New Marine Atlas Answers Important Questions

MEFEPO layered mapsA new edition of the North Western Waters Atlas has just been published, showing the key biological features of the waters around Ireland.  The Atlas brings together in one volume the answers to such diverse questions as: How is rising sea temperature affecting plankton species in European seas? Where do fish spawn around Ireland and the UK? What is the distribution of seabirds, sea mammals and deepwater corals? How are these areas protected? How many tonnes of fish were landed from ICES Areas VI and VII last year? Why do fishers need to discard fish? Where do vessels from other European member states fish within the Irish EEZ? And how do the many other marine activities fit in around all this?  


This second edition of the Atlas of the North Western Waters is now available for free download here.   It has been funded under the EU MEFEPO (Making the European Fisheries Ecosystem Plan Operational) project, made up of ecologists, economists, management experts and fisheries scientists who are trying to make ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) a reality in Europe. EBFM seeks to support the 'three pillars of sustainability’ (ecological, social and economic) and as such includes human activity in the ecosystem.  

Picture of basking shark The Atlas is intended for policy makers, managers and interested stakeholders. Its purpose is to provide a broad overview of the ecosystem of the NWW Regional Advisory Council (RAC) area with the science kept as clear and concise as possible and technical language kept to a minimum.   



“Next year the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires an analysis of the features, pressures and impacts on member states’ waters and the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy will put more emphasis on regionalising management,” said Dr. Cormac Nolan of the MEFEPO project at the Marine Institute, “so this new edition of the North Western Waters Atlas, and the work of the MEFEPO team behind it, is both timely and valuable.”  

Cover of atlasThe first edition of the Atlas, published in 2009, was extremely well received and this 2nd edition has been updated and revised in response to stakeholder feedback.  The Atlas provides up-to-date information on the physical and chemical features, habitat types, biological features, birds, mammals, fishing activity and other human activities taking place within the NWW region. There are new chapters on elasmobranchs and mariculture and the hot topic of discarding is covered in more detail. Background material on four NWW fisheries (mackerel, hake, Nephrops and scallop), which have been used as case studies in the MEFEPO project, is also presented.   




For further information please contact:  

Dr. John Joyce – Communications Manager, Marine Institute Ph: 087 2250871  

Notes to Editor  


How the Atlas Was Compiled

   The information contained in the Atlas was gathered from a wide variety of sources in the ‘grey literature’ of national reports, national research programmes, published papers and ICES and OSPAR reports. The Atlas brings together all this information into an easy to read format. It is supported by a much larger Technical Review Document on the Ecological, Social and Economic Features of the North Western Waters region, which provides far more detailed information on these subjects and more and is also available to download from the project website.  

The MEFEPO Project

   The MEFEPO project is now in its final phase and the team are currently working to develop draft operational Fisheries Ecosystem Plans (FEPs) for their case study regions (North Sea, North Western Waters, and South Western Waters), which will be published later this year.

More information on MEFEPO can be found on the project website:  

As the MEFEPO project ends, the Atlas will form part of its legacy.   Future editions will follow, but will need to incorporate stakeholder feedback and new information if the Atlas is to remain useful.  As the EU moves to finalise the reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy, a more integrated policy on the oceans will take shape, making the Atlas even more relevant.      

Fisheries Science Services at the Marine Institute

 The function of the Fisheries Science Services (FSS) team at the Marine Institute is to research, assess and advise on the sustainable exploitation of the marine fisheries resources in the waters around Ireland. These waters contain some of the most productive fishing grounds in the world and are such important fish spawning and nursery grounds that their ‘Biological Sensitivity’ is recognised internationally.

To ensure the sustainable exploitation of this valuable fisheries resource and to protect the sensitive habitats in which they live, fisheries science is becoming a more ‘broader based’ science that will link into the concept of ‘ocean management’ and not just ‘fisheries management’.

Linking fisheries data with oceanographic, sea bed mapping and climate change data; examining predator prey relationships and interacting with stakeholders are all important components of a new form of ‘ocean management advice’ which comes under the umbrella of the ‘ecosystem approach’. This approach considers all marine related activities such as fishing, gravel extraction and leisure use in a specific area (e.g. the Irish Sea) and provides advice in this context. The MEFEPO project is a prime example of this approach.