Protecting wild Irish salmon habitat tops agenda at Marine Institute Conference

Canadian, Scottish and Irish experts gather at the Marine Institute Conference in Dublin Castle today to explore how best to protect declining wild salmon stocks.  The session will be chaired by Dr. Malcolm Windsor, Secretary General of NASCO (North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation). 

The decline in wild salmon stocks is believed to be due to poor survival rates at sea. Protection and conservation of key spawning grounds is fundamental to combating the decline and maintain a healthy salmon population. “The challenge is to optimise production from the spawning grounds and manage the environment in order to protect and promote wild salmon stocks. With Ireland’s 10 largest rivers producing over 50% of wild salmon smolts building our knowledge of these rivers is a key priority,” said Dr. Ken Whelan, Director of the Institute’s Salmon Management Services.

The Marine Institute has begun to unlock a vital source of information using aerial photography and GPS technology in rivers in Burrishoole and North Mayo. The conference will explore how to apply this and other technologies to Ireland’s larger rivers. Francois Carron and Tim Mulligan of Fisheries & Oceans in Canada will speak about best practice in Canada, using new technologies in stock assessment such as eco-sounding and the challenges of integrating a range of information sources such as catch records, trap records, arial surveys, eco-sounding and fish-counting to enhance understanding.

Also on the agenda today at the Dublin Castle is Marine Environment and Biodiversity and Marine Biotechnology. Specific issues to be addressed include a Review of the Irish Marine Environment by Micheal O’Cinneide, Director of the Institute’s Marine Environmental Health Services Division, and Irish Radioactivity Monitoring in the Marine Environment by Dr. Tom Ryan & Dr. Ciara McMahon, Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.

The conference continues tomorrow with sessions on the shipping challenges for Ireland, the national seabed survey, sustainable aquaculture and marine tourism & leisure. It marks the Marine Institute's tenth anniversary. Since the Institute was established under the 1991 Marine Institute Act, it has grown into an internationally respected marine science organisation with 150 staff at locations in Galway, Dublin and Newport. Forthcoming developments include the delivery of the second national research vessel Celtic Explorer later this year and the construction of the Institutes new headquarters and laboratory facilities at Oranmore, Co. Galway, due for completion in 2004.