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Ongoing

Appropriate Assessment of Aquaculture Activities in SACs (2019-2020)

As identified, the aquaculture industry is an important economic activity on all coasts of Ireland. The inshore aquaculture industry produces a variety of shellfish as well as salmon and trout. A significant proportion of the activity occurs within, or proximate to, Natura 2000 sites which are environmentally designated areas under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.

Aquaculture and Fisheries Interactions with SCI Bird Species

The capture of spatial data relating to bird use in inshore and offshore environments and interpreting these data as it relates to various anthropogenic activities is important in implementing management actions. Specifically, the capture of data and subsequent analysis will aid in understanding the interactions between bird species of special conservation interest (SCI) in Special Protection Areas (SPAs), and aquaculture and fisheries activities. This is an important requirement to the management and mitigation of these industries in Natura sites and more widely.

Assessment of fisheries/habitat interaction on offshore reefs: SeaRover Phase 2

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 will undertake a further mapping survey of offshore reefs in 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).

Assessment of Species Catch Composition in Fisheries Posing a Risk to Biodiversity Phase 2

The estimation of bycatch of protected, endangered and threatened species (PET) in commercial fisheries and its sustainability assessment is an important consideration in the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy, the Marine Strategy Framework directive (Descriptor 1) and the Habitats and Bird’s directives.

Climate Change and Carbon project

Carbon is an integral component of marine ecosystems and key living resources in the ocean are profoundly affected by changes in the uptake of CO2 by the ocean, which is the key driver of ocean acidification. Measurements of carbon in Irish waters have been conducted in recent years with CO2 monitoring using sensors and sample collection aboard the two Irish research vessels and at a fixed station in Co. Galway (Mace Head).

Climate Change and Ecosystem Modelling

This project aims to develop a climate and ecosystem modelling capability to underpin decisions at national level in climate adaptation, initially for the seafood sector with potential applicability in other sectors e.g. biodiversity, flooding, built heritage. By assessing and piloting 3 promising ocean biogeochemistry models in the Celtic Sea, simulations of changes in ocean physics, biology and chemistry over a 30 - 50 year timescale will be generated to inform the policy response and adaptation to climate change.

Climate Change and zooplankton project

Systematic collection of zooplankton in Irish waters is not implemented despite such plankton being a key food source for commercial fish stocks. Ireland is reliant on ad-hoc zooplankton studies that have taken place in academic institutes and on data collection through the continuous plankton recorder which bypasses large areas of Irish waters. This project aims to devise a strategy to augment and systematically collect zooplankton in our waters to elucidate trends and constrain ecosystem models that will provide support to policies related to climate adaptation in the seafood sector.

Development of Methodologies for Assessment of Ireland’s Seaweed Resource

Through the on-going marine planning process, the Irish Government identified that the sustainability of seaweed natural resources underpins the licensing regime for seaweed harvesting. The aim of this project is to develop a better understanding of the Irish seaweed resource around the Irish coastline, which will contribute to a biomass assessment for certain types of seaweed.
Ascophyllum Nodosum is the primary species harvested. It grows on rocky surfaces near the seashore and is harvested by hand at low tide. Small amounts of other species are also harvested.

Ecological risk assessment for pressures that vary in time and space

The assessment of ecological risk associated with marine industry activity and development is a key issue in providing advice to licensing authorities and planners in the marine environment. The project would take existing quantitative frameworks for risk assessment and add functions to incorporate effects of applying and withdrawing pressures over short time steps and to enable modelling of population responses to these pressure schedules. Developing these methods will allow us to incorporate them into decision support tools to allow for a more robust comparison between temporally and spatially explicit management measures.

Ecosystem data collection on Irish fisheries surveys in support of MSFD, Natura and Habitat mapping Phase 2

As part of the data collection framework, the Marine Institute conducts ten annual fisheries research surveys at sea to provide fisheries independent data for stock assessment. These surveys can be used as platforms of opportunities for the collection of additional ecosystem data to support the reporting requirements for environmental legislation including MSFD, Natura and MSP.

Evaluation of Biodiversity and habitat mapping in the Biologically Sensitive Area (BSA)

The Biologically Sensitive Area (BSA) is situated off the west and south coasts of Ireland and is considered to encompass an area of high biological sensitivity. It contains important spawning and nursery grounds for exploited north east Atlantic fish species. This project will produce a report which details the biological basis for the BSA and the effectiveness of the designation as an instrument to afford protection to the area.

Extending the Data Management Quality Framework for Marine Data

Programmes such as MSP, MSFD and DCF require access to trusted and well-managed data from a wide variety of sources. The ability to access and re-use these data requires appropriate quality-assured processes and storage systems. This project will extend the Marine Institute’s Data Management Quality Management Framework to additional data processes underpinning marine environmental reporting and management, ensuring that these processes are quality assured via an internationally accredited framework.

Fish species occurrence and food-web dynamics in a coastal lagoon

This project will establish a fish species list, including the marine and diadromous species, study their diet and establish the relative energy inputs (Carbon and Nitrogen) from both freshwater and marine sources. The project will provide baseline information on a vulnerable habitat (coastal lagoon) classified as an Annex I priority habitat (“in danger of disappearance”) under the EU Habitats Directive (EU, 1992). Also relevant to Descriptor 1 in the MFSD, setting a baseline for species and habitats identified under national and international legislation, such as the Clew Bay Complex SAC.

Management and Restoration of Endangered Skate Stocks Phase 2

The key importance of Tralee Bay (but also Clew and Galway) for endangered skates (and the skate-like angel shark) is well known and confirmed thanks to the first two years of EMFF work under the Biodiversity Scheme, and following on from Purse Search, IFI, ICES advice and the recent Irish Red List report. The threats to these species in the area are largely due to tangle netting for crawfish. The species in question are the white skate, common skates, undulate ray, common stingray and the angel shark.

Measure the effectiveness of mitigation measures of managed activities (aquaculture) carried out in Natura sites – monitoring and baseline data collection.

This project is designed to measure the effectiveness of management or mitigation measures taken as part of aquaculture licencing decisions to reduce or minimise risk to conservation features. Such measures are likely to be of the form of, 1) licence conditions that place certain constraints on activities in certain areas or, 2) redrawing site boundaries. The response of the conservation features to such measures will have to be considered.

MsY proxies for DAta-limited Stocks (MYDAS) for key stone species and species sensitive to the impacts of fishing Phase 2

Many of the stocks which are caught by the Irish commercial fishing fleets are considered to be data-limited or are not assessed at all. These include a number of key stone species (like sprat, gurnards, saithe, pollack, ling) and species sensitive to the impacts of fishing (like rays and skates, john dory, brill and turbot). For these stocks, the fishing mortality is unknown and MSY reference points are not established. This lack of quantifiable targets is an impediment to the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as well as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

Multidisciplinary Digital Aerial Mapping of the Marine Coastal Environment

There are a number of data gaps on the marine coastal environment which limits Ireland’s capacity to report to various EU Directives such as the Habitats and Birds Directives, MSFD and MSP.  These include the monitoring and assessment of coastal habitats and wildlife populations and assessing the effects of human activities on these features. Furthermore these ecological and landscape features are difficult to access and assess using traditional ground based survey methods.

National Sediment Sampling and Seabed Imagery Catalogue

The aim of this project is to develop an integrated national sediment sampling and seabed imagery catalogue. It will provide a ‘signpost’ to the multiple sources of seabed data. The integration of this information will be vital to support the National marine planning process, in terms of habitat mapping, climate change assessment, resource assessment (e.g. aggregates) and invasive species incidence.

Nephrops and Microplastics

Several studies have indicated large accumulations of plastic microfibers in the gut of Dublin Bay prawns Nephrops norvegicus and in the sediments in which they live. The complicated gut system in this species is suggested to retain plastic fibers and places these stocks at potentially high risk of interference from marine microplastic pollution. Fibers which are too large or numerous to pass through the gut can form balls of aggregated material over time.

Seabed sediment and ecosystem data collection in support of MSFD, Natura and Habitat mapping

This proposes to conduct intense sediment sampling and environmental data collection surveys on areas of interest in coastal waters to develop high resolution sediment and habitat maps. Knowledge of offshore and coastal seabed sediment characteristics enable marine spatial planning decisions and contribute to fisheries resource management, aquaculture site selection, habitat mapping, conservation objectives and reporting under various environmental legislation including the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Socioeconomic Study of Seaweed Harvesting Along the West Coast of Ireland

This project is primarily a desktop study that will rely on existing sources of information and extensive surveying of both harvesters/growers and businesses or organisations within the seaweed sector. Through a comprehensive survey of the key stakeholders, data and information will be collated to map and value the seaweed supply chain, create an industry wide directory, develop best practice recommendations for seaweed resource management and reporting, and prepare the required final report and summary fact sheet and presentation.

Synthesis and development of advisory products: SeaRover Phase 3

The EMFF Offshore Reef project, SeaRover (Sensitive ecosystem Assessment & ROV Exploration of Reef) was a three-year project (2017-2019). Project objectives were to map offshore reef habitats with a view to protecting them from deterioration due to fishing pressures.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.

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