charity founded by Dr Simon Berrow in 1990 - has been monitoring the Shannon bottlenose dolphins since 1993. It constitutes the longest running whale or dolphin study in Ireland.

The group recently explored its 27-year old identification dataset to see if it could answer the question as to when to consider a dolphin as “dead” rather than missing.

Dolphins and whales are highly mobile, ranging thousands of kilometres.

Survival of young dolphins or calves is easier to monitor when they are dependent on their mothers for survival and is more difficult when calves are weaned.

The study with Ms Ludwig indicated that survival rate was 95.6% for “well-marked individual dolphins”- which means around 4.4% of adult dolphins die each year.

“For less well-marked individuals, survival increases to 5.8%, due to the higher chance a dolphin is “missed” during surveys,” it says.

The IWDG says that Ms Ludwig’s work highlights “a really important confounding factor, that of emigration outside the Shannon estuary to adjacent Tralee and Brandon bays”.

The dolphins had been presumed dead as these two bays are not routinely sampled during monitoring surveys.

Only by extending their surveys, did the IWDG realise that the dolphins were alive and well, and had extended their range.

Scientists with the IWDG are now recommending that the boundary of the lower river Shannon special area of conservation be extended to protect the important habitats of the bottlenose dolphins.

The group also suggests the area could be designated as a marine protected area as an alternative strategy.

In relation to Fungie, estimated to be 37 years old, the IWDG says that “as the time increases without a sighting and the search effort continues", it is "more likely" that he is dead rather than just simply missing.

However “his legacy will live on for years”, it says.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., has earmarked the purchase of a new marine research vessel for the State in his Department's 2021 Budget.

As Afloat previously reported, €25m was allocated in Tuesday's budget to progress the construction of the vessel.

In making the announcement Minister McConalogue said: "The budget provision will allow the Marine Institute to progress construction on the replacement of the 21-year-old Celtic Voyager with a new 54m modern research vessel that will provide critical national infrastructure to enable Ireland to address the considerable challenges of Brexit and the Common Fisheries Policy as well as climate-induced impacts on our oceans."

Celtic VoyagerCeltic Voyager - 21 years old and in need of replacement Photo: Bob Bateman

Welcoming the news Dr Paul Connolly, CEO Marine Institute said: "The Marine Institute is delighted that work can continue on the replacement for the Celtic Voyager. This new vessel will enable Ireland to develop the best scientific advice possible to maximise economic opportunities for our coastal industries and communities and ensure a sustainable resource for them".

The construction of the new national research vessel will continue in 2021 with the build process expected to be completed in summer 2022. Spanish shipyard Astilleros Armon Vigo S.A. were awarded the contract to build the new marine research vessel for Ireland last year, following an extensive EU tender process.

Set to be one of the most advanced marine research vessels in the world, Ireland's new marine research vessel will enable Ireland to undertake critical research work to deepen our understanding of our oceans and our natural resources.

The new vessel will be able to go to sea for at least 21 days at a time and will be designed to operate in harsh sea conditions. Based in Galway, the vessel will be used by the Marine Institute, other State agencies and universities to undertake fisheries research, oceanographic and environmental research, seabed mapping and other multidisciplinary surveys. It will also maintain and deploy weather buoys, observational infrastructure and our Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV Holland I).

The new vessel will be a sister ship to the State's largest research ship, the 65m RV Celtic Explorer and will replace the RV Celtic Voyager. The two Marine Institute research vessels currently in operation (RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager) are among the most intensively used research vessels in the world. The Marine Institute's RV Celtic Voyager is Ireland's first purpose built research vessel. It has been utilised heavily since its delivery 21 years ago and has been vital in providing marine scientists, researchers and its crew members, with many years of valued experience at sea, expanding and strengthening marine science in Ireland to help inform decisions affecting our ocean.

According to Dr Connolly, "The significantly enhanced capabilities of the vessel will help our researchers, educators, students and the public gain a deeper understanding of the ocean. Most importantly it will facilitate work that will support many of the projects outlined in the Programme for Government including fisheries assessment, offshore renewable energy, marine spatial planning, marine protected areas and research in the area of blue carbon."

Capital funding of €1.5m has also been allocated to the Marine Institute in Budget 2021, and funding for national research investment in marine-related activities will align with the Programme for Government and the needs of decision-makers.

Speaking about the additional funding announced in Budget 2021 Dr Connolly, said that "Research investments will add value to the core services provided by the Marine Institute to their national and international clients, including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This new research data and knowledge will strengthen our scientific and technical advice to better inform decision-making on the sustainable management of our ocean and seas".

In 2021, the Marine Institute plans to fund a call for a large-scale project for researchers to investigate the potential for carbon storage and sequestration in Irish waters. This was highlighted as an important priority area for the Marine Institute in the Programme for Government. The work will examine a range of potential carbon storage alternatives such as algal absorption, seagrass forestry, deep-sea sinks, seabed layering and shellfish farming.

In welcoming the research expenditure allocations announced in Budget 2021, The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon, T.D. said that "If we are going to continue to deliver efficiency and sustainability in the years ahead, innovation will be critical". The Minister also pointed out that the combined investment in Research and Innovation by the Department, Teagasc and the Marine Institute is now over €60m annually.

Published in Marine Science

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has called on Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State for Biodiversity Pippa Hackett to “act swiftly” over a High Court decision that overturns a ban on fishing by vessels over 18 metres long inside the six nautical mile limit.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has also called for a scientific study of species including sprat stocks in inshore waters.

A High Court judgment published last week found that the ban on trawling or fishing within seine nets by vessels over 18 metres in length inside the six-mile nautical limit has “no legal effect”.

Mr Justice Michael McGrath issued his judgment on foot of a judicial review of the ban which was introduced by former marine minister Michael Creed in March 2019.

The judicial review of the policy directive was taken by fishermen Tom Kennedy and Neil Minihane.

IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty said that the original ban was initiated “after a public consultation in 2018 which was roundly supported by low-impact fishers in smaller boats, anglers, environmental groups and members of the public”.

“It was heralded at the time as the single most important move to protect fisheries and marine biodiversity that we have seen. There is consequently widespread anger and dismay that this has now been undone,” Mr Fogarty said in a statement.

“We’re urging ministers Hackett and McConalogue to act swiftly on this High Court decision and to tell us how the trawling ban can be reinstated on a permanent basis,” he said.

“ Until then we need to see all inshore trawling shut down so that any recovery in marine life which may have been underway is not completely undone,” Mr Fogarty said.

The IWT says that trawling for small fish such as sprat “removes the principle food source for sea life, whether its whales, dolphins or larger fish”.

“Bottom trawling, which scrapes a net across the seafloor, obliterates important habitats for fish spawning and should be phased out across our seas,” it says.

IWDG co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow said that while he did not want to comment directly on the judgment, it was time for a “proper, robust scientific study” on sprat stocks.

“We know so little about sprat,” Dr Berrow told RTÉ Radio 1’s Seascapes on Friday night, pointing out how important the species is for whales.

The six-mile ban for larger vessels was introduced by Minister Michael Creed on 5th March 2019, and came into force on January 1st of this year.

The directive did give a derogation for fishing sprat within six nautical miles up to December 2021, “subject to any catch limits as may be determined by the minister from time to time”.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) has welcomed the judgment. Its chief executive Patrick Murphy said that “once again, we see flawed legislation being overturned in our High Court “.

“The view of IS&WFPO members remains that only a small proportion of fishing boats in our tiny Irish fishing fleet of 165 vessels of over 18 meters in length actually fish inside of the six-mile limit,” he said.

Mr Murphy concurred with the IWDG in calling for a scientific evaluation to calculate the biomass of all commercial stocks within the six-mile zone.

“Until this assessment is complete, we submit that no total allowable quota figure should be set for this important fishery,” he said.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The waters off the south coast of Ireland have been selected as the study location for Ireland’s first real-time acoustic monitoring project of large whales, with the aim to relay warning alerts to maritime traffic to reduce the risk of disturbance and ship strikes.

The Automated Cetacean Acoustics Project (ACAP) is being undertaken by Ocean Research & Conservation Ireland, a “for-impact” non-profit organisation based in Cork, in partnership with the Rainforest Connection and supported by Huawei Ireland.

Huawei Ireland is providing a research grant with technological support through its global TECH4ALL initiative. TECH4ALL is Huawei’s digital inclusion initiative, using technology, applications and skills to empower people and organisations everywhere.

90% of Ireland’s international trade travels by sea, with the South Coast of Ireland one of the busiest heavy ship shipping lanes in the world. Thousands of large container ships pass through it from Eastern Canada to Liverpool and other European ports annually, as well as additional pleasure boats, speed crafts and eco-tour operators.

The South Coast is also an important foraging, resting and reproductive habitat for 25 cetacean species (whales, dolphins and porpoise) and particularly for large Humpback, Fin and Minke whales. Heavy ship traffic places whales at an increased risk of ship strikes causing injury or even death, and also raises the ambient noise pollution affecting all the species present.

The new study will see the deployment of acoustic monitoring equipment in the Celtic Sea at locations where sightings of whales and other wildlife have been recorded. The equipment will be able to listen for movements of whales, and with the help of machine learning models to enhance data analysis, for the first time provide near real-time detection. This will provide multiple benefits - helping with the identifying and classification of species in Irish waters, their distribution and behaviour, and most importantly, the development of an early warning system that will enable ships to reduce their speed in time to lessen the considerable risk of ship strikes.

The project will see Ireland leading the way in the advancement of policy and programmes that respect and protect marine wildlife informed by near real-time data available for the first time, with the help of Rainforest Connection and Huawei Ireland. Not only will the detections be able to help inform policy and decision-makers in the establishment and management of potential marine protected areas (MPA’s), they will also be used for education and made available to the wider public to hear the symphony of cetacean sounds.

Commenting, lead researcher Emer Keaveney, Marine Mammal Ecologist, Ocean Research & Conservation Ireland said: “Recent advances in technology provide increasing opportunity to use these innovations for good and to enhance our understanding of the natural world. This is such an exciting time as now we have a chance to peer inside the secret world of whales in Irish waters, and directly improve their welfare and conservation”.

“We are a voluntary organisation that relies heavily on third party and private assistance, so we are delighted to have this opportunity to work with Huawei Ireland.”

Emer Keaveney will discuss the project via livestream as part of the annual Huawei Connect summit, which takes place in Shanghai and online between 23rd - 26th September. Emer Keaveney is the only Irish speaker at the summit, which focuses on AI, 5G and digital innovation.

Commenting on the announcement, Tony Yangxu, CEO Huawei Ireland said: “Huawei has been a trusted partner for over 16 years in Ireland, and we are excited to be supporting Ocean Conservation & Research Ireland as our very first fully funded TECH4ALL initiative in Ireland.”

“Huawei believes that no one should be left behind in the digital world and we have made it our mission to put digital inclusion front and centre of our business. Our TECH4ALL programme centers on developing digital inclusion and empowerment initiatives with measureable outcomes. One of its many purposes is to help accelerate the UN’s SDGs and we hope that this project with ORC Ireland can contribute to that.”

Published in Marine Science

Ireland should have 75 per cent of its land territory mapped this year, according to the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI).

A low-flying aircraft will gather geophysical date over counties Laois, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Waterford, and neighbouring parts of Offaly, Cork, Carlow and Kildare from September until the end of the year, weather permitting, the GSI says.

Based at Waterford airport, the survey plane will be flying at 60 metres over rural areas – about eight times the height of a two-storey house – and 240 metres over urban areas in the coming months, as approved by the Irish Aviation Authority.

The GSI is already involved in seabed mapping with the Marine Institute under the INFOMAR programme, and the Tellus Survey has been conducted on land over the last nine years.

Tellus collects geochemical and geophysical data on rocks, soil and water across Ireland. It involves airborne physical surveying using a low-flying aircraft, and ground-based geochemical surveying of soil, stream water and stream sediment.

It is currently funded under Project2040 - the National Development Plan – by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

The department says it has “the potential to deliver positive economic, environmental and agricultural benefits by helping to assist in local environment understanding, soil management, and natural resource potential for these counties”.

Tellus project manager and senior geologist Dr James Hodgson describes it as “an important national project, providing valuable insights into the geological makeup of Ireland”.

“The data collected from the Tellus Survey helps us to sustainably manage our environment and natural resources as well as protecting public health,” he said.

The survey aircraft is a white, twin-propeller plane (as pictured), which is easily identified by its red tail and black stripe as well as the word ‘SURVEY’ and registration number C-GSGF written across both sides of the plane.

Data collected throughout the Tellus project is published and made freely available to all on the Tellus website (www.tellus.ie).

Published in Marine Science
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When Dr Kathy Sullivan (68) climbed out of a tiny submersible which had returned from the bottom of the Mariana Trench, none of the subsequent headlines were quite as clever as that “most vertical girl in the world” slogan coined by several of her friends.

It inspired a badge which she now wears -the first female US astronaut to walk in space and to reach the deepest known point of the world’s oceans has a sharp sense of humour. Some might say with her Irish lineage that she’d have to have – she has cousins on beautiful Beara peninsula.

Former Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan wisely developed that link through initiatives like the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance when Dr Sullivan was US Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Administrator (NOAA).

Dr Sullivan - an oceanographer and geologist - joins that panoply of individuals with Irish connections who have distinguished themselves over many centuries in the marine sphere, be it in fishing or trade, or in foreign navies, in exploration, or in technology and innovation.

Kathy Sullivan is the first person to ever experience travelling to both space and the ocean's floor Kathy Sullivan is the first person to ever experience travelling to both space and the ocean's floor Photo: NASA

The lives of many of these mostly male marine pioneers - from St Brendan to submarine designer John Philip Holland and explorers Sir Ernest Shackleton and Edward Bransfield - have been documented by late maritime historian Dr John de Courcy Ireland among others. He was often asked by colleagues at international conferences to explain why so many Irish mariners of note had to go abroad to make their name.

These academics were curious to know why there was not much more lasting “Viking influence” in Irish socio-economic activity, given that Ireland’s coastal state population was not dissimilar in size to that of Norway. The “real map of Ireland” is at least ten times the land size - as that clever Marine Institute postcard image depicts - and our Continental Shelf position on a northerly latitude is tempered by the influence of the Gulf Stream

The impact of colonisation, including deliberate efforts to suppress the Irish fishing fleet when it became too competitive, were among reasons given by Dr de Courcy Ireland during a debate on this question at a conference on “Ireland the Sea”. It was hosted by the Merriman Summer School and Bord Iascaigh Mhara in Co Clare back in 1983.

I came across the paperback record of that debate, and it was welcome distraction during a brief “Covid-19 lockdown” office tidy. Conference participant and founding Irish Skipper editor Arthur Reynolds pointed to the uneconomic reality of 900 different landing points around the coast. The fertility of this island’s soil always made agriculture a more attractive bet, he said.

Labour Party politician Justin Keating, a vet and RTÉ Head of Agricultural Programmes, posed a more complex answer. During his time as industry and commerce minister almost a decade earlier, he had attempted to set up a “Statoil” model for hydrocarbon development here. He noted that the sea provided this State with “almost an embarrassment of riches, and a superb national challenge”.

“The fact that this potential had not been realised was not due to “genetics” or “laziness”, but due in part to economics and the “horrendously expensive” costs of certain maritime development, Keating said. However, there was also a confidence factor, he argued; we were only beginning to recover from a “profound culture shock” which was “not unique to us”.

The colonial experience had touched “everywhere in the world where people were defeated by newer and superior technology, from South-East Asia to the homelands of the North American Indians,” Keating said. He outlined one First Nation response to this shock - the “ghost dance”, and suggested the Irish version of this was our “fascination with words and music.... based on their use in a magic sense, for altering consciousness and for making reality go away....”.

Magic being illusionary, the only possible “national therapy” was development of our marine potential, in his view. Without mobilisation of capital – which had fled these shores over previous centuries – we would not “mobilise technology”, he said.

That same year, a marine management system which has had devastating results for coastal states like this one was rubberstamped. Just two EU states – Ireland and Denmark - had a surplus of fish at the time of Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) formulation.

The CFP is subject to ten-yearly reviews, which now place much greater emphasis on sustainability. Brexit creates a really serious challenge, as industry organisations have outlined, yet there seems to be a reluctance here to seek a more equitable revision of the policy, based on proximity to a resource.

As the late Castletownbere fishermen and industry leader Donal O’Driscoll pointed out, the initial deal struck in favour of agricultural benefits and structural funds was never intended by our EU masters to be “cast in stone”.

EU directives on the environment have had a more positive influence, though sometimes failing to protect communities from the pressures of the market. A template for democratic planning published by the British Institution of Civil Engineers four years ago cited this State’s handling of the Corrib gas project as an example of “how not to undertake a development”.

The methodology known as Global Risk and Strategic Assessment Planning (GRASP) developed by British chartered surveyor Michael Ocock, organisational psychologist Prof Agi Oldfield and colleagues aims to avoid selective consultation or a domination of debates by “rogue stakeholders” and the “space shuttle syndrome” identified in large scale projects which have taken a wrong turn. Scottish islanders have also taught us that sustainability is not about ticking consultation boxes, but about genuine stakeholder engagement and community return.

Growing of seaweedGrowing of seaweed

Like the tide coming in and out twice a day, the sea still throws up endless opportunities for change – seaweed culture as one example, which the late British scientist Dr Eric Edwards once forecast would be far more lucrative for Ireland than salmon farming. Fascinating work by the Bantry Marine Research Station in west Cork is exploring how a type of red seaweed could also reduce methane emissions in cattle – a valuable case, if realised, of “blue meets green”.

Explorations off the Cork Coast could see Ireland's first floating offshore wind farmExplorations off the Cork Coast could see Ireland's first floating offshore wind farm

That active Atlantic system which could turn Ireland into a “Green gulf” of renewable energy, in the words of one developer, could fuel home energy needs and bulk hydrogen exports. The 30-year strategy drawn up by the Eirwind consortium involving University College, Cork researchers Dr Val Cummins (now gone into private practice) and Dr Jimmy Murphy and industry cites the importance of prioritising the long-awaited marine planning framework and supporting legislation.

The reports by NUI Galway’s Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit which inform the government’s Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth strategy show a positive trend. It recently reported on the opportunities which coastal tourism could offer during this pandemic.

coastal tourism studyTotal expenditure by domestic tourists in coastal areas was estimated to be €698 million in 2018, which represents 35% of the total expenditure by domestic tourists that year, a new study says.

Complementing the research in third-level institutions and the efforts of the Marine Institute and BIM, there are also a plethora of individuals and non-governmental organisations who have helped to raise awareness of our maritime heritage and of our potential on the Atlantic margin.

Like Dr Sullivan, there are many women involved in the forefront of marine research, development, innovation, along with master mariners, harbourmasters, sailors like Olympic medallist Annalise Murphy and offshore yachtswoman Joan Mulloy. Yvonne Shields O’Connor, formerly of the Marine Institute, is chief executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, and Ireland’s first female master marine Capt Sinead Reen is in a senior role at the National Maritime College of Ireland.

And Irish people no longer have to leave to have an impact in that big blue field. Marine Institute chief executive Dr Paul Connolly has been at the helm of the prestigious International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), and his predecessor, Dr Heffernan, is one of 15 experts on the European Commission’s Mission Board for Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Waters. And the unthinkable happened in 2015 when a former Naval Service flag officer, now Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, became head of the Defence Forces.

Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, head of the Defence ForcesVice-Admiral Mark Mellett, head of the Defence Forces

A global pandemic can focus attention on the potential of the ocean environment and the rich waters around this island - as a vital source of protein, new medical treatments and a source of renewable energy. However, a pandemic might also distract attention from its fragility, and the fact that man-made rubbish has reached the remote Mariana Trench and microplastics are poisoning the deepest ocean creatures.

Plastic at the bottom of Mariana TrenchPlastic at the bottom of Mariana Trench Source: Sustainability Times

“We have taken for granted the fact that we have been fortunate to live in the Goldilocks zone – that sweet spot in relation to the Sun,” Dr Sullivan told me in a recent interview.

Ireland is in the sweetest “Goldilocks zone” when it comes to marine resources. We must be ready to manage that good fortune sensitively, and for both communities and individuals, when the gold rush comes.

Published in Marine Science
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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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