Coastwatch shore state and nature results from nearly 600 sites surveyed by citizen scientists were launched today (Friday 5th April) by Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Oceana in Trinity College Dublin. Ricardo who gave the keynote address on the state of our oceans and urgent steps to halt the species loss represents one of the largest international ocean science NGOs.
Also, in that session, Padraic Fogarty of the Irish Wildlife Trust introduced the new European Marine Protected Area campaign coordinated by Seas at Risk, which IWT and Coastwatch are partnering in Ireland. ‘The time is right to pull together in a grand coalition to protect and restore our seas as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.’
The Coastwatch survey involves volunteers going out to any shores they have booked online or with regional coordinators and completing a survey forms per 500 m of shore around low tide. The citizen scientists then return their results to the Coastwatch office in Trinity College Dublin, this year augmented by over 1400 photos and video clips giving a snapshot of the coast of Ireland North and South in the September 15th to October 15th survey period.
It was the 31st survey and Coastwatch coordinator Karin Dubsky pointed to some high and low lights found.
Images of shore life exposed at extreme low tide as shown during the event by Cilian Roden and Sabine Springer would take your breath away; new seagrass beds found by surveyors and verified have added to official records and extended the known range of the long Zostera marina grass meadows growing in just a few places around our shores. These will now be protected by citizens proud to have discovered them and officials who – knowing the location – take them into account in planning and permitting activities. The prospect of Ireland’s first Marine Spatial Plan also excited surveyors and a new Coastwatch question yielded Another find was a thermal spring bubbling up on the shore in Malahide. This and amazing natural cement structures made by sea and sand in North Wexford are now being studied by scientists in TCD.
Low lights were captured by surveyors pointing to a growing the darker side of activities around our coast and it’s not just marine litter. Between August heat wave pictures and the autumn survey, Karin summarised what was presented:
‘our Ocean wealth is grappling with climate change and over-harvesting. No big flat fish nurseries have been reported for years now. Our coast is being spiked with hard erosion control and construction waste in piecemeal fashion, Molly Malone is moaning with increase in sewage pollution and the Lough mess monster has sprouted more unlicensed aquaculture on rich intertidal biota’.
Sally Stewart Moore from NMN Northern Island put a hopeful slant at what could be done to protect the X-border loughs, which still sport rare sea pens and native oysters. Now the question is – will our politicians do it?. Angel Duarte Campos, the Coastwatch technical coordinator noted, ‘there is an increase in Coastwatch survey participation and surveyor knowledge, including where to look for what on the shore and hence the accuracy and value of results’.
In the last six years, Coastwatchers have reported on 1830 island of Ireland survey sites in one or more surveys.
There are also more fishermen and anglers joining Coastwatch lately as we see in increased fish species identification noted Rory Keating, the Coastwatch fish expert who added up records coming to 23 different species in this year’s survey.