Marine Institute

Minister Connick visits Marine Institute facility at Newport, Co. Mayo

November 29, 2010

Minister Connick visit to NewportMr. Seán Connick, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, last week (Friday 26th November) visited the Marine Institute’s facility at Newport, Co. Mayo to view the cutting-edge research being undertaken there on salmon stocks, aquaculture and the effects of climate change on Ireland’s rivers.

The research centre is located in the Burrishoole Valley and forms one of the greatest natural laboratories for studying migratory fish in Europe. For over fifty years the centre has functioned as major index system in the North Atlantic and is only one of two on the island of Ireland. 

Data on salmon, eels and sea trout from the fish census is pivotal in the management of the species and in the setting of conservation limits and fishery targets. It is becoming increasingly obvious that migratory fish can play a major role as indices of climate change both in freshwater and in the oceans and the detailed long term streams of data from the Burrishoole catchment are proving invaluable to ecologists and climate researchers studying such changes    

“Migratory fish, such as salmon, eels and trout, provide an ideal barometer of overall changes in the ocean, which makes the work of the scientists at Burrishoole so valuable”,  said Minister Connick.  “This work also links directly with ongoing assessments of the impacts of climate change on marine fisheries resources. For example work in NUI Galway has shown significant shifts in the centre of spawning activity of mackerel linked to climate change and the downscaling approach developed in the recently completed RESCALE climate change project has a potential application in examining such important phenomena in greater detail."

The work at Burrishoole has major international importance and Marine Institute scientists based in Newport are playing a lead role in initiatives such as the SALSEA Merge programme (www.salmonatsea.com) and the Eeliad programme (www.eeliad.com).

“Migratory fish such as salmon and eels integrate climate change effects from freshwater, estuarine and marine areas, hence the total impact on these fishes is very likely to be highly significant. Monitoring these stocks will give us a clear insight into changes in the ocean. In the case of salmon this research will provide invaluable information on changes to the upper layers of the ocean, the pelagic zone, home to many of our valuable commercial species such as herring and mackerel”, said Dr. Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute.

In addition to its work on wild stocks the Marine Institute runs a comprehensive range of freshwater salmonid fish rearing facilities at Newport. These facilities range from collection and holding of broodstock, egg incubation and two isolated hatchery units and both indoor and outdoor pond rearing areas in four separated locations. They can support a wide range of both commercial and research and development projects on salmon, brown trout and rainbow trout.    

In recent years, the combined effect of extreme weather events and changes in land-use have had a significant effect on the erosion rates recorded in many upland areas.  A sophisticated network of automatic monitoring stations is being used to quantify the impact of these factors on the transport of sediment from the Burrishoole catchment.  River stations are equipped with sensors for measuring water temperature, water level, pH, conductivity, and suspended sediment concentration.  

“Over the past 55 years the local stakeholders have been very generous and patient in facilitating our longterm monitoring work in the catchment”, said Dr Russell Poole, Section Manger at the Newport Station. “This patience is now bearing fruit as the climate change models we are developing with our colleagues in NUI Maynooth and Trinity College Dublin will help to formulate management and policy guidelines for agriculture and forestry practices in the catchment for decades to come”.

Ends

For further information please contact:

Dr John Joyce - Communications Manager, Marine Institute  

Phone: 087 2250871

Notes to Editor

The Marine Institute

 The Marine Institute is the state agency responsible for marine research, development and innovation in Ireland. 

The Marine Institute, headquartered in Oranmore, Co Galway provides a range of services to government, industry, the third level sector and the public.

The Institute provides policy and scientific advice on all aspects of the marine resource, undertakes research, stimulates development, and administers the national competitive research programme linked to the implementation of Sea Change - the National Marine Research, Knowledge and Innovation Strategy 2007-2013.

The Institute also operates the National Research Vessels and provides data and information services to support industry development and underpin the work of a range of government departments, state agencies and local authorities.    

RESCALE

The core of the RESCALE project is to adapt current large scale computer models, designed to study and predict the worldwide effects of global climate change, for use as high definition models for smaller local river catchments, such as the Burrishoole, in Co. Mayo.  What makes the Burrishoole an ideal subject for study is the fact that an unbroken record of information on water temperature, air temperature, river discharge, rainfall and a host of other factors exists for this catchment dating back to the 1950s. This information collected at the Furnace facility and the neighbouring Met Eireann synoptic station, is invaluable as a resource, not only for measuring physical change over the past sixty years, but also as a proven yardstick to “ground-truth” any computer-generated models describing the likely effects of global warming.

SALSEA

SALSEA MERGE is a suite of projects costed at €5.5 million to investigate the behaviour of Atlantic salmon in the open ocean that was launched in 2008. It offers a unique opportunity to increase understanding of how Atlantic salmon use the ocean; where they go; how they use ocean currents, and the ocean’s food resources, and what factors influence migration and distribution at sea. SALSEA also seeks to draw together intellectual and scientific resources in a concerted cooperative effort to identify the factors influencing mortality of salmon at sea and the opportunities to counteract them.

SALSEA Merge involves 20 project partners (14 of whom are contracting partners, with six non-contracting partners from NGOs and the private sector). They include the Faroes Fisheries Laboratory and the French oil company TOTAL. EELIAD The EELIAD project is investigating the ecology and environmental dependencies of European eels during their spawning migration.  Archival tags that detach from their eel hosts and communicate stored data via satellite are being used to determine migration routes, migration success and habitat preferences of different stock components. 

The information is then integrated with studies on eels in riverine and estuarine habitats, and leading edge biochemical techniques, to determine the most important eel habitats to conserve to enhance and conserve eel stocks in the UK and across Europe.