A National Marine Monitoring Scheme for Ireland
Seasearch data is useful in terms of atlas projects, for drawing a map of where species are (though no conclusions can be drawn about areas where species haven’t been recorded). However this tells us nothing about the long term trends in the abundance of a particular species, either nationally or at a given site. Similarly changes in biodiversity at a site cannot be detected, though changes to habitats and biotopes can through the Observer and Surveryor recording schemes. In order to detect the absence of a species at a site, a) the site must be surveyed and b) it must be clear that the species wasn’t recorded at the site due to its absence rather than recorder effort. The National Marine Monitoring Scheme aims to track changes in a set list of species by recording the presence or absence of each species at a particular site and then to use this data on a national basis to measure wider scale geographic and temporal changes in biodiversity in Ireland’s inshore waters.
Tracking changes to your local site
While the scheme has a national scope and scientific aim the key component to the scheme is local groups monitoring their local sites. Divers are in a unique position to detect changes in dive sites as, by nature we return to the same sites and generally follow roughly the same path. Indeed many divers have already noticed changes in the marine environment, particularly those who have been diving for a number of years. Part of the aim of the scheme is to turn this anecdotal evidence into cold, hard scientific data that can be used to inform policy changes in the marine environment.
Picking a site
This is the simplest part, you probably already have. Most clubs or groups have a ‘default’ site, somewhere they return to regularly for training or practice dives that’s accessible in most weather and most of the year round. All we’re asking is that you fill in a short form on each of these visits so that we can know what you’re seeing at your local site.
How do I join?
In order to sign up to the scheme email NMMSIrl@gmail.com to arrange training for your club or group. Training involves a one day classroom session on marine identification followed by a practice dive at your chosen site. Courses costs €40 per person but include a copy of The Diver’s Guide to Marine Life of Britain and Ireland (Second Edition) by Chris Woods and a course pack to get you started with marine identification.
Note: Existing Seasearch surveyors can sign up to the scheme without the need to undertake training