Sheephaven divers were in the water last weekend with a dive on Sunday morning from Downings to the nearby Werrymen Rocks.
The weather had turned back into the North, pushing an Atlantic swell down the bay and reducing the in-water visibility as a result, while also effecting water temperature, now down to 11 degrees Celsius.
A combination of the stirred up seabed and run-off from the recent heavy rain has produced a green colour in the upper reaches of the water column, but deeper at 16 metres visibility improved somewhat.
Lynne Weir led the boat dive, which was conducted in two sticks with a maximum of 40 minutes surface to surface being recorded by the divers.
Marine life observed during the dive included Lobsters, Shrimp and Sand Eels, with a rare sighting of a Top Knot, a flat fish which is very well camouflaged with its rocky surroundings.
All this marine life is dependant of the winter storms to stir up the essential nutrients from the seabed that the Plankton and all that are sustained by them require, without the storms these essential nutrients will not be available for the next years growth.
Marine life identification and recording has been a hallmark of divers affiliated to the Irish Underwater Council over the last number of years, with the results uploaded on the Seasearch website.
This information has proven to be an integral part of ‘ground-truthing’ the theoretical marine biodiversity around the Irish coast and has been an excellent example of Citizen Science at work in Ireland.
While the Marine Institute is charged with the responsibility of mapping the extent and range of marine life in Ireland, two economic targets have been articulated in the recently published Irish strategy document ‘Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth’.
These targets are doubling the value of our ocean wealth to 2.4% of GPD and secondly increasing the turnover of the ocean economy to exceed €6.4 billion by 2030.
This document follows from the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive which imposes upon relevant member States a responsibility to achieve Good Environmental Status by 2020.
In other countries an approach to protect marine biodiversity has included the establishment of Marine Conservation Zones, or an alternative approach like Scotland who will rely upon strategic policies and objectives.
For anyone who has had the opportunity to dive at Raz Mahommand in the Red Sea or indeed at iconic locations such as the Great Barrier Reef or the Galapagos will relate how the establishment of dedicated no-take fishing zones adds considerably to a country’s oceanic wealth.
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government continue to receive submissions on the preparation of the draft National Marine Plan up until the 14th December 2018 and they can be contacted on-line through housing.gov.ie/planning/maritime-spatial-planning .