Consistent with sub-article 6.2 of the Habitats Directive (EC 92/43/EEC), which requires member states to take measures to avoid deterioration of protected habitats, Ireland has undertaken three mapping surveys of offshore reefs between 2017 and 2019 to evaluate status and introduce conservation and management measures in proportion to status and pressures from fishing. This study has been identified as highest priority by DAHG for the marine environment and is based on a letter by DAHCG to DAFM (attached). The spatial distribution of vulnerable marine habitats is also a critical data requirement for the implementation of marine management policies such as the CFP, the MSFD and MSP.
The EMFF Offshore Reef project, SeaRover (Sensitive ecosystem Assessment & ROV Exploration of Reef) was a three-year project (2017-2019) that was co-ordinated and led by Irelands Marine Institute and INFOMAR and funded by the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund Marine Biodiversity Scheme and the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS). Project objectives were to map offshore reef habitats with a view to protecting them from deterioration due to fishing pressures.
In total 154 separate locations were surveyed by ROV over 63 days at sea between 2017 – 2019 targeting seabed depths between 150 m and 3000 m. This included 27 sites within Irelands six offshore SACs and the collection of 336 hours of HD footage of the seabed, 122 sediment samples and 211 biological samples that will enable future studies into the ecological diversity of the northeast Atlantic. The project involved collaboration across three government departments, numerous agencies and international academic research groups including those based locally in Galway
This project will synthesise the output of all three surveys and, in consultation with the most important end-users, map out how the data should be disseminated, analysed and developed into products and tools used for policy support. This will facilitate contribution to the provision of conservation objectives for the offshore Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) work carried out by NPWS, and will fulfil the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) obligations to map vulnerable fisheries resources.
On a national level, the critical end users are DAFM, DCHG, DPHLG, DCCAE. On an international level, the end-users include ICES, OSPAR and the EU. The National Biodiversity Centre will be included in the consultation to maximise existing dissemination tools.
SeaRover began in 2017 and the final Synthesis phase of the project is due to run in 2020.
- Synopsis and Synthesis report of the three mapping surveys
- Report of internationally best practice on using benthic data to support MPA designation and management
- Inclusion of SeaRover Database in the data catalogue for MSP
- Web GIS spatial layers including offshore reef layersScoping and development of data products arising from the above to be used for policy support.
- Outreach material relating to the above.
- Outcome of stakeholder consultation and summary of required data products and dissemination tools for policy support;
- Development of data products in support of Habitats Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive, as well as MSP and CFP.
- Acquired data sets feed into the MSP interactive tool