The newest and most detailed maps showing the predicted location of coral reefs in Irish waters were revealed at a conference in NUI Galway this week. The maps are expected to prove very useful to policymakers, and draw heavily on information contained in the Irish National Seabed survey seafloor bathymetry map – one of the most extensive maps ever produced by a maritime nation.
They were presented by NUI Galway PhD candidate, Anna Rengstorf, at a four-day international marine conference ‘Ecosystem Based Management and Monitoring in the Deep Mediterranean and Norht Atlantic’ which concludes today.
Over 70 scientists and stakeholders from 15 countries attended the event at NUI Galway to discuss the latest scientific research from two European Union funded projects - CoralFISH and Deepfishman - devoted to the management of deep-sea resources.
The aim of the conference is to produce concrete proposals for the implementation of improved management of deep-sea fisheries and indeed other deep-sea resources taking into account the need to conserve biodiversity.
The conference is very timely as the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs, Mde. Damanaki has proposed changes to the Deep-Sea Access Regime governing the licensing of boats wanting to fish deep-sea species. The Commissioner has proposed that trawling and all bottom contact fishing gears should be phased out over a two year period. This has been met with applause by conservationists but with less enthusiasm by fishermen.
Dr Anthony Grehan, of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, who is hosting the conference said: “The need to develop the tools and a strategy for the implementation of maritime spatial planning is becoming increasingly urgent. Competition for deep-sea resources is becoming more intense while the need to ensure adequate conservation of biodiversity - and genetic variety - is a priority for the future health of the planet.”
One approach that is gaining favour is the development of habitat suitability modeling that takes information about where species or habitats occur from detailed maps and extrapolates it to produce predicted distribution maps over much larger areas. NUI Galway is one of the pioneers of applying this approach in the deep-sea.
The maps produced by Ms Rengstorf, who is a Geological Survey of Ireland Griffiths Programme post-graduate awardee, will feed into this approach. Dr Grehan who supervises the project said, “these maps are statistically robust and reduce the need for expensive field mapping while providing sufficient detail for policymakers and managers to enable activity zoning as a key component in the implementation of a any future maritime spatial plan.”
Dr Grehan added this is definitely the way forward and will likely become a key component of the implementation of the ‘Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth - An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland’. The Government plan was launched by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD at the Marine Institute, Galway last month with the intention of doubling the value of Ireland’s ocean wealth to 2.4% of GDP by 2030 and increasing the turnover from our ocean economy to more than €6.4bn by 2020.