Date: 15 June 2005
A historic Memorandum of Understanding between the Marine Institute of Ireland and the prestigious Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) in Bergen was signed today (Wednesday 15th June) in Dublin to promote collaboration and co-operation in fisheries science, seabed surveys, underwater robotics, fish farming and fish health.
The Memorandum, which spans a four-year period, was signed by Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute in Galway, and Mr. Tore Nepstad, Director of the IMR in Bergen and witnessed by Marine Minister Mr. Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher and Ms. Jann Johnssen, Secretary General of the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs. It reflects the growing international respect the Irish marine science community is gaining for its expertise and infrastructure.
Welcoming the agreement, Minister Gallagher said, "As Marine Minister I have great pleasure in witnessing the signing of this MOU between the Marine institute and the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research. I have no doubt that the work of these two world-class organisations will be greatly enhanced through working together to the advantage of both Ireland and Norway. I am particularly proud that our own Marine Institute will bring an expertise and technical know-how to the programmes for ocean and fisheries research, co-operation that is second to none in the world. I look forward to seeing the fruits of co-operation delivering a better understanding of our shared ocean resource, identifying opportunities for commercial development going forward and the better and surer way of delivering the sustainable management of the living and non-living ocean resource."
"The Institute of Marine Research in Bergen is a world-renowned centre of excellence in marine research and innovation," said Dr. Heffernan. "The development of this Memorandum of Understanding paves the way for significantly expanded joint scientific efforts by the excellent scientists in both our organisations."
Mr. Tore Nepstad of the Norwegian IMR said, "We have observed with admiration the rapid development of world-class marine research an innovation programmes and capacity by the Irish Marine Institute in recent years. The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research is very pleased to establish this partnership with the Marine Institute and we look forward to many successful collaborations and achievements in the years ahead." Day to day working of the Memorandum will be directed by a Steering Committee composed of two representatives from the Marine Institute and two from the Norwegian IMR. They will meet once a year to review the programme of work in key research areas including fisheries acoustics, seabed, habitat and oceanographic surveys, fish farming and fish health. The Steering Committee will also explore other opportunities that may arise from the joint use of major equipment, exchange of personnel and collaboration on ship time.
(See notes to editor below for background information on the Marine Institute and the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research as well as details of each of the ten major programmes covered by the agreement )
For further information please contact: Lisa Fitzpatrick, Marine Institute Press Office Tel. 091 730 495 / 087 2937476 or email email@example.com
Notes to Editor
The Marine Institute The Marine Institute was created under the Marine Institute Act in 1991 to "undertake, to co-ordinate, to promote and to assist" in the development of marine research and development in Ireland. Since its early days in Harcourt Street Dublin, it has grown into an internationally respected science body with over 180 staff, two purpose-built vessels, a research facility near Newport, Co. Mayo and a brand new headquarters and laboratory under construction on the shores of Galway Bay.
It has also acted as a focus and champion for the Irish marine research community, raising the profile of Ireland's marine resources and bridging an eighty year infrastructure deficit while also establishing open, competitive national research funding programmes over the past 10 years.
The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research
The IMR has a staff of 600 and is the largest marine research institution in Norway, playing a leading role at international level in many areas of marine research. The work of the IMR is primarily concentrated on the ecosystems of the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea, as well as the Norwegian coastal zone.
Most of its activities are based in Bergen, but the IMR also has a department in Tromsø and research stations in Matre and Austevoll near Bergen, as well as in Flødevigen near Arendal.
The IMR operates four large research vessels
Ten major programmes are covered by the agreement: Fisheries acoustics The use of sound waves to detect and measure shoals of commercially important fish is an important research technique. The IMR is recognised as one of the leading research institutes in this field while the Marine Institute is rapidly developing its expertise and capacity. Collaboration between the two organisations has already begun with the first internationally coordinated acoustic survey for blue whiting, using Ireland's flagship research vessel the RV Celtic Explorer which was carried out in conjunction with Norway, Russia and the Netherlands in 2004.
In 2005 this survey was repeated with Irish and Norwegian research vessels. Norwegian scientists will increase Irish expertise in this area by providing training in the theory of fisheries acoustics, calibration of equipment, data collection and analysis of results using techniques developed in Norway.
The Marine Institute has been collaborating with the Geological Survey of Ireland on the Irish National Seabed Survey - a major mapping of Ireland's 220 million acre underwater territory. The Norwegian IMR is facing great challenges related to mapping its own offshore seabed. Under the MOU, the Marine Institute will provide the IMR with strategic and technical support to assist the development of the Norwegian's own seabed mapping programme MAREANO.
This will involve providing IMR scientists with input into hydrography, positioning, geology, geodetics, GIS and charting. The collaboration will benefit both organisations by providing the opportunity to collect broad scale seabed mapping information as well as planning future mapping projects.
Scientific equipment used to measure different parameters at sea has to be regularly calibrated to ensure its accuracy. The IMR operates its own calibration facility for such equipment and could provide the MI with this service as an alternative to sending Irish equipment to the US for calibration.
Major Equipment Scientific equipment used to explore the oceans can be expensive and difficult to obtain. The MOU provides for an exchange of such equipment between the two organisations including the Norwegian underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) "Aglantha" and collaboration on the hiring of underwater seismic equipment, while the MI will provide the Norwegians with detailed information on the special shipboard constant temperature container laboratory they have developed.
Exchange of personnel
Crew members from the MI's RV Celtic Explorer have already participated on a mission onboard the Norwegian RV Johan Hjort. It is intended to continue this initiative, with Norwegian instrument technicians participating in this year's seabed survey work on the RV Celtic Explorer as well as an exchange of deck officers during the 2005 blue whiting mission. Irish surveyors will also take part in seabed habitat mapping off the Norwegian coast as part of the MAREANO mission later this year.
Collaboration on shiptime
It is planned that the IMR will use the RV Celtic Explorer for fisheries surveys off the western continental shelf from 2005 onwards, as well as for deployment, recovery and servicing of Data Buoys as and when the need arises. Both parties to the MOU will inform each other of any free time in research vessel schedules to maximise efficiency, as well as collaborating on the recovery of lost equipment at sea.
Best practice for RV Operations
The MI are currently developing a code of best practice in order to minimise disturbance to marine mammals during seismic and acoustic survey operations. It is the intention that these Sea Mammal Disturbance Mitigation Strategies will be adopted by all countries attending the International Ship Operator Meeting (ISOM).
Ireland and Norway are currently exploring ways to collaborate on oceanographic programmes and computer modelling projects.
Fish farming and Fish health
Norway is the leading pioneer in many fish farming techniques, including the culture of salmon, trout and cod. Ireland has developed strategies for offshore fish farming and single bay management methods. This means that there are a number of areas where constructive interaction could occur. Ireland, Norway and Scotland have recently initiated a joint research effort on salmon Pancreas Disease problems (this will involve scientists from the MI and IMR).