The Coastal Science group within AFBI aims to provide evidence based research to develop the basis for an ecosystem based approach to the management of Norhern Ireland’s coastal waters. This is approached through a variety of research themes which cover areas such as coastal water quality monitoring, seabed mapping, shellfish management and impact assessments.
The group integrates these different work packages with many of the other resourses available within AFBI.
The Coastal Monitoring group maintain a network of remote oceanographic monitoring equipment in the sea loughs and coastal seas around the north of Ireland. This is combined with survey and cruise programmes to allow access to both fixed point sentinel monitoring data in real-time as well as broader water body characterisations.
Shellfish management within AFBI has recently released an integrated ecosystem model to allow stock and environmental management questions to be addressed. Work is ongoing to populate and validate the model to run simulations to help manage the shellfish resources sustainably. Shellfish growth and environmental data are being collated to improve and modify the model.
Seabed Habitat Mapping
Knowledge of benthic habitats and associated marine life (biotopes) is fundamental to marine resource management, and an integrated approach to marine stewardship. In 1998, the Oslo and Paris Commission (OSPAR) recognised the need to assess which marine habitats required protection, through the production of an inventory of habitats. Further drivers for such habitat studies have come from the increasing development of mariculture, the forthcoming implementation of the EC Water Framework Directive and the move towards ecosystem based fisheries management. Other drivers will include the developments of offshore renewables and aggregate extraction. AFBI have had a long history of developing the techniques to produce reliable sea bed maps though the use of multibeam sonar, sidescan sonar and a variety of camera platforms (towed, Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) & dropframe) and physical sampling techniques (dredges, grabs and corers).
Environmental Impact Assessment
The Environmental Impact theme aims to allow the development of methodology and techniques to assess the impacts of human activities on the coastal environment. The coastal zone is the location of at number environmentally sensitive areas. Many of which are subject to a variety of national and international designations. By linking in with the other themes in the coastal science programme AFBI aims to provide the evidence base for the sustainable management of resources such as: inshore fisheries, offshore wind and tidal energy and dredge spoil disposal. Central to this approach is the development of a “spatial planning” approach using GIS.
Northern Ireland’s inshore fisheries have recently been highlighted in a stakeholder review as lacking a sufficient database for the development and management of a sustainable and profitable sector. A scientific work programme has been developed to meet the requirements for improved knowledge on the main inshore fisheries, including pot fishing, bivalve molluscs, sea angling and intertidal harvesting. In addition, an inshore management strategy will be developed which commands the support of inshore fisheries stakeholders and will be used to form the basis for future DARD policy in Northern Ireland.