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A short film featuring the views of local communities who make a living from the sea is set to be launched in Kerry this week. Fair Seas, a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks, created the 12-minute feature to explore how changes to how marine areas are protected would affect the people living nearby.

The film hears voices in coastal communities, including fishers, eco-tourism operators and biologists. Exploring local stories, hopes and fears, it delves into how Marine Protected Areas might offer new means to conserve the incredible marine life that has supported these communities for centuries.

Fair Seas is calling on the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as a network of effective and well-managed Marine Protected Areas by 2030. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of our seas and coasts legally protected from activities that damage the habitats, wildlife and natural processes. Currently, just 2% of Irish waters are protected.

The group published a report in June identifying 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ for MPA designation in Irish waters, including one area stretching along the Kerry coastline from Kenmare Bay as far as Loop Head in Clare.

Tralee and Dingle Bays are breeding areas for several threatened shark, ray and skate species. This is an important area for whales, dolphins and porpoises with islands and archipelagos that skirt the peninsulas of Kerry, some of Ireland’s most prominent seabird breeding sites.

Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas said, “Kerry has a fascinating marine environment where large numbers of dolphins, humpback whales and minke whales can be seen. It’s also home to significant colonies of puffins and gannets. It is in everyone's interest that these areas are conserved and protected. We’ve started the conversations around Marine Protected Areas as significant progress is needed if Ireland is to reach the 30% targets set down by Europe by 2030. The people who rely on our oceans are central to this, so we spoke to fishers, anglers, divers, eco-tourism operators and locals to get their views and opinions.”

Fair Seas filming - Aoife O Mahony - Fairseas, Neave Foxall, Annika Hitmiangsong, Oisin Foxall, Lucy Hunt- Sea Synergy, Sophie Harley, Dylan Carey, Mackenzie Bodyfelt, Maya FoxallFair Seas filming - Aoife O Mahony - Fairseas, Neave Foxall, Annika Hitmiangsong, Oisin Foxall, Lucy Hunt- Sea Synergy, Sophie Harley, Dylan Carey, Mackenzie Bodyfelt, Maya Foxall

Lucy Hunt, Founder of Sea Synergy is featured in the film, (and features in this podcast on Afloat here) she added, “Seeing integrated coastal zone management and marine protected areas that includes all stakeholders, including the ocean and all the life it supports, is vital to maintain sustainable and resilient coastal communities. Kerry has amazing marine ecosystems; it’s not just home to marine mammals and wildlife but has habitats that can contribute to mitigating climate change, some of which are yet to be explored or mapped. More research is important, but we know enough to start the protection process. Stakeholder engagement, resource provision and policy action is the next step.”

The film will be officially launched at 7.00 pm on Friday, October 7th as part of the Iveragh Learning Landscapes weekend at Tech Amergin, Waterville. Tickets for the weekend of walks, talks and workshops are €5 and are available online 

Fair Seas marine policy officer Dr Donal Griffin will be taking part in the Climate Conversations panel on Saturday afternoon alongside marine biologist and TV host Danni Washington, Lucy Hunt Founder of Sea Synergy and Vincent Hyland of Wild Derrynane.

This film was part funded by the Networking and Marine Research Communications Awards, funded by the Marine Institute under the Marine Research Programme with the support of the Irish Government.

It was produced by Swimming Head Productions, an award-winning team specialising in quick-fire documentaries with a focus on heritage, science and the natural world.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

Coastwatch has appealed for volunteers to join its annual autumn shore survey, which runs from mid-September to mid-October.

“This is now one of the longest standing citizen science projects in Ireland,” Coastwatch founder Karin Dubsky says.

” It’s a basic eco-audit of the shore carried out around low tide between Sept 15th and Oct 15th,” she says.

“You can go out as a group, divide tasks between you and cover long dune stretches in one sweep, having fun at the same time; or you go in pairs or alone to a favourite quiet spot,” Dubsky explains.

The Dublin Bay shoreline will be part of the Coastwatch survey Photo: Karin DubsyThe Dublin Bay shoreline will be part of the Coastwatch survey Photo: Karin Dubsy

“Either way, you are carefully observing, testing any streams you might cross and then report back on the state of that shore,” she says.

The annual citizen science audit started in 1987, with The Irish Times publishing a pull-out survey page.

It is now largely online with an accessible GIS map to choose sites to survey once between Sept 15th and Oct 15th, Dubsky says.

Volunteers book their site on an interactive map and download materials, or ask Coastwatch for these, Dubsky says.

They can “zig-zag” their chosen 500m of shore around low tide to record and report their findings from erosion to stream water quality, using test kits, and record key animals and plants along with waste and litter, she explains.

Micro litter can also be recorded, using a Coastwatch developed app, Dubsky says.

The first results will be presented in early December at Trinity College Dublin.

The Bull island lagoon, Dublin Bay with wet wipes close to an outflow pipe Photo: Gereon GuenterThe Bull island lagoon, Dublin Bay with wet wipes close to an outflow pipe Photo: Gereon Guenter

Dubsky says training is provided for new volunteers, and regional coordinators are planning joint survey events to cover some areas really well.

‘This year, we focus on the quality of small streams, seagrass and on litter which would be better addressed by prevention and law than by clean-ups,” Michael Walsh of the Coastwatch team says.

“Small coastal streams may not look impressive but can host fish like seatrout and eel,” John Cullen, one of the Coastwatch team scientists, explains.

“In a training session last week, we checked a tiny stream flowing through Tintern Abbey walled gardens, Co Wexford”, Dubsky says.

“It was full of life and young sea trout are regularly observed here. We would love to mark such streams with big smiley faces on our maps and help restore other streams which we find in a dead or sad state,” she says.

‘With bird flu hitting many seabird colonies, we are now also asking for photographs and to report dead birds to DAFM using the Avian Flu reporting app or hotline so they can pick up and test for flu,” she says.

This will be the third year of recording COVID-related litter, and the first full year since government restrictions on a range of single-use plastics (SUP) has been implemented.

A three-year snapshot of Covid-related litter and SUP plastic will be published in December, she said.

All materials are on the Coastwatch website www.coastwatch.org or available from coordinators.

Published in Coastal Notes

The West Coast of Ireland is the first place in the world where the annual reproductive behaviour of basking sharks has been seen.

“It is astonishing that this wonder of the natural world has remained hidden for so long,” according to Professor David Sims, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton and lead author of a study carried out by biologists from the Marine Biological Association and the Irish Basking Shark Group.

It has revealed “the global importance of the West Coast of Ireland for the endangered species.”

Circling formations have been documented on a few occasions over the past 40 years in the North-West Atlantic off Canada and the USA. But although basking sharks are often seen filter-feeding plankton in the UK and Irish coastal waters during the summer, the circling formations were rarely seen. Until now, scientists could not explain the behaviour.

Using underwater cameras and aerial drones off County Clare from 2016 to 2021, scientists got video footage of 19 circling groups. Each comprised between 6 and 23 sharks swimming slowly at the surface, with others deeper down.

“This research has shown the importance of Irish waters,” says Dr Simon Berrow of the Atlantic Technological University, Galway and the Irish Basking Shark Group, who co-led the research: “How usually solitary basking sharks find a mate in the ocean’s expanse has been an enduring mystery. Our discovery of these basking shark grounds in our coastal waters makes it more urgent that this species gains protection in Irish waters from potential threats, such as collisions with marine traffic and the impact of offshore renewables.”

Legislation to protect basking sharks in Irish waters was drafted this year, although they are protected in many parts of the world. It remains to be signed into law.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

Young people with an interest in biodiversity loss in marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments have been invited to apply to join Ireland’s first national children and young people’s assembly dedicated to the issue.

The new Children and Young People’s Assembly aims to inform the national Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss which is sitting this year.

A total of 35 children and young people will be selected randomly across Ireland as assembly members, with applications to join closing on September 18th.

However, all young people aged up to 17 years are invited to submit their views and ideas on biodiversity loss on sea and land throughout the month of September on a new website cyp-biodiversity.ie

The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss comprises 99 randomly-selected adult members of the public, who are aged 18 and over, and an independent chairperson.

It has been tasked by the Oireachtas with examining how the State can improve its response to the issue of biodiversity loss.

It believes children and young people also have the right to have their say, as biodiversity loss poses a significant threat to children’s right to a healthy, safe environment.

The Children and Young People’s Assembly is being designed by an intergenerational group, comprising a young advisory team and an independent research consortium.

The young advisory team involves nine children and young people from across Ireland, aged between eight and 16 years.

The research consortium includes experts in children’s participation, deliberative democracy, and biodiversity from Dublin City University *(DCU), University College Cork (UCC), and “terre des homes”, an international organisation with a focus on children’s environmental rights.

Elsie (8), a young advisor from Co Tipperary has said she believes it is “important that children and young people like us can have our say because we don’t usually get to be involved in things that adults do and we have lots of interesting things to say.”

Amhairghin (15), a young advisor from Co Donegal and Co Down said that “diversity is the key to this process”.

“If we don’t have ideas coming from every aspect of life, we’ll be stuck with a rigid, one sided argument. It’s also really important that young people deliver these arguments as we are the future. It’s time that we saw the action that is needed,” she has said.

Dr Diarmuid Torney, research consortium lead and an associate professor at DCU’s School of Law and Government, said that Ireland has “developed a strong reputation over the past decade in the inclusion of the voices of the adult population in policymaking through citizens’ assemblies”.

“Through this project, we aim to build on this reputation by creating a robust process to include the voices of children and young people in decision-making on the critical topic of biodiversity loss,”he said.

Katie Reid, research consortium member and children’s environmental rights and participation officer with “terre des homes”, said she has supported children’s participation in Scotland’s Climate Assembly, which was the first citizens’ assembly to involve under 16-year-olds directly.

“I experienced how deliberative democratic processes can be enriched by taking an intergenerational approach that includes our youngest citizens’ views and ideas,” Reid said.

Dr Clodagh Harris, research consortium member and senior lecturer in UCC’s Department of Government and Politics, quoted a native American proverb – “ we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”.

“Decisions made (or not made) on biodiversity loss today will have irreversible consequences for children and young people. It is essential that their views are heard,” Harris noted.

Applications to become an assembly member can be submitted online here

The closing date for applications is Sunday, September 18th. Those randomly selected will need to be available to attend two assembly meetings, on October 7th to 9th in Glencree, Co Wicklow, and on October 21st to 23rd in Killarney, Co Kerry.

An open submissions portal has been created for other children and young people to contribute to the assembly, which will remain open until September 30th.

Submissions can be written, artwork, video clips or photographs, and a short explanatory film is on this link

Published in Marine Wildlife

Thousands of volunteers answered Clean Coasts and National Spring Clean joint call-to-action to organise a clean-up to protect our ocean today, June 8th. 

Last May, Irish environmental charity Clean Coasts joined forces with National Spring Clean, to provide communities around Ireland with free clean-up kits to host a clean-up during the week around World Ocean Day.

World Ocean Day is celebrated annually on June 8th to highlight the important role the ocean has for our life and the planet. In 2022, the focus will once more be on the 30x30 campaign: to create a healthy ocean with abundant wildlife and to stabilize the climate, it is critical that 30% of our planet’s lands, waters, and ocean are protected by 2030.

One of the issues affecting our ocean is marine litter which has become a global problem for both humans and marine life. However, communities around Ireland have demonstrated their desire to be part of the solution by taking part in several beach cleaning and clean-up calls to action.

Volunteers who registered online received a clean-up kit to roganise a beach clean for World Ocean Day. Photo: Clean Coasts Ballynamona by Cathal NoonanVolunteers who registered online received a clean-up kit to organise a beach clean for World Ocean Day. Photo: Clean Coasts Ballynamona by Cathal Noonan

Statistics show that the number one cause of marine litter is litter dropped in towns and cities. Building on the success of the Spring Clean 22 campaign, which took place in the month of April and saw 500,000 volunteers organising over 5,600 clean-ups, the National Spring Clean programme is joining Clean Coasts this year in supporting these communities around Ireland.

Sinead McCoy, Coastal Communities Manager said: “We were so overwhelmed with the support received from the public. In under 72 hours over 230 clean-ups had already registered on the Clean Coasts website. Now over 4,000 volunteers are set to take action for World Ocean Day by organising or joining a clean-up event around Ireland.”

Volunteers who didn’t manage to secure a clean-up kit can still take action by joining an existing clean-up, a list of which can be found on the Clean Coasts website.

World Ocean Day events are happening in the context of a very few busy months for the organisation, which saw other initiatives to protect and learn more about the ocean being launched recently. These initiatives included the launch of our Enjoy and Protect campaign and several events, such as SUP clean-ups or surf lessons followed by a #2minutebeachclean around all the coast of Ireland. In addition to that, Clean Coasts joined Galway City Council for a #TeamSeas clean-up of the Claddagh Basin and lower Eglington Canal, where over 2 tonnes of litter were removed from an area that would normally be hard to clean. Other events include the release of two marine biodiversity directories, the launch of our Love Your Coast Photography Competition, marram grass planting events and more.

Team Seas Clean up

Finally, to celebrate World Ocean Day and following the launch of two Marine Biodiversity directories last month, yesterday Clean Coasts has also issued a fourth Enjoy and Protect guide about wildlife photography, specifically designed not just for amateur photographers wishing to enter the Love Your Coast Photography competition, but also for the general public who wish to capture the beauty of our coastline while doing something to protect it. [See editor's notes for details]

In 2021, the initiative changed its name from “World Oceans Day” to “World Ocean Day”. By dropping the “s”, its organisers wanted to highlight the fact that we are all connected by a large ocean. This shared ocean supports all life on the planet, by producing most of the oxygen we breathe and regulating climate. No matter where we live, we all depend on the ocean to survive.

This means that each piece of marine litter removed from a beach, river, lake, park or street in Ireland, will have a positive impact on a global scale.

Other Clean Coasts events and initiatives this summer 

Enjoy and Protect (guides) 

With the ‘Enjoy and Protect’ campaign, Clean Coasts are asking people to enjoy and celebrate our stunning coastline, beautiful beaches, epic cliffs and all outdoor areas, but also to protect these natural treasures. Get out and make the most of Ireland’s wonderful coast, but also do your part to preserve our marine environment and keep it safe and beautiful for future generations to enjoy too, with simple actions and small lifestyle changes. More info here.

Enjoy and Protect (events)

To celebrate the launch of the ‘Enjoy and Protect’ campaign, we have been hosting a series of events in Ireland, including a SUP clean-up of the Dun Laoghaire Harbour and a Surf Lesson and #2minutebeachclean in Strandhill, co. Sligo.

Love Your Coast

The 13th Clean Coasts’ Love Your Coast photography competition is now open for entries. Amateur photographers were invited to capture the uniqueness of our coastal communities, environments, or waterways and enter their best shots over the past couple of months. 

There is a prize fund of €5,000, up for grabs across five categories: Coastal Heritage, Coastal Landscape, People & the Coast, Wildlife & the Coast and Creativity and the Coast. More info here. 

#TeamSeas

As part of Ocean Conservancy #TeamSeas Project, Clean Coasts and Galway City Council partnered up to support a clean-up of the Claddagh Basin and lower Eglington Canal, where over 2 tonnes of litter were removed from an area that would normally be hard to clean.

As part of this project, the Lower Eglinton Canal and Claddagh Basin were drained, and litter was removed by a professional contractor. This has removed a significant amount of litter from our waterways and stopped it from herebreaking down further. 

Love Your Beach Week

Clean Coasts are delighted to once more partner with Galway City Council for Love Your Beach Week, which will launch on June 8th.

The week entails a series of beach cleans and other events, such as workshops, talks on biodiversity and climate change, music and beach volley. More info here. 

Cork Harbour Festival 

Cork Harbour Festival returns this June 3-13 with over 50 amazing events in 15 beautiful locations across Cork City & Harbour, to celebrate Cork’s unique maritime heritage as the second largest natural harbour in the world.

For this event, Clean Coasts will join forces with Cork County and City Councils and Subowti for a Kayak & SUP River Clean Up. More info here 

Wild Roots

Last weekend, June 3 – 5, Clean Coasts promoted simple actions to protect our environment at Wild Roots festival in Sligo. Wild Roots is an art, music and adventure festival taking place for the first time set in the stunning Hazelwood area, protected by ancient woodland and close to the tranquil waters of Lough Gill. As well as performances from international and local acts, there was stand up paddle boarding, kayak tours, sailing and boat tours on Lough Gill. Clean Coasts were at the shop street area talking about the Think Before You Flush campaign that we operate in partnership with Irish Water, as well as ways to get involved with the Clean Coasts programme. We had games, prizes, #2minutebeachclean and information on protecting our environment.

Brown Thomas Corporate volunteering

Earlier in June, Clean Coasts met the Brown Thomas team for a series of beach cleans in four different locations around Ireland as part of the organisation’s corporate volunteering programme.

Clean ups took place on Bull Island, co. Dublin, Galway City, Limerick City and Garretstown Beach, co. Cork, and participants removed a total of almost 50 kg of marine litter from the Irish Coast.

PayPal

As one of this year’s chosen charities of PayPal, Clean Coasts has been working with employees from PayPal to develop a coastal programme in Co. Louth. The programme includes marram grass planting to combat erosion, family beach cleans event, beach information and interactive hubs, and looking into an online erosion monitoring model that can be used on the Clean Coasts website. There has also been cross-collaboration with local registered Clean Coasts groups in Co. Louth including Cooley Community Alert and Costa Aláinn Termonfeckin.

Marine Biodiversity Directories

To celebrate National Biodiversity Week in May, Clean Coasts released two marine biodiversity directories.

The Marine Zones and Habitats directory explores these zones and habitats a little further, from above the high tide line, right out to the edge of the continental shelf. Ireland’s coastline and marine environment is teeming with life, playing host to 24 species of whales and dolphins, 35 species of sharks, 2 species of seal, 24 species of seabirds, over 250 species of marine plants and hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates. The Marine Species directory talks about some of these species, where they can be found and more. More info here.

Wexford marram grass planting

Wexford County Council have made steps to combat erosion at some coastal beaches, including Morriscastle Strand. The dune beside the entrance to the beach has been suffering from quite severe erosion, so the Council arranged for chestnut pail fencing to be erected in sections that would help keep off people from any planting that could happen. Clean Coasts teamed up with Wexford County Council to do marram grass planting sessions within these fenced areas. The first day was with locals of Kilmuckridge and surrounding areas on 30th April, and the second day was with students from Colaiste an Atha, Kilmuckridge, on 19th May which the day before Morriscastle Strand received the 2022 Blue Flag Award.

School coastal education and action

Bettystown, Co. Meath – Teaming up with Bettystown Tidy Towns, Clean Coasts engaged with local schools around the local area to educate with marine topics and tackle marine litter. Clean Coasts facilitated workshops and beach cleans at Bettystown beach with these school groups: Drogheda Grammar School on 9th March, Colaiste na hInse on 16th March, Malta Services Drogheda on 29th March, Bettystown Youth Reach on 30th March, English Language Institute on 6th April, St. Oliver’s Community College on 27th April, and Scoil Oilibheir Naofa on 31st May. There are upcoming days with Slane N.S. and also a Clean Coasts stand for World Ocean Day festival on the 11th June.

Cooley, Co. Louth – Teaming up with Cooley Community Alert, Clean Coasts engaged with local schools around the local area to educate with marine topics and tackle marine litter. Clean Coasts facilitated workshops and beach cleans with Scoil Naomh Loran (Omeath) on 7th March, Rathcor N.S. (near Templetown) on 8th April, Knockbridge N.S. (Blackrock) on 4th May, and Muchgrange N.S. (Templetown) on 5th May. 

Marram Grass planting workshop in Portmarnock Beach

Clean Coasts hosted a Marram Grass planting workshop in Portmarnock, co. Dublin, In conjunction with Dublin CARO and Fingal County Council. Find more info here.

Published in Marine Wildlife

A “Clean Oceans” fishing gear retirement scheme has been announced by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue to mark World Oceans Day.

The project, which is aimed at collecting old and damaged fishing gear, is to take place this autumn and is being led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

The “Clean Oceans” initiative was established in 2019 to address the growing problem of plastics and other waste in the world’s oceans.

Almost 600 tonnes of waste has been hauled up in nets by fishers and by the wider Irish seafood industry during a series of pier and shore clean-ups, according to BIM. The initiative is supported by the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund.

“Protecting Ireland’s marine environment means protecting the marine habitat and protecting Ireland’s coastal communities today, and for future generations,” Mr McConalogue said.

“The livelihoods of those who live and work in these communities depend on their working environment being pristine. I am greatly encouraged by the huge efforts being made by fishers, and by the wider Irish seafood industry as part of the “Clean Oceans” initiative,”he said.

“This is an industry which is demonstrating the positive impact that is being made through working together to actively address the serious problem of plastics in our oceans,” he said.

The “Clean Oceans Initiative Fishing Gear Retirement Scheme”, as it is called, is being piloted in Ros-a-Mhíl, Co Galway later this year.

Fishers from the Ros-a-Mhíl fleet are being invited to dispose of their old and damaged gear as part of a free drop-off service at the pier. The fishing gear will then be recycled, upcycled, or disposed of responsibly, BIM says.

Vessel owners will be asked to register details of the materials they drop off to record their origin, and to allow BIM to track how they are used in the future.

BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said that “genuine efforts are being made by the Irish seafood industry to do what it can to address the issue”.

He said collaboration across the industry and with the wider marine sector has been critical to the success of the “Clean Oceans” initiative.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The "underwater treasure" around over 3,000 km of Irish coastline is the theme of three talks hosted by Galway Atlantaquaria to mark World Oceans Day.

As Dr Noirín Burke of Galway Atlantaquaria says, Ireland can “boast an incredible range of different underwater environments and a diversity of marine life that is still mostly unknown - although 40% of the Irish population lives within five kilometres of the sea”.

“There is probably no better day to celebrate this underwater treasure than World Oceans Day,” she says.

The June 8th date was designated by the United Nations to “acknowledge our world’s shared ocean and our personal connection to the sea, as well as to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and the important ways people can help protect it”, she says.

Three speakers booked by Galway Atlantaquria will offer three very different perspectives of marine management, citizen science and biodiscovery - all with the same focus of conservation.

Tony O’Callaghan, will give an overview of the activities carried on by Seasearch Ireland, which he co-ordinates.

Seasearch involves divers and snorkelers who have an interest in what they’re seeing underwater, want to learn more and want to help protect the marine environment around the coasts of Ireland and Britain.

Volunteers involved in its citizen science projects map out various types of sea bed found in the near-shore zone around the island to establish “the richest sites for marine life, the sites where there are problems and the sites which need protection”.

Also speaking is Sibéal Regan, education and outreach officer with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The IWDG is also involved in the Fair Seas campaign, initiated by a number of leading national environmental organisations and networks to campaign for rapid expansion of marine protected areas in Irish Waters, with a target of at least 10% of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected' by 2025 and at least 30% by 2030.

Regan will focus on the new report, entitled “Revitalising Our Seas, Identifying Areas of Interest for Marine Protected Area Designation in Irish Waters”, which Fair Seas will release on World Oceans Day.

The final speaker is Sam Afoullouss, PhD student at NUI Galway’s marine biodiscovery laboratory.

He will describe the variety of underwater environments that can be found around Ireland, from the rich kelp forests in shallow waters to the flourishing coral gardens in the ocean’s darkest depths, and will speak about a “still untapped medicinal potential”.

Having given a highly successful TED talk at the end of last year, Afoullouss will “dive into the science behind natural remedies”.

He will also explain why the ocean's “great and still largely unexplored biodiversity is ideal for deriving and inspiring future treatments, but only if we protect its waters and life”.

The marine talks are free, from 7pm to 8.30pm on Wednesday June 8th at Galway Atlantaquaria, and booking is essential on https://bit.ly/396PGnt

Published in Marine Wildlife

The harmless-looking goldfish is so voracious that attempting to save its life by releasing it into the wild could be “catastrophic” for native biodiversity, a new study suggests.

A study by Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) scientists assessed the ecological impact of the pet fish if released into the wild by comparing it to the white cloud mountain minnow.

The goldfish and white cloud mountain minnow are the two most commonly traded fish species in Northern Ireland.

The goldfish has established non-native populations around the world since it was “domesticated” a thousand years ago.

By contrast, the white cloud mountain minnow has a limited invasion history to date, the QUB researchers point out.

This study published in NeoBiota – a website for the European Group on Biological Invasions - showed goldfish to be “voracious, consuming much more than the white cloud mountain minnow or native species”.

“In terms of behaviour patterns, goldfish were also found to be much braver, a trait linked with invasive spread,” the study says.

Lead author Dr James Dickey from the QUB School of Biological Sciences said the research “suggests that goldfish pose a triple threat”.

“Not only are they readily available, but they combine insatiable appetites with bold behaviour,” he said.

“While northern European climates are often a barrier to non-native species surviving in the wild, goldfish are known to be tolerant to such conditions, and could pose a real threat to native biodiversity in rivers and lakes, eating up the resources that other species depend on,” he said.

“Our research highlights that goldfish are high risk, but we hope that the methods developed here can be used to assess others in the pet trade across Ireland and further afield,” Dr Dickey said.

“Readily available species are most likely to be released, so limiting the availability of potentially impactful ones - alongside better education of pet owners - is a solution to preventing damaging invaders establishing in the future,” he said.

The QUB research was funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)

The findings were presented at the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species in Oostende, Belgium along with a range of other leading research from QUB on alien species.

Published in Marine Science

A newly formed Irish environmental coalition says it is “demanding” a fifteen-fold increase in Ireland’s marine protected areas (MPAs).

The Fair Seas campaign wants at least 10 per cent of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected” by 2025, and “at least” 30 per cent by 2030.

“Today Ireland’s MPA coverage is at a mere 2.13% lagging behind even our closest neighbours in Scotland at 37%,” the campaign says.

“Ireland has not met its previous target of 10% protection by 2020,” it says warning that “Fair Seas will hold the government to account so it does not miss its upcoming targets”.

Minke Whale, Photo: Pádraig Whooley, IWDGMinke Whale, Photo: Pádraig Whooley, IWDG

“Ireland’s maritime area is seven times the size of our landmass and is home to spectacular wildlife including endangered basking sharks, humpback whales, blue whales, otters, seals, puffins and even deep-sea coral reefs,” the campaign says.

It aims to see Ireland becoming a “world leader in marine protection, giving our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive”.

MPAs, which give legal protection to the conservation of species and habitats, are a “vital tool” in improving ocean health, it says.

Common dolphins Photo: Sibéal Regan, IWDGCommon dolphins Photo: Sibéal Regan, IWDG

The Fair Seas campaign says it will publish its first expert report, underpinned by scientific data, this summer, and this will identify where it believes MPAs should be designated.

Legislation for the designation and management of MPAs is currently being drafted and the Heads of Bill is expected before Government in December 2022.

“In January 2022 Ireland showed its passion for the ocean by speaking out against Russian missile testing,” Fair Seas campaign manager Aoife O’Mahony said.

Puffin Photo: George KarbusPuffin Photo: George Karbus

“Voices from the fishing industry, government, environmental groups and the public were all echoing the need to protect our marine biodiversity and commercially important fish stocks. Fair Seas is calling on those same voices to ask the Irish government to follow up and secure a network of effective well-managed MPAs,” she said.

“Fair Seas is a new and inclusive approach to environmental campaigning,” Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow said.

The IWDG is part of the new coalition, along with the Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Coastwatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Friends of the Irish Environment, SWAN and the Irish Environmental Network

Fair Seas says it is funded by Oceans 5, the Becht Family Charitable Trust, Blue Nature Alliance and WyssFoundation.

Humpback Whale - common dolphin Photo: Daniella Morgernstern, IWDGHumpback Whale and a common dolphin Photo: Daniella Morgernstern, IWDG

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan says he is “ deeply concerned” at the news that military exercises are to be conducted by Russia within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Area due to the impact on marine mammals.

In a statement last night, Noonan said he had written to both Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the Russian Ambassador to Ireland to express his concerns.

“While we do not know the nature of these exercises, we do know that underwater sounds such as active military sonar can have devastating consequences for cetaceans including some of our rarest marine mammal species, notably the deep-diving and rarely-seen Blue whale, Sperm whale and beaked whales,” Noonan said.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm NoonanMinister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan

“ It can cause significant disruption to their hearing systems and normal behaviour, and may lead to permanent or even lethal injury,” he said.

“Ireland’s marine mammals have been the focus of considerable research efforts over the last three decades and the understanding of species occurrence, abundance and distribution has improved markedly in that time,” he said.

As Afloat reported earlier, Cuvier’s beaked whales are known to inhabit the area where Russia plans a military exercise early next month

“Most recently the ObSERVE project, run jointly by my department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, mapped cetaceans through aerial and ship-based surveys over a three year period and across an extensive area of our off-shore waters,” he said.

“The second phase of this project – ObSERVE 2 – is currently ongoing,” Noonan said.

Russia's Ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said that controversy around the exercise was "hugely overblown".

He told a press conference on Monday that the planned exercises by Russian naval vessels off the southwest Irish coast were "not in any way a threat to Ireland or anybody else" and that no harm was intended by it.

Filatov said three or four ships would be involved, but he did not know if missiles or submarines would be used.

60 fishing vessels

Up to 60 fishing vessels affiliated to the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) have pledged to peacefully disrupt the exercises due to the threats to marine life and biodiversity.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland that there were currently "half a billion tonnes" of blue whiting in the area that move up along the coastline, representing "a one million tonne fishery".

"This is a very important ground where fish come to spawn... and we don't know what's going on out here.

"We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we're fishing there then these boats, these warships, shouldn't be having war games."

Murphy said an issue of "real concern" was that their fishing gear at the back of their boats could get tangled with a submarine.

In a comment to RTÉ, the Russian Embassy said it would be “reckless” for the fishing organisation to send vessels to the area within the exercise.

Head of German navy resigns

Earlier this week, the head of the German navy resigned after attracting criticism at home and abroad for saying that Ukraine would never regain the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Speaking at an event in New Delhi, India, on Friday, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach also said it was important to have Russia on side against China, and suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved “respect”.

“Is Russia really interested in having a tiny strip of Ukraine’s soil? No,” he said, in remarks which were recorded on video.

“Or to integrate it in the country? No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because he knows he can do it and he knows that it splits the European Union,” Schoenbach said.

“What he (Putin) really wants is respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost … It is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves,” he added, calling Russia an old and important country.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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