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Irish companies, researchers and NGOs involved in climate action supporting oceans and a “sustainable blue economy” in developing countries could qualify for grants under a new €1m government fund.

Work in small island developing states may also qualify if related to climate action.

Individual grants of up to €300,000 are available under the Irish Aid Enterprise Fund for International Climate Action announced by the Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora Colm Brophy.

The fund is aimed at Irish organisations, working alone or as part of international partnerships, who will be invited to submit proposals for climate-related activities with a commercial or enterprise aspect

“Irish Aid and our partners work hard to support climate action in developing countries but the level of action needed means we need all hands on deck,” Mr Brophy said.

“ Climate change is the greatest challenge that we face. We must pull out all the stops"

“The private sector, as well as researchers and NGOs, have an important role to play in both supporting and delivering climate action,” he said.

“ The Irish Aid Enterprise Fund for International Climate Action will allow Irish Aid to engage Irish entrepreneurship, talent, experience and knowledge in support of climate action for those who need it most.”

Particular consideration will be given to activities targeting:

  • Climate action taking place in “Least Developed Countries” or “Small Island Developing States”;
  • Clean energy (including clean cooking) projects that reach the community level;
  • Climate action with an adaptation focus;
  • Climate action that supports oceans and sustainable blue economy;
  • Climate action with cross-cutting impacts for gender and/or biodiversity.

The fund will support a variety of activities, including project funding, research and feasibility studies, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The fund will also support capacity building and knowledge exchange activities between organisations in Ireland and developing countries.

The department said that the private sector plays an integral role in financing the climate response, but it is “crucial” that it increases.

By 2030 annual climate finance of $4.35 trillion will be required to reach our climate objectives, it says.

The closing date for applications is April 29th, 2022, and further details on eligibility and application forms are at the Irish Aid Enterprise Fund for International Climate Action - Department of Foreign Affairs.

Published in Marine Science
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Martin Heydon T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety, and New Market Development at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), visited the Marine Institute’s headquarters in Oranmore, Co Galway today.

The innovative research programmes being undertaken by the Marine Institute were highlighted during Minister Heydon’s visit. In presentations by Marine Institute scientists, Minister Heydon was provided with an overview of four significant research projects funded by DAFM.

Minister Heydon said, “It has been a pleasure to see the exemplary science being undertaken by the Marine Institute and how funding from DAFM is enabling applied research in the areas of aquaculture, fisheries and marine planning. It is also important to see the collaborative approach in these research projects, where Marine Institute scientists are working together with industry and third-level institutions, to enable Ireland’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors to grow sustainably.”

Dr Niall McDonough, Director of Policy, Innovation and Research Services at the Marine Institute said, “We are delighted to welcome Minister Heydon to the Marine Institute to see our facilities and meet with our scientific researchers. Research is central to the services we provide to industry, government and stakeholders in Ireland. The research funding provided by DAFM, enables the Marine Institute to continue delivering new knowledge and innovation which supports Ireland’s marine sector.”

During his visit, the Minister Heydon learned about some of the projects that have been funded through the DAFM competitive research programme. The FishKOSM project, led by Prof Dave Reid of the Marine Institute, set out to reconsider the Maximum Sustainable Yield of commercial fisheries by looking at the wider ecosystem. The project team looked at the relationship between fishing and the ecosystem, and changes in that relationship. The project outcome means that fisheries managers can be provided with a more nuanced view of Maximum Sustainable Yield, when considering commercial fish stocks as part of a wider and dynamic ecosystem. This allows advice on exploitation to be provided that considers sustainability in a holistic way, and not just in terms of an individual stock.

The PSPSafe project, led by Dave Clarke of the Marine Institute, is investigating the increasing abundance and distribution of Paralytic Shellfish Toxins – a group of naturally occurring marine toxins which can occur in shellfish and cause serious illness to humans if consumed. In collaboration with University College Dublin and Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, this research project aims to develop risk management strategies and predictive forecasting tools to provide an early warning system for the aquaculture industry and regulatory authorities, while also providing increased food safety assurances to consumers, and ensuring the high quality and reputation of Irish shellfish.

Bivalve molluscs such as mussels, oysters, clams and cockles, have a significant socio-economic and ecological role to play in Irish marine coastal communities and environments. Dr Oliver Tully from the Marine Institute is collaborating with University College Cork on the BIVALVE research project, which seeks to bridge research and practice to improve the future sustainability and growth of the Irish shellfish industry. The involvement of industry stakeholders is integral to the project with the final output ultimately to recommend, implement and monitor best practices for smart sustainable production to increase profitability in this sector, as well as preserving important ecosystem services for the marine environment.

Finally, the SEERAC (Spatially Explicit Ecological Risk Assessment for Conservation) project, involving Dr Oliver Tully and the National University of Ireland Galway, focuses on the planning and organisation of activities in the marine environment. Different human activities and industry sectors are competing for space and there is also an underlying requirement to conserve and protect marine habitats and species. This project sought to develop expertise in Ireland on the use of risk assessments and methods for conservation planning to support advice to government.

Published in Marine Science

With an investment of €2.6 million under the Marine Institute’s 2021 Blue Carbon call, two Irish research teams led by Dr Grace Cott and Dr Mark Coughlan of University College Dublin, will undertake a substantial programme of research to investigate how Ireland’s marine habitats store carbon and potentially reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. This flagship award by the Marine Institute is co-funded with contribution of €400,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

‘Blue Carbon’ refers to the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by natural marine and coastal habitats in a way that can be quantified. This is a critical ecosystem service which helps to reduce the extent and speed of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

The five-year programme of research will improve our understanding of how Ireland’s Blue Carbon habitats, which include coastal salt marshes and seagrass beds, can mitigate climate change. The research will also investigate the substantial carbon sequestration capacity of seabed sediments which are challenging to quantify. The successful projects, (BlueC and Quest), will deepen our understanding of the carbon dynamics in Irish marine ecosystems and assess their capacity to be integrated into climate policy.

This is research that is specifically targeted to inform policy and regulation. It will provide knowledge and evidence to assist with Ireland’s goal of attaining 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and improve our capacity to meet broader Irish and international climate and biodiversity targets.

In line with a commitment under the current Programme for Government, the research will also inform the appropriate and effective development, regulation and use of Marine Protected Areas, and broader marine spatial planning and management frameworks including the National Marine Planning Framework.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute said, “This research will be extremely important in generating a much greater understanding of how Ireland’s marine and coastal systems act as a key carbon sink to mitigate against climate change. The ability to quantify the uptake and storage of atmospheric carbon by marine habitats such as salt marshes and seagrass beds could be key in helping to meet national and European climate adaptation and mitigation policy goals. This project is also important in the context of meeting EU nature restoration targets for those habitats that can capture and store carbon and prevent and reduce coastal erosion and flooding.”

According to Dr Grace Cott, University College Dublin and Principal Investigator in the BlueC project, “ocean and coastal marine systems play a significant role in the global carbon cycle, representing the largest long-term sink of carbon. Ireland has two Blue Carbon habitats; saltmarsh and seagrass meadows, and a vast marine territory containing potential Blue Carbon systems, such as carbon-rich macroalgae, maërl, cold water corals, phytoplankton and sediments. Specifically, for Ireland, there is a paucity of data on the carbon storage capacity of these ecosystems, and a lack of coherent management strategies that hampers our ability to integrate these ecosystems into climate policy frameworks.”

Working with project partners NUI Galway and University College Cork, the overarching aim of BlueC is to advance scientific understanding of the carbon dynamics in Irish coastal and marine environments, whilst simultaneously improving management and harnessing their potential for climate mitigation, adaptation and other ecosystem services to underpin policy development. Dr Cott emphasises that engagement with stakeholders will be a key goal throughout the project in addition to building national capacity for Blue Carbon research across disciplines. A key deliverable from this project will be a validated national inventory of the carbon storage capacity of Blue Carbon habitats which will enable inclusion in National Inventory Greenhouse Gas reporting to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Dr Mark Coughlan, also of University College Dublin and Principal Investigator in the Quest project, says, “Ireland’s expansive marine resource has the potential to sequester and store significant amounts of carbon in seafloor sediments and the habitats they support.”

He explains the challenge he and his partners are trying to address, “there is a scarcity of data and information on the past and present stock of carbon in seafloor sediments. At the same time, Ireland’s seabed is coming under increased pressure from direct human activities which add to the impacts of climate change itself. To fully understand, and effectively manage the seabed in terms of maximising this Blue Carbon potential, requires a thorough understanding of carbon cycling in the marine environment over time, physical processes at the seafloor and high-quality spatial mapping.”

The Quest project team (a collaboration between University College Dublin, Dublin City University and the Geological Survey of Norway) comprises experienced and skilled researchers in these areas who will conduct a multidisciplinary programme of research to qualify and quantify stocks of carbon in Irish marine sediments, examine and characterise threats to Blue Carbon in these settings and support the development of long-term management strategies. This will include supporting the designation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and facilitate the delivery of the Government’s Climate Action Plan. The Quest project also intends to engage with stakeholders and the public to achieve a better understanding of Blue Carbon across society, and to raise the visibility of such research at a national and EU level.

The BlueC and Quest projects are due to commence in June 2022, and the two teams are looking forward to sharing their research findings as widely as possible over the next five years.

The Blue Carbon Research Programme is carried out with the support of the Marine Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency funded by the Irish Government.

Published in Marine Science

Scientists have been able to use forensics to determine drowning in saltwater on prehistoric human remains for what they say is the first time.

The research team led by the University of Southampton has confirmed saltwater drowning as the cause of death for a Neolithic man whose remains were found in a mass grave on the coast of Northern Chile.

The team developed an enhanced version of a modern forensic test to solve a “5000-year-old cold case and believe it will help archaeologists understand more about past civilisations in coastal regions.

Professor James Goff of the University of Southampton, who led the study. worked with Prof Pedro Andrade of the Universidad de Concepción in Chile.

Prof Andrade had previously studied an archaeological site known as Copaca 1, 30 kilometres south of Tocopilla on the Chilean coastline. The site area contains a grave with three well-preserved skeletons.

Prof James Goff and the fishermanProf James Goff and the fisherman (Credit Genevieve Cain/James Goff)

The individual they studied was a male hunter-gather aged between 35 and 45. The condition of his bones suggested he was a fisherman as there were signs of frequent harpooning, rowing and harvesting of shellfish.

As the research team explains in a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science, modern forensics can confirm drowning as the cause of death in recent victims by testing for diatoms inside the bones of the victims.

Diatoms are a group of algae found in oceans, freshwater and soils. When diatoms are found inside the bones of victims’ bodies, it is likely that they drowned; if they had died before entering the water, they would not have swallowed any saltwater.

In addition to the diatom test, the research team says they carried out a wide-ranging microscopic analysis of bone marrow extracted from the man’s skeleton.

This allowed them to search for a greater range of microscopic particles that could provide more insight into the cause of his death. Apart from marine particles, they found evidence of fossilised algae, parasite eggs and sediment.

“By looking at what we found in his bone marrow, we know that he drowned in shallow saltwater,” Prof Goff continued. “We could see that the poor man swallowed sediment in his final moments and sediment does not tend to float around in sufficient concentrations in deeper waters.”

Based on their initial findings, the team believe that he died in a marine accident rather than in a major catastrophic event. This is partly because the bones of the others he was buried with did not contain marine particles so it is unlikely they all died by saltwater drowning.

Prof Goff noted that “mass burials have often been necessary after natural disasters such as tsunamis, floods or large storms”.

“However we know very little about whether prehistoric mass burial sites near coastlines could be the result of natural disasters or other causes such as war, famine and disease. This gave us our light bulb moment of developing an enhanced version of a modern forensic test to use on ancient bones,” he said.

The team advise they could shed more light on this by testing other human remains in the site and studying geological records for evidence of natural disasters in the area.

Most importantly, the scientist believes this new technique can be used for ancient mass burial sites around the world to get a richer picture of the lives of people in coastal communities throughout history.

Prof Goff said the team had “cracked open a whole new way to do things”.

“This can help us understand much more about how tough it was living by the coast in pre-historic days – and how people there were affected by catastrophic events, just as we are today,” he said.

“There are many coastal mass burial sites around the world where excellent archaeological studies have been carried out but the fundamental question of what caused so many deaths have not been addressed. Now we can take this new technique out around the world and potentially re-write prehistory.”

The study “Evidence for a mid-Holocene drowning from the Atacama Desert coast of Chile” has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science with DOI here

Published in Marine Science
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The Marine Institute is celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February 2022, by highlighting the many brilliant women who play transformative and ambitious roles in understanding, exploring, protecting and sustainably managing the wealth of our oceans.

The United Nations Theme for International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022 is “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”. This recognises the role of women and girls in science, not only as beneficiaries but also as agents of change.

"The Marine Institute recognises our people as a critical enabler of success, and we are committed to supporting a diverse workforce and a culture of high performance driven by our people. Just as the ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems, the Marine Institute values our diverse workforce," said Patricia Orme, Director of Corporate Services at the Marine Institute.

"70% of the women working at the Marine Institute work in roles that deliver key services centred around science"

The Marine Institute has a staff of 238 employees, and supports a strong workforce of female employees at 50%. The organisation continues to recognise that its employees' skills, experience, diversity and passion for the marine are central to the work that is undertaken for the government and other partners.

"70% of the women working at the Marine Institute work in roles that deliver key services centred around science, technical analysis and research including areas of oceanography & ocean climate, fisheries ecosystems and advisory roles, marine environment and food safety and the development of applications. We also have women working in policy, innovation and research, maritime development and corporate roles. We are extremely proud to note that 80% of our female employees hold bachelor, masters or doctorate level qualifications," Patricia Orme added.

To celebrate our diverse culture and the contribution, innovation and impact of the many Marine Institute Women in Science, we will share photos, animations and profiles of our female scientists, sharing their study and career paths, the work they do at the Marine Institute and the important contribution their work delivers. Follow #WomenInScience on the Marine Institute's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to meet some of our female scientists, learn about their work and their many successes.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science Forum has been one of the flagship events of the United Nations, since its inception in 2016. It is a key event for women and girls in science, science experts, policy-makers and diplomats to share their vision, expertise and best practices to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to data from the UN Scientific Education and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 30% of researchers worldwide are women and approximately 35% of all students in STEM-related fields in higher education are women.

Published in Marine Science

A team of young European “maritime ambassadors” has called for implementation of an EU-wide maritime surveillance and enforcement programme for the Common Fisheries Policy.

Investment in reskilling of people employed in “disappearing sectors” is also one of 11 recommendations made by the group this week to French Minister for the Sea Annick Girardin and her European counterparts.

The “maritime ambassadors” are part of Eurocean's Youth, a network created by the French Ministry of the Sea and Surfrider Foundation Europe.

Surfrider Europe was created in 1990 by a group of surfers who wanted to “preserve their playground”.

It says grass-roots activism to protect oceans and coasts is at the core of the organisation. It has over 2,000 volunteers in 43 local branches in 11 European countries.

The group of 106 “maritime ambassadors” are students in oceanography, environment or political science, aged between 20 and 27 years.

They have worked for three months on recommendations in two subjects - the sustainable future of maritime transport and the evolution of careers in maritime professions.

Their nine other recommendations are:

  • Creating a marine Erasmus+ programme, combining education, job and networking opportunities, to enhance knowledge transfer and raise awareness about maritime affairs;
  • Creation of a European platform to advance ocean literacy;
  • Introduction of an ocean certification for public authorities in the EU;
  • Implementation of a new rating system for zero-emission vessels;
  • Improving the monitoring of water quality in the EU ports;
  • Ensuring strict implementation of dredging rules with the aim of introducing a dredging ban in upcoming years;
  • Providing EU subsidies for training in autonomous vessels technology and promoting this specialisation in maritime schools, EU-wide;
  • Making government, private and EU funding available for the environmental transition of the shipping sector;
  • Accession of shipowners to the “Green Marine” label by providing financial support to its certified members.
Published in Marine Science
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Nua na Mara is the name of a marine innovation development centre established in Conamara by state agency Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Based in the State agency’s G-teic hub in Carna, Co Galway, Nua na Mara will provide “specialist training and business development supports”, it says.

Údarás na Gaeltachta and a number of stakeholders secured €2m in funding in 2018 under the Rural Economic Development Fund (REDF) via Enterprise Ireland to establish it.

Nua na Mara will be a “key element” of the agency’s Páirc na Mara project – which received a planning setback last autumn.

The centre will provide 1,800 square metres of enterprise and incubation space for marine enterprises, the State agency says.

It will function as a “champion for marine product commercialisation”, and will “bridge the gap in linking innovation, application, concepts, and commercialisation”, Údarás na Gaeltachta says.

It says the centre will “integrate and build on the world-class research, testing and enterprise development facilities for the marine sector provided by GMIT and NUI Galway”.

“ It will also coordinate collaborative programming of specialist supports and development interventions to be jointly implemented by BIM, the Marine Institute, the Education and Training Boards, Skillsnet and other regional stakeholders,” it says.

“We are delighted to establish Nua na Mara to bring the marine sector to another level in terms of commercialisation by facilitating research, testing and enterprise development within the sector whilst also ensuring sustainability,” Údarás na Gaeltachta chief executive Micheál Ó hÉanaigh said.

“ Despite the delay with the Páirc na Mara initiative, innovative concepts and developments can progress, particularly in light of the recent announcement of the development of a deepwater berth at Ros an Mhíl harbour - ensuring that Gaeltacht areas on the west coast are not lagging behind in terms of marine commerce” he said.

A business development manager, Cliodhna Ní Ghríofa, has been appointed recently to work on development of Nua na Mara, dedicated to “supporting businesses, start-ups, innovators and researchers looking to innovate in the marine sector in the Gaeltacht”, the agency says.

Further information regarding Nua na Mara can be received by contacting Clíodhna Ní Ghríofa at [email protected]

Published in Marine Science

Queen’s University Belfast has released new research which has revealed that basking sharks overwintering in tropical waters off Africa experience cooler temperatures than those remaining in Ireland. The research, published in Environmental Biology of Fishes 2022, provides evidence to challenge previous assumptions that their disappearance from Irish coastal waters was linked to their search for warmer waters.

The research team equipped four basking sharks with pop-off archival satellite tags off Malin Head, County Donegal to record water temperature, depth and location over a six-month period.

Basking sharks are a regular visitor to Ireland’s shores in summer months. It has been widely believed that basking sharks prefer the warmer waters and that their seasonal disappearance is linked to falling water temperatures. Through the tracking devices, the research team discovered that two of the sharks travelled vast distances to the subtropical and tropical waters off Africa whilst the others remained in Irish coastal waters throughout the winter. The sharks off the coast of Africa experienced colder temperatures daily than the sharks that resided in Ireland, suggesting that they didn’t move south simply in search of warmer conditions. The cooler temperatures experienced off Africa resulted from the sharks diving each day to depths of up to 600m, most likely in search of prey.

Dr Emmett Johnston, Lead Author from the School of Biological Sciences at QUB said: “Our findings challenge the idea of temperature as the main reason for winter dispersal from Ireland. Likewise, further evidence of individual basking sharks occupying Irish coastal waters year-round has significant implications for national and European conservation efforts. Now we know that basking sharks are foraging at these depths, it shows that these habitats should be considered alongside coastal hotspots in future conservation efforts.”

And Dr Jonathan Houghton, Co-author from Queen’s, added: “This study tempts us to think about basking sharks as an oceanic species that aggregates in coastal hotspots for several months of the year (most likely for reproduction), rather than a coastal species that reluctantly heads out into the ocean when decreasing water temperatures force them to.”

Co-author, Dr Paul Mensink from Western University, Ontario, added: “Our findings highlight the need to understand the role of deep, offshore foraging habitats for a species so commonly sighted just a few metres from our shores.”

The international team will continue to monitor basking sharks as part of the EUSeaMonitor project to help inform and develop a collective conservation strategy for wide ranging species that have inhabited our waters for millennia.

Published in Marine Wildlife

A Dublin student whose love of sailing inspired him to research wave energy has won second prize in his category at this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Fionnán Ó Baoill (13) built a wave energy tank out of containers in his back garden to test out his theory that fin design could influence optimum use of energy generated by the sea.

“I took up sailing in Dun Laoghaire a few summers ago, and that is when I started to think about it,” O Baoill told Afloat.

“I used the Open SCAD software to model the boats, and then three-D printed them out,” he explained.

“The fins under the hull catch the energy to propel the boat and contribute to fuel savings when on engine,” he said.

“When I was researching it, I discovered it had been thought about 100 years ago for personal use, and several companies also experimented with the concept,” he said.

“ However, they didn’t take it to a widespread commercial level,” he said.

“Science is my passion, and I love sailing,” Ó Baill who is homeschooled, said.

Ó Baoill was highly commended at last year’s BT Young Scientist exhibition for his project on optimisation of yeast production.

His mother, Orna Collins, said the family was delighted to hear Fionnan’s name being announced during the closing ceremony.

Dublin students Aditya Joshi and Aditya Kumar of Synge Street CBS were declared this year’s BT Young Scientists.

Their winning project focused on a new method of solving the Bernoulli Quadrisection problem.

Climate change awareness and the importance of sustainability in their lives were dominant themes at this year’s exhibition, according to the organisers.

Projects looking towards developing more sustainable practices, promoting biodiversity within the community and the use of environmentally friendly alternatives to household products were among the entries.

“Row-tricity" was the title of an entry by Ardscoil Rís in Limerick, designing and developing a device to capture the potential energy of an ergometer (rowing machine).The students also presented a case study to examine if it could power a rowing club.

“Is hydrogen power usage within transport part of the solution for the current global climate crisis?” was the title of a project submitted by St Kieran's College, Kilkenny

It explored the feasibility for broad scale use of hydrogen as a means to supplement wind and solar power, providing renewable global energy needs.

Mohill Community College in Leitrim researched how wind turbine blades could be made more eco friendly and cost-efficient, without using fibreglass or any other toxic material.

A team from Loreto College, Dublin explored how to tackle the “jellyfish crisis”, exploring reasons for increased jellyfish numbers in Irish waters.

Loreto Convent in Donegal submitted an entry on microplastics in water and fish guts, while Mary Immaculate secondary school in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, investigated the level of microplastics on a number of beaches in the west of Ireland.

Research into whether pond algae and seaweed could be used as a substitute for non-biodegradable materials or plastic was carried out by a team from Mercy Secondary School, Co Kerry.

The full list of results of the contest are here

Published in Marine Science
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New research from Queen’s University Belfast has led to 184 deep-sea species being added to the global “Red List” of threatened species.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the world’s foremost conservation authority, and its “red list” categorises universally recognised extinction risk categories.

More than 140,000 species have been “red listed”, but less than 15% are from marine environments and barely any have been from the deep sea, the QUB scientists point out.

The scientists examined mollusc species in hydrothermal vents, a unique deep sea ecosystem which is the equivalent in density of life as tropical rainforests or coral reefs.

A deep-sea Hydrothermal Vent taken by a Remotely Operate Vehicle (ROV). Photo credit to Marum Universitat BremenA deep-sea Hydrothermal vent taken by a Remotely Operate Vehicle (ROV). Photo: Marum Universitat Bremen

There are about 600 hydrothermal vents known, most being about a third of a football field in size.

The scientists assessed 184 “vent-endemic” mollusc species and found 114 or 62 per cent were threatened by deep-sea mining.

They found a further 45 species (24.4%) are listed as “near threatened”, while only 13.6% of species are listed as of “least concern”, under the protection of marine protected areas (MPAs).

“The deep sea is the largest environment on earth with thousands of unique species living in extreme habitats,” the scientists said.

“ The remoteness of these seafloor habitats means they are often understudied, making it difficult to understand and communicate their conservation requirements,” they said.

“There is growing industrial interest in the deep sea, including deep-sea mining for commercially important metals, meaning it is now vital to protect these unique, insular ecosystems and their specialist endemic species,” they said.

The research was supported by the Marine Institute and involved an international team from the USA, Canada, Japan and Britain.

QUB PhD student, Elin Thomas, who is lead researcher, said the teams focus was on “assessing species found at hydrothermal vents, as these areas are increasingly targeted for their natural resources, and we wanted to better understand the threat this poses to the rich marine life found there”.

“As one of the dominant species groups at vent habitats.... we focused our study on molluscs,” Thomas said.

“Almost two-thirds of the molluscs are listed as threatened, which illustrates the urgent need to protect these species from extinction,” she said.

“Indian Ocean vent molluscs are under the greatest extinction risk, with 100% of species listed in threatened categories and 60% as critically endangered,” Thomas pointed out,

She noted that this “coincides with the distribution of mining contracts granted by the International Seabed Authority”

“We found that seabed management and mining regulation consistently had the greatest impact on a species’ extinction risk so we need regulations in place as a matter of urgency. This research should be used to develop new policies to protect these species before it is too late,” Thomas said.

“It’s vital that we continue to deepen our understanding of the marine environment before it’s too late for too many species,” she said.

The research has been published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

Published in Marine Science
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