Minister Ahern Opens International Research Centre in Mayo

New research facilities, which provide unique insight into the journey of wild salmon across the North Atlantic were opened today by Mr. Dermot Ahern, TD., Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources in Newport, Co. Mayo. Over the last three years the Marine Institute invested €2.3 million in its Aquaculture and Catchment Management Facility in Newport Co. Mayo.

According to Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, “ this facility will play a significant role in supporting knowledge intensive and internationally competitive Irish products and services, related to our marine resource”.

The research facility located in the Burrishoole valley, forms one of the greatest natural laboratories for studying Atlantic salmon and has been a base for research on salmon, eels and sea trout since 1955. The site was originally selected by the Salmon Research Trust because of its location between two connected lakes - a saltwater lake (Furnace), and a freshwater lake (Feeagh) - so that all upstream and downstream movements of fish could be counted. 

The Newport facility, an international fisheries index system, is one of the longest running monitoring sites in the world. Dr. Ken Whelan, Director of the Marine Institute’s Aquaculture & Catchment Management Services explains “Our fish trapping system is unique, in that we have manually counted through the traps every single fish moving upstream or downstream since 1970. This has provided us and our colleagues throughout Europe with a unique insight into the comings and goings of long distance migrants such as salmon and eels”.

Opening the new facility Mr. Ahern said, “I am acutely aware of the challenges facing us to wisely manage our freshwater resources and to ensure that wise counsel prevails in balancing the allocation of these resources amongst many competing interests. Research facilities like this one at Burrishoole provide invaluable objective scientific advice which underpins the key decisions which have to be made in solving the many problems which we face over the years to come.”

The information collected in the Burrishoole system is used by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas to gauge the overall status of the Irish stocks on an annual basis and is one of the key index systems for salmon, sea trout and eel in the north Atlantic. The research carried out here assess impacts on the survival and abundance of the salmon stock and is fundamental to the development of salmon Total Allowable Catches (TACS).

Dr. T. K. Whitaker who facilitated the transfer of the Salmon Research Trust from Guinness to the State in 1989 said “I welcome the signs that conservation policy is beginning to move effectively towards regeneration of the precious national stocks of wild salmon”.

The extensive refurbishment, part funded by EU Structural Funds, provides a world class wild fisheries and aquaculture research facility, supporting a broad range of work related to salmon, aquaculture, inshore fisheries, eels, sea trout and environmental research.

In recognition of the historic links between Guinness and the Salmon Research Trust of Ireland, a sculpture named Bradán na Mara was commissioned.  The sculpture, sponsored by Guinness parent company, Diageo Ireland, will be on permanent display in the courtyard at the centre.