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Displaying items by tag: marine wildlife

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan has pledged to find “common ground between fishers, farmers, foresters, NGOs, businesses, scientists and the public” to develop a national restoration plan.

He was commenting after MEPs voted to pass the Nature Restoration Law at the European Parliament.

Welcoming the outcome of the vote, Noonan said he knew that “there are some communities who will be very concerned at today’s news”.

“Let me be clear: nature restoration can only be delivered with the full support of the farming, forestry and fishing communities who own and/or manage our lands and seas. This support is something that, with the help of colleagues across Government, I intend to earn,” he said.

Birdwatch Ireland said a very “weakened law” had been passed, and said it was “really alarming to see that the provisions to restore farmland biodiversity and peatlands were removed completely.

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) said it was delighted that MEPs voted to pass the law, and described it as a “substantial step forward for the European Green Deal”.

“While it could be more ambitious, the law has not been stopped at this critical stage in the biodiversity crisis,” the IWT said.

IWT marine advocacy officer Grace Carr said that amendments involving the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) are a “step forward for marine restoration and biodiversity”.

She said that there is “still work to be done in negotiations to make the law more ambitious than it currently is”.

The amendment relating to the CFP will ensure member states can put conservation measures in place to protect ecosystems in their waters, the IWT noted, and said this was “particularly welcome”.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Birdwatch Ireland has welcomed a decision to extend marine protection for a North Atlantic sea area outside of Ireland’s exclusive economic zone.

The seafloor of the North Atlantic Current and Evlanov Sea Basin (NACES) has been given marine protected area (MPA) designation by 15 governments, including Ireland, which are signatories to the OSPAR convention.

The 600,000 km2 area is east of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and north of the Azores.

“The NACES MPA is a vital wintering ground for the globally threatened Atlantic puffin, a species in rapid decline and one which also breeds in Ireland during the summer and is much loved,” Birdwatch Ireland marine policy and advocacy officer Sinead Loughran said.

She described the decision is “an incredibly important first step to ensure that this biodiversity hotspot in the North Atlantic high seas” can continue to support an “ abundance and diversity of marine life”.

The sea basin which is the size of continental France, was designated in 2021, after research by BirdLife International showed that five million seabirds, including puffins breeding on Skellig Michael, use it every year.

The extension to protect the seafloor was agreed by OSPAR signatories in Oslo, Norway, last week.

This is due to the location’s significance for a “multitude” of marine species and the value of its seabed habitats.

Evidence gathered over the last two years also shows the NACES MPA is key marine habitat for blue and fin whales, leatherback and loggerhead turtles, basking sharks, European eels and Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The MPA’s seafloor habitat includes over 30 seamounts, with vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as deep-sea sponges and coral gardens, serving as “crucial pillars for supporting a wide array of vibrant ecosystems”.

Over 16,400 people had supported a petition by BirdWatch Ireland and BirdLife International for better protection of the site.

The organisations say it is now “essential that OSPAR develops a management plan for the site”.

The 1992 OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic involves Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain, along with the EU.

Published in Marine Planning

The inaugural World Ocean Conference has been told that three-quarters of the Irish public believe that marine ecosystems and the protection and restoration of marine species should be Government policy.

This claim was made by the conference organisers, the Fair Seas environmental organisation, based on a survey of over 1,000 adults.

The conference at Cork City Hall is being attended by delegates mainly from Ireland but also with overseas representatives. It is discussing the next steps in developing Marine Protected Areas, on which Government legislation is expected.

The majority of the attendance is from environmental and non-government organisations. There are also commercial, State, leisure and tourism interests.

The organisers, Fair Seas, outlined the results of their Red C survey into the attitude of Irish adults to the sea and oceans. It shows, the organisation says, that three-quarters of people "believe the government should prioritise fully protecting valuable marine ecosystems. More than half of people surveyed say they would be more likely to vote for a party or candidate that takes an interest in the health of our seas and ocean."

The conference at Cork City Hall is being attended by delegates mainly from Ireland but also with overseas representativesThe conference at Cork City Hall is being attended by delegates mainly from Ireland but also with overseas representatives

The survey was carried out over five days last month as an online poll. Findings include :

Just over a third (39%) of people surveyed believe Irish seas are healthy.

Almost two-thirds of people (62%) believe Irish seas have worsened in the past decade.

A majority of people (77%) agree that restoring the seas and ocean will protect marine biodiversity and help to tackle climate change.

Three-quarters (74%) of people agree that protection and restoration of marine wildlife populations and their habitats must be a priority for the government.

Three-quarters (74%) of people believe that up to 10% of Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas should be fully protected where no damaging activities occur.

72% of people believe all fishing activities in Ireland should be low impact and within scientific advice limits.

More than half (56%) would be more likely to vote for a party or candidate that takes an interest in the health of our seas and ocean.

The Campaign Manager of Fair Seas, Aoife O'Mahony said: “It’s amazing to see that most people care for, value and respect our seas. "

The conference was told by keynote speaker Professor Rashid Sumaila from the University of British Columbia, a well-known and respected ocean economist, that loss of biodiversity in the oceans would have human consequences. Speaking about 'economics and the future of fishing" he said: "We should 'abandon the notion that we have to take everything all at once." He urged "don't fish orphans of the ocean" and said that deep sea mining should be avoided.

"Now is the time for action, “Our fisheries are vanishing and the ocean is in trouble for all sorts of reasons."

He suggested a "coming together" of environmental NGOs, civil society, scientists and businesses "to make sure we implement the agreements that have been reached. We have the capacity; we have the brains, the resources and empathy to turn things around and make the ocean sustainable.”

Karen Ciesielski, CEO of Irish Environment Network, said: “Ireland has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get this right and show leadership by adopting legislation that will protect marine habitats and species for generations to come."

Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks.

It is funded by Oceans 5, Blue Nature Alliance, BFCT and The Wyss Foundation.

While the conference is well-attended, it is dominated by environmental organisations with little challenging voices to their proposals.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Galway’s Grattan Beach is to become a “living lab” for the city this month, as part of a pilot project.

Sand fencing is to be installed during the month of June as part of research on “nature-based solutions” for managing the beach and sand dunes.

The project involves Galway City Council, along with the University of Galway and the Atlantic Seaboard North Climate Action Regional Office (CARO).

Sand fencing at Galway’s Grattan beach Photo: Dr. Kevin LynchSand fencing at Galway’s Grattan beach Photo: Dr. Kevin Lynch

A ‘living lab’ is where scientists move from the laboratory to the real world to find solutions to problems, working with other experts and the public, the city council says.

“This project extends the work of the community-led “I Like Beaches'” project, where local groups have been contributing their ideas to develop a “living lab that would make space for nature and visitors on Grattan,” it says.

The “I Like Beaches” project has been running since 2012.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have welcomed the final report of the Citizens' Assembly on Biodiversity Loss which extends to the marine environment.

The report by 99 members of the Citizens’ Assembly carries 159 recommendations on how Ireland can improve its response to the biodiversity crisis.

The final report “echoes the overwhelming majority of recommendations championed by the Environmental Pillar”, the 32-member coalition of Irish environmental NGOs said.

Coastwatch, which is part of the Environmental Pillar, said that the core recommendations were “superb” and “if implemented, can turn decades of biodiversity loss around and give citizens rights to protect nature”.

“The assembly’s recommendation to not just designate 30% of Ireland’s maritime area as marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2030, but effectively manage this network of MPAs is crucial,” Coastwatch co-ordinator Karin Dubsky said.

“However, aquaculture doesn’t get a mention in the report, and the marine environment is under unprecedented pressure today. Ireland will need to do much more to ensure healthy seas into the future,” Dubsky said.

Environmental Pillar land use policy and advocacy officer Fintan Kelly said that the government “now has a clear mandate from the Irish people to redouble efforts to restore nature”.

“Through the Nature Restoration Law, which is currently being negotiated at an EU level, the government has a unique opportunity to immediately respond to the concerns of the Citizens Assembly by positively shaping the EU’s response to biodiversity loss and climate change,” he said.

“We call on the Irish government to play a positive role in negotiations and maximise the opportunity for the country and deliver the long-term support required to improve our relationship with nature across land and at sea,” Kelly said.

In a separate statement, the Fair Seas network said, "Immediate action and significant funding is needed to address Ireland’s biodiversity crisis”.

Fair Seas is committed to seeing a minimum of 30% of Irish waters designated and managed as MPAs by 2030, up from the current figure of 8%.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius say the EU wants to establish a “pact for fisheries and oceans” to ensure sustainable fisheries, protect and restore marine ecosystems and strengthen long-term food security.

The Commissioner was commenting as the European Commission published four action plans relating to biodiversity and climate breakdown in the marine environment.

Phasing out bottom trawling, extending marine protected areas and reducing reliance on fossil fuel are main themes of the four plans, arising from the European “Green Deal”.

The four plans are: 

Communication on the Energy Transition of the EU Fisheries and Aquaculture sector

an Action Plan to protect and restore marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries

Communication on the common fisheries policy today and tomorrow and 

Report on the Common Market Organisation for fishery and aquaculture products.

The EU said the main objectives of the measures are “to promote the use of cleaner energy sources and reduce dependency on fossil fuels as well as reduce the sector’s impact on marine ecosystems”.

“The proposed actions will be carried out gradually to help the sector adapt,”it said.

“ A “Pact for Fisheries and Oceans” will also support the full implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in coordination with member states and fisheries stakeholders, including fishers, producer organisations, regional advisory councils, civil society and scientists,”the Commission said.

“The proposals also have at its heart making the sector an attractive job place for the younger generations,”it said.

The proposed “pact” aims “to ensure sustainable and resilient fisheries, protect and restore our marine ecosystems, make the sector profitable and strengthen our food security in the long-term”, the Commissioner said.

“We are proposing concrete actions to restore marine ecosystems and to reduce the impact of fishing activities on the marine environment, thus responding also to the commitments the EU made in the historic agreement reached at COP15 in Montreal on a new global biodiversity framework,”he said.

“ We are also promoting an energy transition to help the sector adapt its vessels and equipment, improve working conditions and move towards renewable, low-carbon energy sources,”he said.

“ We know this is a challenging task. For this reason, the transformation will be gradual and we will promote dialogue between all communities to lay the foundation for a resilient fisheries and aquaculture sector,” he said.

The Commissioner gave a press conference which can be viewed here https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-237641.

More information is also provided by the European Commission on the following links:

Q&A on the Communication on the functioning of the common fisheries policy

Q&A on the Action Plan to protect and restore marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries

Q&A on the energy transition in the EU fisheries and aquaculture sector

Q&A on the Report on the results of Common Market Organisation for fishery and aquaculture products

Factsheet

Published in Fishing
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An Irish short film featuring communities who make a living from the sea is set to reach global audiences tonight (Tuesday, February 7th). Fair Seas: The Kingdom of Kerry has been selected for inclusion at the Festival of Ocean Films 2023 in Vancouver, Canada.

The festival returns after a two-year pause and celebrates people’s connection to the ocean. It aims to inspire conversation and conservation by featuring beautiful films from Canada and across the world.

The Festival of Ocean Films 2023 got underway at the Vancity Theatre, Vancouver last night and continues tonight.

Fair Seas: The Kingdom of Kerry is a 12-minute film exploring how changes to how local coasts and waters are protected would affect the people and communities nearby. It includes extensive footage of the southwest coast which was named Ireland’s first ‘Hope Spot’ by Mission Blue. The ‘Greater Skellig Coast’ now joins the Galápagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef and parts of Antarctica as special places scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean.

Film producer Jack O’DonovanFilm producer Jack O’Donovan

The film was produced by Jack O’Donovan of Trá of Fair Seas - a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks working to build a movement of ocean stewardship across Ireland. The documentary was directed by Tasha Phillips of Swimming Head Productions with cinematography by Lawrence Eagling of Swimming Head Productions. The film was partly funded by the Irish Marine Institute.

The film hears diverse voices from across coastal communities, including a fisherman, an angler, an ecotourism operator, a biologist and a diver, who share their inextricable connection to the sea. It officially premiered in Kerry in October 2022.

Jack O'Donovan Trá, Communications Officer at Fair Seas: “It is such a privilege to travel around Ireland's coast meeting with communities that rely almost entirely on healthy seas. The aim of Fair Seas is to build a movement of ocean stewardship across Ireland and to ensure the Irish government meet their targets of protecting 30% of Irish waters with a network of well-managed Marine Protected Areas by 2030. What better way to tie these two aims together than to explore the lives of those communities whose everyday rituals ebb and flow with the tides and who will become the stewards of protected areas on their shores? Fair Seas: The Kingdom of Kerry is a film that shows passion, ambition, tradition and new hope among the people of Ireland to build a better, more sustainable future for generations to come. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to coordinate such a powerful statement of ocean optimism and am now delighted to see it appearing on the international stage.”

Fair Seas: The Kingdom of Kerry is one of several short films highlighting the ongoing and critically important conversation around sustainable fishing that will be shown this evening (February 7th). The screening will be followed by an expert panel discussion featuring Fair Seas Policy Officer Dr Donal Griffin.

Dr Griffin said, "This global recognition of Ireland and the importance of conserving our ocean is even more critical now as we finalise our own national Marine Protected Area legislation. At Fair Seas, we have been campaigning for the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas by 2030 and it is fantastic to see progress beginning to be made. However, we have one chance to do this right and we owe it to the next generation to do this well."

The screening of Fair Seas - The Kingdom of Kerry begins at 6pm on February 7th at the VIFF Centre in downtown Vancouver. Global audiences can also tune in online. The panel will begin around 7pm, after the series of short films.

Published in Maritime TV

A large stretch of ocean off the south west coast of Ireland has been added to a list of ‘Hope Spots’ by a global marine conservation movement. Mission Blue is led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle and now has a network of 148 Hope Spots across the globe. It aims to inspire public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of Marine Protected Areas.

Hope Spots are special places that are scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean. Existing spots include the Galápagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, the Northwest Passage and parts of Antarctica. Some locations are already formally protected, while others still need defined protection.

The Greater Skellig Coast stretches from Kenmare Bay in Co Kerry to Loop Head in Co Clare and covers an area of roughly 7,000km2 of Irish coastal waters. It is home to critically endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction which rely on these areas for breeding and feeding.

The area has been championed by Fair Seas, a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks, with the support of Sea Synergy, a marine awareness and activity centre based in Kerry. Fair Seas has been campaigning for the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas (MPA) by 2030. The Greater Skellig Coast is one of 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ identified for possible MPA designation by the organisation.

Mission Blue was founded by American oceanographer, explorer and author Dr Sylvia Earle. She has been National Geographic’s Explorer in Residence since 1998 and was named the first Hero for the Planet by Time Magazine.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue says, “This Hope Spot is being announced at a crucial time for Ireland because in 2023, new national Marine Protected Area (MPA) legislation will be introduced for the first time. 81% of Irish people believe that we need to protect, conserve and restore the ocean. This legislation will help achieve this very desirable protection.”

Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas said, “It is incredible to see a small part of Ireland’s seas being recognised as critically important to global ocean health by Mission Blue, and joining the likes of the Galapágos Islands and other world-famous marine locations. The waters off the coast of Kerry and Clare are rich with fascinating creatures and marine life but there has been an alarming decline in the numbers of iconic species like angel sharks in recent years. We want to halt that decline and give species every chance to thrive. The Hope Spot will help us to raise awareness and bring the public closer to the ocean as we work to safeguard the water and the marine life within. This global recognition is even more critical now as we finalise our own national MPA legislation in Ireland. We have one chance to do this right and we owe it to the next generation to do this well.”

Minister for Tourism, Catherine Martin added, “I welcome the news that a large area of ocean off the south west coast of Ireland has been added to a list of ‘Hope Spots’ by the global marine conservation movement, Mission Blue, which is led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle. Our small island of Ireland is not only draped in a wealth of natural beauty but it is also surrounded by an ocean filled with an assortment of marine life and a coastline, which houses numerous colonies of birds and wildlife. This all contributes to the richness and attractiveness of Ireland as a destination for tourists and all of which needs to be preserved and protected. Announcements like this are also timely as we are currently developing a new national tourism policy. This new policy will seek to support sustainable economic development in communities throughout the country, whilst protecting our environment and natural resources.”

Aoife O’Mahony from Fair Seas and Lucy Hunt have been named as champions of the Greater Skellig Coast Hope Spot by Mission Blue.

Lucy Hunt said, “I founded Sea Synergy in 2014 to help raise awareness of the importance of the ocean and encourage others to fall in love with the ocean and to help protect it. We have so much to be proud of when it comes to our coast and the Wild Atlantic way, from the wildlife to the views. It’s important we do everything we can to preserve and where needed restore it. We’re lucky that we can see dolphins, seals and huge bird colonies from the shore as well as experience a whole other amazing world beneath the surface from kelp forests to jewelled sea walls. The Hope Spot designation confirms what we already knew in Co Kerry and Co Clare, that the ocean is critically important. It’s my wish that this designation will help inspire people to take a closer look at what the ocean offers and that we will see more Hope Spots and action to live in harmony with Ireland's ocean.”

Published in Marine Planning

Ireland has been referred to the European Court of Justice for failing to transpose the Water Framework directive into national law correctly.

The directive provides a framework for protecting inland and coastal waters and groundwater by preventing pollution and protecting water-dependent ecosystems and water resources.

Member states are obliged to establish river basin management plans, as an important element of the EU’s “zero pollution ambition” under its “Green Deal”.

The European Commission says EU member states were required to transpose the Water Framework Directive into national law by December 22nd, 2003.

“Ireland initially adopted legislation, but the Commission found it to be insufficient,” it says. A formal notice to Ireland was sent in October 2007, and a reasoned opinion in November 2011.

“Despite some progress and the adoption of new legislation in June 2022, the Irish authorities have not yet fully addressed the grievances, over 20 years after the entry into force of this directive,” the Commission says in a statement.

“Ireland's transposing law still needs to provide for appropriate controls in the following areas: water abstraction, impoundment and activities causing hydro-morphological changes such as dams, weirs and other interferences in natural water flow,” it says.

“The Commission considers that efforts by the Irish authorities have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient and is therefore referring Ireland to the Court of Justice of the European Union,” it says.

Ireland presented a new Water Environment Bill on September 28th, 2022, which is now with the Dáil for debate and adoption.

The Commission says that in spite of this legislative move, it “is not clear how long it will take for full compliance to be achieved”.

Published in Marine Wildlife

What do the Loch Ness monster, the El Nino effect and dead water at sea have in common?

All may be associated with internal waves, a phenomenon of wave motion in which Dr David Henry of the School of Mathematical Sciences, University College Cork (UCC) has expertise.

As Dr Henry explains in an interview with Wavelengths for Afloat, internal water waves, which are responsible for the “dead water” phenomenon observed by sailors at sea, play a fundamental role in any meaningful description of large-scale dynamics of the ocean.

He says that an improved understanding of their behaviour is “essential to developing our understanding of ocean circulation and ocean-atmosphere dynamics, which are in turn fundamental processes underlying climate dynamics”.

Dr David Henry of the School of Mathematical Sciences, University College CorkDr David Henry of the School of Mathematical Sciences, University College Cork

Internal waves have some particularly interesting, and quite unforeseen, impacts in both the real and “fictional” worlds, he says.

For instance, dolphins have been observed swimming ahead of a moving ship by “surfing” the internal waves that it generates, and it has also been suggested that internal wave-related activity might be one explanation for the Loch Ness monster in Scotland.

Henry recalls how internal waves may have influenced Australian submarine exposure to Turkish forces during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 during the first world war.

Internal waves have been observed up to 50 metres high in the Celtic Sea, and in the Rockall Trough, the Malin Sea and Shelf, lying immediately north of Ireland, and to the east of the Rockall Trough, he says.

Internal waves have ”a major impact in biological considerations since they carry nutrients onto the continental shelf - 50% of shelf sea nutrients are estimated to arrive across the shelf-break boundary”, he adds.

They are also of interest to geological oceanographers because these waves produce sediment transport on ocean shelves, while breaking internal waves on sloping surfaces creates erosion.

The steady crash of waves pounding the shore draws vacationers to beaches across the world when temperatures climb. Driven by the wind and tides, these familiar waves ride across the top of the ocean. But deeper waves also move through ocean waters, visible only from their influence on ocean currents. These waves are internal waves, and they run through lowest layers of ocean water, never swelling the surface. Credit: Google Earth - March 6, 2007KMLThe steady crash of waves pounding the shore draws vacationers to beaches across the world when temperatures climb. Driven by the wind and tides, these familiar waves ride across the top of the ocean. But deeper waves also move through ocean waters, visible only from their influence on ocean currents. These waves are internal waves, and they run through lowest layers of ocean water, never swelling the surface. Credit: Google Earth - March 6, 2007KML

And they are of relevance to coastal engineers because of the tidal and residual currents that they generate, which can cause scour on near shore as well as offshore structures.

“In spite of their clear importance, several important theoretical gaps remain in our understanding of the ocean dynamics induced by internal water waves, and wave-current interactions,” Dr Henry says.

To advance this knowledge, Science Foundation Ireland has awarded €916,000 for a research project led by Dr Henry, in collaboration with Professor Rossen Ivanov, School of Mathematics and Statistics, TU Dublin.

Dr Henry spoke about this to Wavelengths below

Published in Wavelength Podcast
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About the Endurance II Replica Project

An Irish project has been launched on the 150th anniversary of explorer Ernest Shackleton's birth, to build a replica of his ship, Endurance II, in County Kildare.

The project has high-profile patrons such as the Prince Albert II of Monaco, Alexandra Shackleton (Shackleton's granddaughter), and Richard Garriott, the President of the Explorer's Club.

The project is still at the concept stage, so the estimated cost of construction, which is expected to be around €14m, and the annual operational budget of €1.5m are not yet confirmed.

The project organisers are seeking $600,000 (€556,350) from 12 "founders," who will each contribute $50,000. The chairman of private investment firm Kilcullen Kapital Partners, Galway-born O’Coineen, bought the Business Post newspaper in 2018.