A new marine research cluster is planned for Connemara incorporating the Údaras na Gaeltachta facility at Pairc na Mara currently under development in Cill Chiaráin, NUI Galway’s Carna Campus Laboratories, and an aquaculture site in Beirtreach Buí near Carna.
The Connemara cluster will form part of a national aquaculture research cluster which includes the Marine Institute facilities at Newport, Co Mayo, with the Beirtreach Buí site touted as “an important part of the State’s marine research infrastructure”.
In 2016, the Marine Institute secured EU Horizon 2020 and Science Foundation Ireland funding for a range of research projects that will be carried out in close collaboration with Marine Institute teams in Newport and Galway as well as researchers at the NUI Galway campus in Carna and the Udaras na Gaeltachta facility at Páirc na Mara.
These research projects will include studies on cleaner fish, which are used to control sea lice and other external parasites; animal welfare; and poly culture of shellfish, fin fish and seaweeds to enhance biodiversity and reduce environmental impacts.
The Marine Institute says it has committed funding to create three jobs to run and maintain the Beirtreach Buí aquaculture research site and provide support to marine research teams and projects.
The Beirtreach Buí site is expected to support a number of research projects in the coming years, including the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, which provides the by-products, including waste, from one aquatic species as inputs (fertilizers, food) for another. This research will be in association with project partners in both Irish third-level institutions and partners from other EU states.
The site will also be used to support a major international project TAPAS, which has received €7 million from the EU under Horizon 2020.
The TAPAS project aims to develop cost-efficient management tools and practices for the European aquaculture sector to investigate the limits to fish farming activity in a location, social interactions, potential environmental impacts and any future risks.
The Marine Institute has applied to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to amend the licence for the aquaculture site at Beirtreach Buí from a commercial to a research license.
This application to amend the aquaculture licence at Beirtreach Buí will involve a reduction in the size of the site, a decrease in the number of licensed structures, from 48 structures to a maximum of 12 cages and 12 smaller structures made up of a combination of long lines and sentinel cages/passive sampling structures.
The amendment also includes a reduction in the level of fish stock at the site from the current level of 100 tonnes to a maximum of 50 tonnes. The amended license will allow for holding a range of fish, shellfish and seaweed species for research purposes. No commercial production will be licensed at the site.
The site was originally used for farming salmon in the 1980s and, in 2010, the aquaculture licence was amended in order to carry out culture trials on cod in collaboration with NUI Galway and Údaras na Gaeltachta.
In 2013 the site was taken over by the Marine Institute to focus on research work on cod and related studies, including research into natural alternatives for antifouling.
The new research licence application will go to public consultation this week.