Much-needed salmon migration study need not cost a lot

Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 00:00

AT a meeting of the Pelagic Regional Advisory Council (Prac) in Amsterdam recently, Prof Ken Whelan, research director of Atlantic Salmon Trust, asked representatives of the EU’s pelagic fleets to work closely with salmon scientists to learn more about the life of salmon in the ocean.

“Over the past 20 years, an increasing number of salmon are dying during their oceanic feeding migration and we don’t yet fully understand why”, he said.

Recent research carried out under the EU-funded Salsea Merge programme showed that during part of their lifecycle, salmon are pelagic fish, swimming alongside commercially-fished species such as herring, mackerel and blue whiting.

They are therefore at risk from the fisheries targeting these species. This is particularly true of post-smolts heading for oceanic feeding grounds. “Given the size of trawls we believe there is a risk of migrating salmon being intercepted and harvested as a by-catch,” Prof Whelan said.

“To include salmon in the routine monitoring of commercial pelagic species should not cost a lot, and would vastly increase our knowledge of exactly which ‘migration corridors’ salmon use,” he added.

On the question of food availability, the meeting heard that the Salsea programme has shown how climate change is impacting on the survival of salmon at sea and is now beginning to affect the abundance of food for herring and mackerel.

Salsea has also developed new genetic fingerprinting technology which, if applied to the commercial pelagic species, could separate stocks into self-reproducing populations. Such a breakthrough would greatly refine a wide range of important commercial species and ensure more accurate and stock rebuilding measures.

In conclusion, Prof Whelan, said he was “very impressed” with the interest shown by Prac chairman, Iain MacSween and his executive committee in the work of Salsea and their cooperation to work together to further understand the pelagic zone and the wide range of fish and creatures living in this complex, dynamic environment.

**

A new book, entitled Warships, U-Boats Liners – A Guide to Shipwrecks Mapped in Irish Waters was launched in Dublin’s Custom House last Wednesday by Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan and Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd.

Ireland’s offshore waters have been subject to one of the largest seabed surveys in the world in a joint venture between the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and Marine Institute. This collaboration has led to the production of the book which traces the history of 60 of the most historic shipwrecks around the Irish coast.

The narrative combines archaeology, history and marine mapping and includes never before seen graphic imagery of how these shipwrecks lie on the seafloor today. It also provides in-depth historical background to each ship’s construction, history and ultimate fate.

Minister Deenihan said the publication was “a showcase of some of the best dive sites in the world which will undoubtedly attract many visitors from near and far”.

Warships, U-Boats Liners – A Guide to Shipwrecks Mapped in Irish Waters is available from the Government Stationery Office, major booksellers and online at

www.gsi.ie, priced at €25.

**

Limerick County Council,in conjunction with Irish Water Safety and Loc8 Code Ltd, have launched a pilot programme to enable persons requiring emergency assistance at 86 ringbuoy locations to point emergency services to their position within an accur- acy of six metres. Ringbuoys and holders have been fitted with Loc8 codes containing GPS coordinates along the Shannon, Mulcair, Maigue and dozens of additional locations popular with the public.

**

Despite overnight frost and reduced water levels, the South Armagh and District Angling League match went ahead in Albert Basin on the Newry Canal last Sunday. Following several practice sessions most anglers changed tactics opting instead for six- metre whips and feeder rods.

Results: 1, Bo Donaldson (Newtownabbey), 15.7kg; 2, D Hamilton (Lisburn), 6.1kg; 3, M Bradley (Portadown), 5.2kg.

*angling@irishtimes.com