Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services (FEAS) research, assess and advise on the sustainable exploitation of the marine fisheries resources in the waters around Ireland and on the impacts of fisheries on the ecosystem.
The FEAS team carries out activities in the following areas:
FEAS are charged with meeting Ireland’s obligations under the EU Data Collection Framework. The Framework supports the scientific advice needed to underpin the Common Fisheries Policy. FEAS carry out a comprehensive research vessel survey programme which includes Groundfish Trawl Surveys, Acoustic Surveys, Plankton Surveys and Underwater television surveys. Data is also collected from port sampling of fish landings and sea sampling of discards. The age profile of fish stocks, the analyses of the fishing patterns of fishing vessels operating in the Irish waters are all important data inputs to the scientific advice.
The data sets collected by FEAS are used to conduct stock assessments (estimate the size of the stock and exploitation level). These assessments are the basis for the scientific advice that is presented to policy makers and managers. Much of this scientific work is carried out by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), an intergovernmental marine science organisation. Ireland is a very active contributor to the work of ICES.
FEAS produce the annual ‘Stock Book’ which is the primary source of scientific advice on marine fisheries for the Irish Government, the Irish Fishing Industry and the environmental Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s). FEAS also work, in close relationship with Inland Fisheries Ireland, on national salmon and eel advice, delivered through the national Standing Scientific Committees.
New Ecosystem Advice
There is a growing demand for more integrated scientific advice (how do we manage the Irish Sea opposed to cod in the Irish Sea). This new Ecosystem Advice links fisheries data with other data sets, such as oceanographic, sea bed mapping and climate change; predator-prey relationships; and the economics of the fishing industry. This approach to integrated fisheries advice is known as the “ecosystem approach to fisheries management”. Much of the work of FEAS in this area is also used as input to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which seeks to ensure Ireland’s marine area achieves a good environmental status by 2020.
Working with Stakeholders
The FEAS team works with many state organisations such as An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife services. There are regular meetings with the Federation of Irish Fishermen through the Irish Fisheries Science Partnership. Key fisheries issues are discussed and priority research projects identified. FEAS also work closely with the environmental NGO's. On the international stage, FEAS actively contribute to meetings of the Regional Advisory Councils who are key stakeholder groups under the Common Fisheries Policy.
Participation in applied research projects is critical to the evolution of scientific advice. The FEAS flagship research project is the Beaufort Ecosystem Project. This projects links the third level sector on a broad range of ecosystem projects including fisheries seal interactions, marine birds, cetaceans, size based modelling and stakeholder engagement. FEAS staff are also co-supervising a range of PhD projects and are active partners in many EU funded research projects.
Dr. Paul Connolly, Director of Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services.