INFOMAR - Mapping Ireland Underwater

An ambitious joint venture to map Ireland’s most productive and commercially valuable inshore waters is now underway between the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Marine Institute. Covering some 125,000 square kilometres of underwater territory, INFOMAR (the INtegrated Mapping FOr the Sustainable Development of Ireland’s MARine Resource) project will produce integrated mapping products covering the physical, chemical and biological features of the seabed.

The INFOMAR programme began last summer with surveys of valuable fishing and fish farming areas in Bantry Bay, Dunmanus Bays and fish spawning areas off the South West Coast. The 2007 survey began last week to complete the biologically sensitive area off the South West Coast and will begin mapping Galway Bay in July and Waterford Bay in October. Plans for 2008 include surveys of Dublin Bay, Carlingford Lough, Donegal Bay & Sligo Bay.

John Browne, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, and 75 local primary school children from Our Lady’s Island National School, Rosslare and Gael Scoil Inish Carthaidh, visited the RV Celtic Explorer during a port call today (27/04/07) in Rosslare.  Speaking onboard the RV Celtic Explorer, the Minister stressed the need for accurate information on Ireland’s largest natural resource and the added value that such information could bring to planning, navigation, and sustainable resource management.

“The Irish National Seabed Survey has already proved to be a major success story in terms of mapping our deepwater territories,” he said. “From deep and remote areas of the ocean, which in previous years were as little understood as the face of the moon, we have already extracted a vast library of detailed three-dimensional images which are the envy of other nations. In turning our attention into the inshore areas, we are shedding light on the most productive and economically valuable areas of our seas – those closest to the land. It is here that Ireland stands to reap the rewards of prudent resource management across a wide spectrum of areas including shipping, coastal engineering, coastal zone management and engineering, renewable energy, cable/pipeline laying, marine leisure, fisheries and aquaculture. This detailed survey of our inshore areas will also allow Ireland to meet her legal obligations regarding provision of safe navigation charts in areas which, until recently, relied on British Admiralty surveys dating back to the days of Captain William Bligh.” 

INFOMAR will initially focus on 26 priority bays and three priority areas around the coast delivering: hydrographic maps, illustrating everything from sandbars to underwater canyons and cliffs; seabed classification maps showing the type of sediment on the seabed, for example sand and gravel deposits which could provide potentially valuable marine aggregates to supply the construction industry; and habitat maps showing areas which provide homes to a wide range of marine flora and fauna. These integrated maps will allow us to plan for sustainable development of Ireland’s 220 million acres underwater and protect biologically sensitive areas and resources.

INFOMAR provides key baseline data to support coastal and inshore development. The data collected can be used to input into tidal models and carrying capacity models which can be used for example by the aquaculture industry.

The programme aims to make the vast amount of data collected available to as wide an audience as possible with plans underway to make the database accessible via the internet in time. Making this information available to the world aims to stimulate research and development of Ireland’s 220 million acres under the sea.  The data will be of interest to fisheries managers, aquaculture operators, coastal zone managers and engineers, offshore engineering interests, licensing authorities and those carrying out environmental impact assessments. Indeed this unique dataset is of interest in its own right because of the sheer volume of data collected.

The surveys are carried using a range of platforms, including the Marine Institute’s RVCeltic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager, inshore launches and Airborne LIDAR*.

INFOMAR is managed jointly by the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Marine Institute and is overseen by the INFOMAR Programme Board chaired by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.



 * LIDAR, meaning Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging, is an airborne near-shore surveying technique particularly useful in rugged or complex bays.


 The INFOMAR programme commenced June 2006 and phase one is expected to run for the next ten years to 2015. 

INFOMAR intends to deliver a range of data products that will be of use in the following areas:

  • Cable and pipeline installation
  • Coastal zone management
  • Renewable energy (from wave, wind and tide)
  • Aquaculture
  • Aggregate (sand and gravel extraction)
  • Coastal engineering
  • Foreshore licensing
  • Inshore fisheries
  • Port security and safety
  • Environmental monitoring and conservation
  • Shipping and navigation.
  • Oil and gas exploration

Such information is already in great demand in terms of oceanographic modelling to predict ocean currents and conditions, tidal prediction, habitat mapping, ecosystem management for fisheries, as input to Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)s and climate change modelling.

The three core elements of the INFOMAR programme are:

Data Acquisition, Data Management and Interpretation – including a ten year programme to produce hydrographic, seabed classification and habitat maps as well as a common suite of surveying standards to be issued by relevant licensing authorities in the marine area.

Data Exchange and Integration – to establish a National Marine Data Discovery and Exchange Service to assist researchers, policy makers and public or private sector users, as well as adopting standard operating procedures in data management across a wide range of agencies.

Value Added Exploitation – to deliver advanced decision support tools and solutions to assist both policy and commercial decision makers, develop a public/private partnership to securing marine survey and consultancy contracts, as well as a programme of national and international value-added research using skills and data from both the INSS and INFOMAR  


An extensive stakeholder process has already been ongoing since 2002 to identify priority areas for mapping.  This has resulted in the identification of 26 bays and three coastal areas as shown on the map above, reproduced from the INFOMAR Project Document, June 2005