The Marine Institute recently welcomed Professor Emeritus Noël P. Wilkins, NUI Galway to present to staff on the origin of the Marine Institute. Professor Wilkins was welcomed to the Institute and introduced by Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute.
The origin of the Marine Institute can be traced back to 1819 when the first body known as the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries was established. From 1842, when the fisheries law was modernised, the Inspectors had responsibility for the welfare of the sea and the freshwater fisheries. Professor Wilkins recounted the successes of the early Fishery Inspectorates and the people involved.
Professor Wilkins also spoke about how Ireland was the pioneer and the first place in the world to artificially rear Salmon. This was in despite orders from the government not to engage in research. The achievement piqued the interest of the Queen of England so much that the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries were ordered to bring the exhibit to the world expo in Paris, where Emperor Napoleon took a keen interest. This eventually led to Ireland sending 40,000 salmon eggs to Australia for rearing.
Ireland was also the first place in the world to have a freshwater laboratory. The laboratory had its very own research vessel Chang Cha, stationed in Portumna, Galway and is still afloat there today. The Chang Cha and the work undertaken at the laboratory and the vessels used on Lough Derg is also outlined by Tom McDermott of the Marine Institute in the latest volume of the Sliabh Aughty Journal.
Professor Wilkins described how some of the issues and achievements of those early years still resonate in the Marine Institute's current work and approach, and without which the Institute would never have evolved as it did. The talk included consideration of the modern, post-World War II phase of marine research and the determination to harness the potential of Ireland's marine resource, leading to the decision by former Taoiseach Charles J Haughey to create the first government department of marine in 1987. This led in turn to the formation of the Marine Institute in 1991.
Professor Wilkins applauded how Dr Paul Connolly and colleagues resurrected the golden era of Irish fisheries research in the 1990s, by re-creating the surveys originally conducted by Ernest Holt in the 1910s on RV Helga.
This talk was part of the Marine Institute's 'Maximising your Research' series that promotes staff achievements, supports research development and educates on current thinking in science communication.
A new book by Professor Noël P. Wilkins on the Irish Fishery Inspectorates will be published shortly.