Major Research Fund to Tackle Marine Issues


The first call under one of the largest marine research funding programmes in the history of the State was launched today (30th July) by the Marine Institute. It invites suitably qualified scientists and industry experts to tackle a wide range of issues including; the building of new Irish industries in cod and seaweed farming, an assessment of Ireland’s capability to respond to a major pollution incident, and other issues relating to the sustainable development of Ireland’s 220 million acre marine resource.  

The call, which is funded under the Marine Research Sub-Programme of the National Development Programme (NDP) 2007 – 2013, consists of 24 specifically targeted studies at industry, PhD and Post-doctoral level, including fisheries, fish farming, seaweed cultivation, marine environmental quality and marine data management.

Topics for the studies were identified during the formulation of the national programme Sea Change – A Marine Knowledge and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007 – 2013, which is managed by the Marine Institute on behalf of the State. Awards under the programme are given under two of the Sea Change Research Measures, Industry, and Policy Support. They are intended to build new research capacity and enhance capabilities in priority areas of marine and marine-related research in research institutions and private sector firms.  

Sea Change is a national plan, aimed at addressing our national capacity to utilise and derive value from our vast ocean resources,” said Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute. “We are very excited by the new opportunities this research programme will allow us to explore in partnership with key government departments and sister agencies in the public sector, the third level sector and key industrial stakeholders.”  

The Industry measure, under which the majority of projects are being awarded, is specifically designed to improve the growth and competitiveness of the marine sector by adding value to services, products or processes. It will also influence or create new industrial and commercial opportunities for firms in the marine sector, and stimulate the application or use of scientific or technical knowledge and expertise to advance the competitiveness or environmental sustainability of marine businesses.

Linking directly with the objectives of the recent Cawley Report (Steering a New Course - Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007 – 2013), the Sea Change programme proposes further research on cod farming. Other fisheries related projects involve; an investigation into the effects of rapid climate change on important commercial fish stocks, harnessing the knowledge of fishermen as part of the scientific process of stock assessment, and looking at ways of reducing the practice of “discarding” unwanted fish at sea.

The programme also examines fish health and food safety, offshore fish farming, marine environmental quality and the management of large sets of marine data.

Sea Change can be the vehicle to fund entirely new scientific activities, put new teams of scientists in place and unlock entirely new discoveries,” said Dr. Heffernan. “It follows the principle that Ireland must be a significant player in the knowledge economy, reaching further and further up the value chain in industry and service output.” 

A special information day for potential applicants will be held at the Marine Institute’s headquarters at Oranmore, Co. Galway on the 10th September.  

The closing date for receipt of applications is Wednesday 26th September, 2007. Further information on the Call for Research Proposals under the NDP Marine Sub-Programme 2007-2013 can be found on the funding section of the Marine Institute website.  Alternatively please contact the Marine Institute at 091 387200 and ask for theSea Change Management Unit.

For further press and media information, please contact:        

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


Notes to Editor  

The Marine NDP (see )

The Marine Research Sub-Programme is one of eight Sub-Programmes in the Science, Technology and Innovation Programme of the National Development Plan 2007-2013. Over the lifetime of the NDP, some €141 million will be invested in marine research and innovation as part of the overall investment needs identified in Sea Change: A Marine Knowledge, Research & Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007-2013.

The Marine Institute, on behalf of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, is responsible for the management and implementation of the funding package committed to this Sub-Programme. The Sea Change Strategy targets investment via three Research Measures and two Supporting Measures.

The funding package will be administered via competitive calls for proposals from the research community (including industry) for a range of funding schemes (e.g. Medium-Large Scale Projects, Post-Doc Fellowships, PhD Scholarships, Industry Research Grants and Travel & Mobility Grants).

Sea Change

Sea Change─ A Marine Knowledge and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007 – 2013 aims to drive the development of the marine sector as a dynamic element of Ireland’s knowledge economy. It uses a series of carefully calculated possible scenarios for Ireland by the year 2020 to define global market opportunities linked to the development of marine technologies and resources, as well as practical costed action plans and clearly defined objectives regarding how those opportunities might be achieved.

Sea Change also highlights the need for a shift away from the traditional view of the sector as one primarily associated with the harvesting of food, and points towards a wide variety of market-led opportunities in sustainable energy, functional food products, transport, technology and environmental well-being.  

The Marine Institute (see The Marine Institute was created under the Marine Institute Act in 1991 to “undertake, to co-ordinate, to promote and to assist” in the development of marine research and development in Ireland.

Since its early days in Harcourt Street Dublin, it has grown into an internationally respected science body with over 200 staff, two purpose-built vessels – RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager, a research facility near Newport, Co. Mayo and now a brand new headquarters and laboratory on the shores of Galway Bay.


Cod Broodstock & Breeding Project

(‘Defined’ Strategic Industry Project –  7 years )

Following the recent report of the Aquaculture Working Group on New Species Development, which identified cod, halibut and turbot as key species for commercial development, the Marine Institute funded a Post Doctoral Research programme on the hatchery rearing of cod at NUIG, Carna.

The success of this project was due in no small part to the “National Team” approach taken by the other State agencies and by NUIG itself.   More recently, the Cawley Report (Steering a New Course, Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007-2013) recognised the importance of new species in its section on Implementing an Aquaculture Industry Development Programme.  

This project is designed to provide the technical R & D component of a national initiative to develop cod farming in Ireland. In tandem with initiatives by Údarás na Gaeltachta, who have set up a pilot commercial cod farm (Trosc teo) in partnership with the local salmon farming industry, and BIM, through their FIFG grant aid mechanisms, it will allow the fledgling cod farming industry to grow from a production of 4.5 tonnes in 2007 in an eco friendly and sustainable manner.  

To achieve this aim, the Marine Institute wishes to invite research proposals from suitably qualified research teams / consortia to: establish a cod broodstock programme to underpin the emerging Irish cod farming industry and to ensure the availability of a regular supply of eggs with full traceability in terms of parentage, genetic characteristics and health status to both the industry and the selective breeding programme.

The project will also foster, encourage and underpin the emerging industry by providing focussed R & D in key areas of larval/juvenile production and by effecting efficient knowledge and technology transfer to industry.


Development and demonstration of viable hatchery and ongrowing methodologies for seaweed species with identified commercial potential.

(‘Defined’ Strategic Industry Project -  3 years )  

This project aims to develop and trial industry-scale hatchery and ongrowing techniques for commercially important seaweed species for Ireland’s emerging seaweed farming industry. It follows the approach taken in the 1970’s and ‘80’s with shellfish hatcheries, mussel, oyster and salmon farms, which enabled producers to develop their businesses, rather than be engaged in pre-commercial research.  

 According to the United Nations’ Fisheries and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), world production of aquatic plants was valued at $6.8 billion in 2004, most of which was produced in China. In Ireland, and the rest of Europe, seaweed farming has yet to  start commercial scale production.

( See )    


The impact of climate change on the distribution, biology and productivity of fish stocks in waters around Ireland. 

(PhD Scholarship – 3 to 4 years)  

Climate change has both direct and indirect impacts on the dynamics of fish stocks. Changes in sea surface temperature can directly affect the recruitment, growth and survivorship of a stock. Indirectly, such changes also affect the distribution of fish species as they adjust geographically to their optimum temperature zone.

Changes in climate can also alter the productivity and composition of the ecosystem that fish stocks depend on for food, influencing their productivity and growth.   

Irish waters are ideal locations to study the impact of climate change on fish migration patterns and spawning behaviours. Several commercially important fish species are at the limit of their geographical distribution in the Celtic Sea and the waters around Ireland, either southern in the case of Cod and Herring or northern in the case of Sardines and Anchovies.  

For the purpose of this PhD thesis two key fish species, that are important to the Irish fishing industry and widely distributed in Irish waters, have been selected to study the impact of climate change on their stock dynamics. These are cod and North East Atlantic (NEA) mackerel.   

Investigations into the possible effect of rapid climate change on these stocks will be conducted by integrating fisheries survey and stock assessment data with environmental data sets to assess the impact of climate change on the dynamics of the NEA Mackerel stock and cod stocks in waters around Ireland.  


Status of Marine Pollution Planning – an assessment of socio-economic and ecological risks to the Irish Marine resource from marine pollution incidents and review of national preparedness.  

(Desk Study – One Year)

Ireland’s ability to respond to a major marine pollution incident such as a major chemical or oil spill depends on the quality and scope of contingency plans and the ability to enact these rapidly and effectively. In the event of such an incident, quick decisions based on good information are paramount to enable successful response and mitigation, a high level of pre-planning is essential to maintain a state of readiness.

This project aims to protect the Irish marine environment and potentially vulnerable maritime sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture and tourism, by highlighting the potential risks associated with major pollution incidents; identifying the gaps and needs; and recommending a framework for putting measures in place to enable effective response to major marine pollution incidents.  

The project will assess potential socio-economic and ecological risks to Irish marine resources from major marine pollution incidents and assess national preparedness, response assets and resources available to develop emergency counter measures.

  The project will also make recommendations on how to achieve international best practice in risk management strategies, the development of a National Contingency Plan and contingency measures, monitoring of impacts resulting from spills and areas for future research.