GMIT Wins New Fisheries Research Contracts
GMIT Wins New Fisheries Research Contracts
In the latest in a series of research funding successes, GMIT has just announced that it has won a research contract worth EUR 127,000 to examine the fisheries for common whelk off the Northwest coast of Ireland. This research project is being funded by B.I.M. under the National Development Programme "Towards Innovation and Sustainability in the Fisheries Sector - Supporting measures for Sea Fisheries Development". The funding will increase the Institute's capacity to train postgraduate fisheries researchers by supporting a new M.Sc Fellowship. The research project is being supervised by Dr. Pauline King and Dr. David Mc Grath, in collaboration with Dr. Oliver Tully of B.I.M, who will facilitate sample collection and co-operation with the whelk fishing fleet and local Fishermen's Co-operatives. The whelk has been exploited on a commercial scale on the Irish east coast since the early 1990's. The fishery was valued at around EUR 2.5 million/annum in 1998, with landings of around 3,000 tonnes. It is a fishery with very low costs, which provide a valuable contribution to Ireland's fisheries derived export revenue. Exploitation in the Northwest began only recently and is on a relatively small scale. The common whelk fishery on the Irish North-West coast has considerable development potential and the overall aim of the research is to provide basic biological and fisheries data for the purpose of sustainable stock management says Dr. Pauline King.
From its foundation in 1972, GMIT has recognised and responded to the regional importance of local industry. The Institute provides specific training in aquaculture, fisheries management, seafood handling and seafood cuisine. GMIT has an international reputation in some of these areas, with key courses being the National Certificate in Aquaculture, National Diploma in Applied Aquatic Sciences and a BSc in Applied Aquatic Ecology due to commence in September 2003. The Institute has a specific research expertise in the area of aquatic/fisheries research. Current research programmes in this area at GMIT are worth in excess of EUR 1,000,000 and have led to closer collaboration with the Marine Institute, BIM, Taighde Mara, Teagasc, the Irish University Sector, the Irish Commercial Fishing Industry and locally based consultancies such as Aqua-Fact International Services Ltd.
In September 1999, Dr. Pauline King, lecturer at the Department of Life Sciences, GMIT, set up the Commercial Fisheries Research Group (CFRG). Dr King is Course Co-ordinator for the Diploma in Applied Aquatic Sciences and an expert in fisheries biology/ichthyology at the Institute. Marine biologist, Dr David McGrath is also an active member of the Group specialising in intertidal ecology and crustacean studies. Mr Brian Ottway contributes expertise in the area of aquaculture and fisheries while Dr Ide Ni Fhaolin and Dr Mary Ui Mhuircheartaigh are biochemists with a specialist interest in seafood technology. The CRFG is the only such group in Ireland, and has since its initiation attracted funding for postdoctoral and postgraduates fellows at both MSc and Ph.D level under the NDP MRTDI Marine Measures Programme, NDP funding through BIM, Enterprise Ireland Research Funding and also under the Technological Sector Research: Strand I and Strand III - postgraduate training and research strengths enhancement programmes for IT's. In 2002, Dr Elizabeth Gosling, an internationally respected geneticist at the Department of Life Sciences, joined the Commercial Fisheries Research Group, further extending the expertise of the team.
These staff are currently supervising a total of 3 Ph.D and 9 M.Sc postgraduate students. The group is also delighted to welcome two postdoctoral fellows Dr Deirdre Brophy from UCD and Dr Lorraine Copley from NUIG to the team. The majority of postgraduates are based on campus at GMIT, with some also working in joint research projects with UCC , NUIG and TCD.
Research projects currently underway at the Department of Life Sciences, GMIT are:
Technological Applications in Commercial Fisheries Stock Management, worth EUR 317, 500 is funded under the Strand III programme for the Institutes of Technology and is being co-ordinated at GMIT by Dr Pauline King. Researchers at GMIT are examining/analysing the application of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in stock identification of fish such as blue whiting and haddock by examining otolith shape and internal otolith morphometrics. They are also using image analyses technology in order to quantitatively analyse the reproductive cycle of gadoid fish. Stereological methodology is being used in estimating fish fecundity and allozyme markers are been assessed in genetic stock identification (GSI)/mixed fishery analyses. " Fish stock identity and assessment of the reproductive cycle are key elements in the sustainable management of the Irish Fishing Industry" says Dr King, an industry which is currently worth more than EUR 260 million to the Irish economy. As well as augmenting the existing infrastructural facilities at GMIT, the funding is supporting a new postdoctoral position and an M.Sc Fellowship on 'Allozyme markers in genetic stock identification (GSI)/mixed fishery analyses' which is being supervised by Dr Gosling.
The project 'Biology, dynamics and fisheries of blue whiting in the waters around Ireland, worth over E107,000, is funded by the Marine Institute under the NDP Marine RTDI Measures and is being jointly supervised by Dr Pauline King, GMIT and Dr Ciaran Kelly of the Marine Institute. The Marine Institute (MI) is committed to developing the blue whiting fishery in a responsible manner. However, fisheries scientists at the MI consider the assessment of blue whiting stocks to be inadequate at present because of the lack of survey and biological data says Dr King. More information on the blue whiting fishery in the waters of Ireland could in time lead to increased TAC's for the species with a corresponding increase in the Irish blue whiting quota.
Over the past two decades, GMIT has encouraged and supported the development of high-level capabilities amongst its staff and students. The Institute plays a key role in the stimulation and support of research development, technology and innovation The Commercial Fisheries Research Group at GMIT acknowledges this support. Thanks to recent funding initiatives the team has been able to expand by employing additional staff and postgraduate students. "Ultimately it is hoped that through successful competition for funding, GMIT will have a significant research community engaged in leading-edge, internationally credible research in fisheries science, which will contribute to the development of an industrial sector which has significant potential for growth" says Dr. King.
Commenting on GMIT's achievement in winning more fisheries research contracts, the Director of GMIT, Marion Coy said " the Commercial Fisheries Research Group at GMIT is making an important contribution to the preservation, development and contribution of our natural resources. When taken in conjunction with the research currently being undertaken in Forestry, it is clear that GMIT has developed a core research expertise associated with our natural resources. In the context of the National Spatial Strategy, GMIT is committed to supporting the development of our regional infrastructure and the national capacity in leading-edge scientific research."