Critically Endangered Flapper Skate (Dipturus cf intermedius) measuring 188 cm total length and weighing c100 kg, captured, tagged and released by the MFV Eblana in the Central Irish Sea on 12/10/2022. Photo: Declan Quigley
Public encouraged to become Citizen Scientists and contribute to national marine conservation work
Common species to Irish shores like skates and ray on the decline
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is encouraging the public – and particularly those in the fishing community – to get involved in its ongoing efforts to build up the scientific and biological knowledge bank on Ireland’s marine life as part of overall conservation efforts.
As part of Science Week 2023, the SFPA is encouraging the public to lend their support to the SFPA’s ongoing work to map Ireland’s marine species and furthermore, for the public to avail of the opportunity to learn more about the species of fish that visit Irish sea waters, from the commonly to the lesser sighted varieties.
Declan Quigley, biologist, and Senior Port Officer with the SFPA in Howth and the author of over 450 fisheries related papers, highlights that although 577 species* have been recorded to date in Irish seas, more information is sought as part of conservation monitoring efforts. Further to that, a recent UN Food and Agricultural (FAO) report highlighted that nearly a quarter of species monitored across the globe are at risk of overexploitation or on the verge of depletion**. Ireland is not alone in facing challenges in this area as once commonly sighted species such as Skates and Rays are now facing difficulties owing, in the main, to the impact of climate change.
Mr Quigley states: “Of the 33 recorded species of Skates and Rays in Irish waters, nine are currently regarded as threatened and a further six as near threatened. Tracking this decline is a challenge and one of the main difficulties in assessing the on-going conservation status, specifically of threatened Skates and Rays, is the previous lack of reliable species-specific data. Commercial fishers, recreational anglers, citizen scientists, and public aquaria have a very important role to play in contributing to the conservation of these threatened species in Irish waters.”
In addition to surveying patterns in declining fish species, the public are being asked to keep a look-out for species new to Irish waters because much of the current knowledge bank relates to ‘over the counter fish species’ in fishmongers and supermarkets and fished commercially.
“We really want to build our knowledge base around the non-commercial fish species in Irish waters and to establish the biology behind these species of fish that are an important part of our National Marine Biodiversity and of the overall marine ecosystems” said Mr Quigley.
“There is a wonderful opportunity for people, who regularly explore our coastline, for those who are in our seas such as the recreational scuba divers, not to mention our 2,000 strong commercial fishing community and nearly half a million recreational fisheries to be part of this great initiative to map and record what species are visiting our shores***. Their contributions will complement the work of Ireland’s marine scientists.”
For anyone who wishes to share information and updates in relation to Ireland’s marine species visit your local SFPA office or contact the SFPA directly. For a full list of the SFPA port offices, please visit SFPA.ie
*Quigley, D.T.G. (2020) Rare marine fishes taken in Irish waters from 1786 to 2008. National Biodiversity Data Centre. Occurrence dataset https://www.gbif.org/dataset/870afa50-180e-4153-b1b7-ec437ede20cb accessed via GBIF.org on 2020-08-01. https://www.gbif.org/occurrence/812096902
**Quigley, D.T.G. (2018) ‘Citizen Scientists’ – the contribution of recreational anglers to Irish fisheries research. Annual Report of the Irish Specimen Fish Committee 2018. pp. 70-72.
Source: Press Release