A team of marine scientists have discovered a very rare shark nursery, 200 miles west of Ireland while investigating Ireland’s deep ocean territory. The announcement was made at the INFOMAR Seabed Mapping Seminar in Kinsale today, where video highlights were debuted of this rare occurrence, discovered during the recent “SeaRover” survey by the Marine Institute’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Holland 1 deployed onboard the ILV Granuaile. The INFOMAR Programme is a Government of Ireland initiative, funded by Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and is a deliverable under Project 2040, Ireland’s National Development Plan.
Speaking at the event David O’Sullivan, of INFOMAR and Chief Scientist on the SeaRover survey (Sensitive Ecosystem Analysis and ROV Exploration of Reef habitat) said: ‘We are delighted to report the discovery of a rare shark nursery on a scale not previously documented in Irish waters. This discovery shows the significance of documenting sensitive marine habitats, and will give us a better understanding of the biology of these beautiful animals and their ecosystem function in Ireland’s Biologically Sensitive Area.”
During the SeaRover survey undertaken last July, the shark nursery was discovered while exploring Ireland’s deep-water coral reef systems. The exploration initiative was a collaboration jointly funded by the Irish Government (DAFM & DCHG) and the EU’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, supported by Marine Institute, NPWS, Geological Survey Ireland, & NUIGalway.
Speaking at the INFOMAR Seminar, Koen Verbruggen, GSI Director said “We are delighted that this discovery has been unveiled at todays’ event, demonstrating the importance of mapping our seabed habitats in understanding and managing our vast and valued ocean resources. Our data and team continue to make significant contributions to harnessing our ocean wealth.”
Very large numbers of egg cases, commonly called mermaids purses, were filmed on the seafloor at depths reaching 750 m. Such large concentrations of egg cases, are rarely recorded and indicate females may gather in this particular area on the seafloor to lay their eggs.
A large school of Blackmouth catshark (Galeus melastomus), abundant in the northeast Atlantic were present at the site, and it is likely the eggs are of this species. A second more unusual and solitary species, the Sailfin roughshark (Oxynotus paradoxus) was also observed. “Both species are of scientific interest as Ireland has an obligation to monitor deepwater sharks under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive”, said Maurice Clarke from the Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services at the Marine Institute.
The Sailfin roughshark is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature meaning it may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future. The species grows up to a length of 1.2 m and is usually observed moving slowly with deep water currents feeding on small benthic invertebrates. The individual may have been feeding on the eggs although this was not observed by the science team.
“No pups were obvious at the site and it is believed that the adult sharks might be utilising degraded coral reef and exposed carbonate rock on which to lay their eggs. A healthy coral reef in the vicinity, may act as a refuge for the juvenile shark pups once they hatch. It is anticipated that further study of the site will answer some important scientific questions on the biology and ecology of deep water sharks in Irish waters,” explained David O’Sullivan.
The shark nursery was observed within one of six offshore Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in Irish waters designated under the EU Habitats Directive for Annex 1 reefs. The SACs host a diverse range of marine animals including sea fans, sponges, worms, starfish, crustaceans and a variety of fish species. Many of these species were apparent in the newly discovered nursery highlighting the importance of conserving key areas of our oceans to sustain and support marine biodiversity.
“Our key objective is to assess, protect and monitor Ireland’s rich offshore marine biodiversity so we can begin to manage our marine resources effectively. Without knowledge of what lives in our seas we are at risk of never fully understanding and appreciating Ireland’s marine environment”, Dr Yvonne Leahy (NPWS) explained.
Scientific expertise and the high resolution deep sea mapping dataset used in survey planning and design was provided by the national seabed mapping programme INFOMAR. This enabled targeting potential locations of reef habitat for this survey, in the form of seabed features including submarine canyons and seabed mounds, frequently host to cold water coral reefs and associated habitats in Ireland’s rich offshore waters.
The survey called ‘SeaRover’ is the second of three surveys commissioned and jointly funded by the Irish Government and the EU’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. ‘The cross government initiative is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM), Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht (DCHG), and Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment as part of the Marine Institute’s implementation of the Marine Biodiversity scheme. Survey operations were coordinated and led by the INFOMAR programme which is a joint venture between the Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institute, funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Scientists from the Marine Institute, National Parks and Wildlife Service, National University of Ireland, Galway, Plymouth University and Aquafact participated in the survey which this year extended coverage to include Ireland’s farthest offshore area within its Exclusive Economic Zone at the Rockall Bank.
The SmartBay Observatory in Galway Bay is an important contribution by Ireland to the growing global network of real-time data capture systems deployed within the ocean – technology giving us new insights into the ocean which we have not had before.
The observatory was installed on the seafloor 1.5km off the coast of Spiddal. The observatory uses cameras, probes and sensors to permit continuous and remote live underwater monitoring. This observatory equipment allows ocean researchers unique real-time access to monitor ongoing changes in the marine environment. Data relating to the marine environment at the site is transferred in real-time from the SmartBay Observatory through a fibre optic telecommunications cable to the Marine Institute headquarters and onwards onto the internet. The data includes a live video stream, the depth of the observatory node, the sea temperature and salinity, and estimates of the chlorophyll and turbidity levels in the water which give an indication of the volume of phytoplankton and other particles, such as sediment, in the water.
The 2018 seminar will be held in Kinsale, west Cork on November 8th-9th and hosted at the Trident Hotel.
The seminar presents an opportunity to learn about the INFOMAR programme and promises a series of engaging presentations and discussions on the latest in Irish marine research, seabed mapping techniques and our survey progress this year in an informal environment.
This years Agenda will focus on the application of INFOMAR data across a number of different sectors including industry, fisheries and policy.
The seminar is a free open event. Please register using the following link: BOOK HERE
Clean Coasts together with Irish Water are launching the third year of the Think Before You Flush campaign as the utility reveals that there has been an estimated 4,600 sewer blockages across the country this year due to inappropriate items being flushed down toilets.
When the 3 Ps (pee, poo and paper) are flushed down the toilet they travel along the sewer network to wastewater treatment plants. However, every day people flush thousands of items such as wet wipes, cotton bud sticks, nappies and cotton wool pads down the toilet instead of putting them in a bin. Flushing these items can have a negative impact on internal plumbing in homes and businesses, the wastewater network and our marine environment.
This year, 15 communities across the country have been selected to become Think Before You Flush Communities. Clean Coasts together with Irish Water will be delivering educational workshops in schools; promoting the campaign at festivals and community events; and working with local businesses to help to raise awareness and provide advice.
Speaking about the campaign Corporate Affairs Manager of Irish Water and Engineer Kate Gannon said, “Irish Water is delighted to partner with Clean Coasts on this important educational campaign. Irish Water estimate that there have been over 4,600 sewer blockages across the country this year already. The size and scale of the impact of flushing the wrong items down the toilet is incredible.”
“Irish Water is investing in wastewater infrastructure right across the country. We are building new wastewater treatment plants, upgrading old plants and laying new sewers. However, it is still really important that people recognise the impact of what they flush so the network can function efficiently and effectively. Placing a bin in the bathroom and disposing of sanitary items safely and appropriately has a hugely positive impact on the network and the environment.”
Speaking about the campaign; Sinead Mc Coy, Clean Coasts Manager added, “Sewage related litter is one of the categories of waste we find on our beaches however its presence is preventable through some simple measures. Through this campaign we are working with Irish Water to change the nation’s flushing behaviour which will make a difference to our coastal environment.”
Culture and Conservation – bringing a deeper human dimension to zoo education
Zoo and aquarium educators have the privilege of reaching thousands of people with exciting and interesting stories about the fascinating plants and animals that we share our planet with. Since the start of zoo and aquarium education we have focused largely on our content – our animals and plants, nature in general.
The theme for IZE 2018 is Culture and Conservation – bringing a deeper human dimension to zoo education. This theme has been selected to encourage us all to now look more carefully at our visitors, the people who we are talking to. The theme encourages us to think about our audience first – who are we talking to, what motivates them, interests them and will support their behavior changes.
The way I picture it is……for a long time we have stood at our zoo / aquarium gates, faced inwards towards our exhibits and thought about what we can tell people about our wonderful environment. This theme suggests that we turn around, face our visitors and work out what will interest them and motivate them to care for our environment.
The Irish Ocean Literacy NetworkThe Irish Ocean Literacy Network had their network meeting in the wonderful Athlone Campus, Dr. Declan Devine and Dr. Ian Major were wonderful hosts and made the network feel so welcome.
The steering group had a brief meeting before joining the network for the INSPIRE presentation.
The full presentation will be made available soon, but it was a very interesting discussion about plastic.
The network members come from a range of backgrounds and it was great to be in a room with people dedicated to our ocean. All members have a voice and our goals all link towards developing ocean literacy on our island.
In the next few weeks our work will be focused on adding new members to the group, so if you are interested in the ocean and would like to learn more about the network why not join us at the next meeting in January? Its a great networking opportunity and we would love to hear from you. Email us today and find out more.
A Science@Sea course in multidisciplinary marine science will take place on the 7th and 8th of November in Cork Harbour and its approaches. This intensive two-day Continuous Professional Development (CPD) course aboard the RV Celtic Voyager is aimed at postgraduate and graduate students of marine-related sciences, technologies and engineering, as well as researchers, industry professionals and educators.
We are looking forward to meeting everyone to our Irish Ocean Literacy Network meeting. There will be a steering group meeting in the morning. The INSPIRE talk at 11am is a great opportunity to meet members and possibly join the network.
Please RSVP if you would like to attend email; RSVP us