Century of Endeavour

'In Search of Techne'

Ch 4.6 - The Sea

(c) Roy Johnston 1999

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

July 15 1970

...Among the smaller items (in the June Technology Ireland) there is a sharp little note about the closure of the Baile Chonghaoile seaweed factory. This exposes the existence of an international monopoly in the processing of seaweed to give high-grade alginate material (an important raw material in the food processing industry). Irish producers to date have been forced to sell their output of dried unrefined seaweed to this group at a low price. Baile Chonghaoile had made an effort to form a producers' association (with R and D potential) for the purpose of upgrading the output of the Irish industry. This was apparently not successful. The bulk of Irish produce still goes for animal feed.

Laminaria (sea-rods) exist in 'meadows' off the Clare coast. They are currently, however, harvested off the Donegal coast and shipped by coaster to the factory at Cill Chiarain, Co Galway.

The Japanese have developed a method of farming and mechanically harvesting laminaria.

Here we have a source of wealth which, if exploited to the full in an organised and co-ordinated manner, would help the industrial transformation of the West. Yet the responsibility for research and development of marine resources is scattered between the Geological survey Office, Bord Iascaigh Mara(1) and the Fisheries Section of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, with an Foras Taluntais occasionally involved, to the extent of seaweed survey work down to the low-tide level; this excludes laminaria.

Technology Ireland draws attention to this multiplicity of effort and calls for the establishment of a Marine Research Institute along the lines of an Foras Taluntais.

The article also draws attention to UCG having an interest, without going into detail. This reference is to the Marine Biology Research Station at Maoinis, which has been built up as a result of the efforts of Professor O Ceidigh, of the Zoology Department. This has been financed by government money, and is carrying out basic and applied research, the results being open to all. Currently the centre attracts students from Swansea and Cambridge, as well as locals.

The site has potential for development as an international centre; owing to the presence of unpolluted water and every possible variety of marine habitat. The Botany Department also has an interest in the centre, some research in alginate extraction has been done in UCG in the past(2), including some done recently in connection with the Baile Chonghaoile firm mentioned above.......

December 2 1970

I have in the past referred to oceanography as a possible area of interdisciplinary research; it is good to see that a chair has been created in Galway to fill this gap. Its first occupant is Dr Brian Bary, a New Zealander with many years experience. His primary qualification is in Zoology; he has worked in Vancouver, Edinburgh, at the UK National Institute of Oceanography in Surrey, in the Royan Navy, as well as in his native country.

He has made his life-work the study of the dynamics of the growth and movement of plankton, and has developed techniques for measuring their population density using sonar. The distribution of plankton is of fundamental importance, as it determines the distribution of fish.

Professor Bary's current research programme includes the surveying of Galway Bay, going 15 to 20 miles offshore in order to determine the oceanic influences on the movements of sediments, plankton, fish and, ultimately, bottom fauna (ie lobsters etc). This work is complementary to that of Professor O Ceidigh, who runs the marine biology research station at Maoinis (cf July 15). Professor O Ceidigh looks at the life-cycle of the organism, Professor Bary at its relationship to the dynamics of the environment.

Current research involves the use of the UCG vessel, which is a converted 50-ft cabin cruiser. This is not an all-weather vessel; Professor Bary has plans for a three-stage build-up: initially a 70-ft vessel robust enough to enable the necessary heavy gear to be mounted.... later a 110-ft vessel....and ultimately a national project costing 0.75M involving a 170-ft vessel, which would put Ireland in the world oceanographic league.

This level of expenditure can be justified if the potential of the Continental Shelf as a whole is taken into account, and if there are means under national control for its realisation. This, of course, is the controversial area: we should not be spending money on research for the benefit of other States or for the multinationals.

A two-stage link between the university and the productive process is needed. An Institute of Applied Marine Science at Galway could provide this link. Such a body could own and operate the equipment, financing it with a levy on the national fish catch, making its economically useful findings available exclusively to Irish fishing co-ops. The equipment could be made available to the university research people at marginal cost; no-one in the Irish scientific scene could then complain that here was one university department controlling more than its fair share of equipment.

The type of equipment used, other than the traditional plankton-nets and sample-bottles, suggests potential for the developmnet of bridges into physics and geology. Probes for sending up physical measurements by telemetry are worthy of the attention of the applied physicist; there is always room for improvements in sensitivity and reliability in instrumentation. Conversely, the type of instrumentation already in use by oceanographers (this includes sonar etc) is capable of showing up features of geological interest on and below the sea-bed.

Not only can the plankton layer be seen with sonar, but the details of the feeding habits of the fish can be recorded.....

Work close to this field has been done by Professor Thomas Murphy in the DIAS, using explosions as energy-source, and using British survey vessels. This work is orientated towards the deep-seated geological features, and is complementary to the type of surface feature that ship-bourne sonar shows up......

Another bridge into physics is the question of the energy-balance between the air and the sea; this has importance for long-term weather-forecasting. An important element in this relationship is the sea as a source of condensation nuclei; these are tiny salt-crystals from evaporated sea-spray which are carried into the air and which act as centres for the formation of raindrops. There is a long tradition of the study of condensation nuclei in Ireland, going back to J J Nolan of UCD. It flourished in the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies under the late Professor Pollak, who was one of the 'grand old men' of scientific meteorology. (Visiting American scientists in the fifties, with hot news about a 'new' technique, were regularly deflated with a guttural 'we did that in Wien in 1906'). With Pollak was Dr Tom O'Connor, who is now in the UCG Physics Department. So undoubtedly the potential exists for a physical oceanography group.

Appointments to the Galway school are likely to be on a dual or secondment system, eg 'physics and oceanography'. This may create problems in university politics (knowing the Irish scene), but all things are possible with goodwill; the potential benefits to many scientific disciplines, and to the economy of the region, should be large enough to over-ride the administrative problems.

Finally, regarding the idea of an Institute of Applied Marine Science, I am informed that Mr Haughey(3) as early as 1961 designated a Galway site for this project, and that nothing has been heard of it since. Possibly we will start hearing of this again soon?

September 9 1970

I acknwledge receipt of a draft report by F B Cahill of the IIRS which will interest Dr de Courcey Ireland, who has been campaigning for twenty years that Ireland should take an interest in the sea.

It is a review of marine science and technology in Ireland, and it enbodies the results of a survey of all bodies with marine interests. It comes to the conclusion that this area is sadly neglected, and makes the case for a body to co-ordinate the national effort in marine science and technology.

I intend to postpone reviewing this report until it appears in its final form; in the interim, I may draw on it from time to time, insofar as it is relevant to topics discussed here. Some points are worth quoting: '...when it comes to allocation of concessions on an area of continental shelf over which we have jurisdiction, we are in the unhappy position of having no idea what we are selling....' '.....the deplorable state of hydrographic publications relating to the Irish coast is already well known.. Little or no work, except on a local basis, has been done for over 50 years....' '....only 15% of the fish taken within 20 miles of our coast is currently being caught in Irish boats...'

On coastal oil pollution: '....there is no sign that any of these recommendations (by the Working Group on Oil Pollution) are being implemented, despite the presence of all the ingredients of a major oil disaster'.

The independence and criticality of this draft report augurs well and stands to the credit of the Technical Information Division of the IIRS.

June 30 1971

Regrettably I missed the Marine Resources seminar last week (June 22-23), being unavoidably out of the country. The reports of the various papers have appeared as news items.

May I take the (belated) opportunity to acknowledge receipt from Captain RH Connell last December of a copy of his submission to three government departments.... on the deplorable state of our hydrographic charts?

Captain Connell will have the pleasure of knowing that at last he is beginning to be listened to, as he was one of the principal speakers at the seminar. The closing address was given by Mr PJ Lalor TD, Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Some of the charts currently in use are over 100 years old. The most dangerous hazards are the shifting features of the east coast, where there is the highest density of shipping. But even the relatively stable west can hardly expect to remain unchanged over 100 years. Do we have to wait until a 300,000 ton tanker hits a rock, or goes aground on a sandbank, before we realise that we have a national responsibility to update the charts, and to maintain resources of our own for doing so, so that our own reservoir of marine experience can be strengthened?

Dr de Courcey Ireland's catalogue of immediate needs (strengthen the short-route trade fleets, education of public opinion, ensure high-quality marine personnel etc) seems so obvious that one wonders why all this has not been done long ago. Was there, perhaps, some secret clause in the 1921 Treaty which put obstacles in the way of Irish maritime development, in the British strategic interest?

November 17 1971

...I want to sound another urgent warning-bell. Perhaps this will be listened to now that natural gas has been found off the Cork coast, and the continental shelf has been recognised, belatedly, as an asset.

The finding of these resources depends on an understanding of the fundamentals of the processes at work. The geology of the continental shelf, as indeed the geology of the lower carboniferous, depends on understanding what goes on in the sea.

We have enticed a distinguished oceanographer, Professor Brian Bary, to come to Galway. We pay him a salary, and give him a room.

He is however still awaiting access to a worthwhile research vessel; after two years nothing has happened.... There needs to be some re-appraisal of the mechanism for formulating our science policy. A body which can declare marine research a priority, and then leaves our one oceanography department without a boat, deserves a serious enquiry into its credentials.

Perhaps the economics of the continental shelf geology, if it comes to be regarded as important, will enable an Earth Sciences fund to be set up, out of which an oceanographic research vessel might come?

February 23 1972

I am lost in admiration at the skill with which some of our more experienced scientific administrators can engage in the gentlemanly art of preventing things from happening outside their own little territories. Last Friday I witnessed a piece of chairmanship which deserves a prize for the sharpest balloon-pricking job of the year. It deserves to backfire.

Dr AEJ Went, head of the scientific section of the Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, has a team of 13 scientists, all biologists. According to the Royal Irish Academy Research Register, there are eight marine and five freshwater. The Inland Fisheries Trust employs four more freshwater biologists, and the Salmon Research Trust of Ireland in Mayo employs two.

The above does not seem to me to be an unduly heavy investment in applied science for the study of our marine and freshwater resources. One would imagine that a project to provide a properly equipped floating laboratory, for the use of all branches of science with an interest in the sea, would receive support from Dr Went.

Such a project was outlined by Professor Bary, of University College Galway, in the two Joly Memorial Lectures at TCD on Thursday and Friday of last week.

In the first lecture he outlined what the term 'oceanography' has come to mean: a co-ordinated interdisciplinary approach, from the specialist disciplines of physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, geology, to the study of the complex three-phase dynamic system popularly known as the sea.

In order to do this, it is necessary to provide a research vessel, designed as such, which would be available as a specialist service to all university departments having a marine element in their courses.....such a floating laboratory would encourage a trend towards marine science, a desirable interdisciplinary concentration from which the nation would benefit. This concentration exists already in Galway and it would make sense to base the vessel there.

Professor Bary envisages the vessel as not 'belonging to his Department' (as hostile critics were putting about), but as part of a Marine Research Institute, carrying out the basic descriptive and quantitative work necessary as background to any research, and as background to any applied-biological work specifically orientated towards fisheries.

The Agricultural Institute and the Geological Survey provide possible analogies; although there are many imperfections in the relationships between these bodies, the universities and economic life, at least they exist, and can be shot at and cribbed about by critics, a healthy enough situation. There is no marine science centre, in the analogous sense. We need one; the case has also been made, unanswerably, by Fergus Cahill(4) of the IIRS, by Dr de Courcey Ireland(5) over the years, by Arthur Reynolds in the 'Skipper'(6) and others.

Professor Bary has begun to make his basic service needs more pricise. He has a design for a 75-ft catamaran, with asymmetric structure, giving a relatively stable working surface and a wide unimpeded outside work-area, and with specially-designed wet and dry laboratories. This he outlined in his Friday lecture.

The cost of this vessel he estimates at about 120,000. Written off over 10 years, this represents about 2000 per annum per university department using it, not a lot to pay for this type of service.

There were, however, people in the audience, and others not present, who publicly voiced discouragement, and worried about the danger of over-investment in a small speciality in a small remote university.. Dr Went channelled this disquiet, referring from the chair of the meeting to oceanography as 'a mixum-gatherum of unrelated disciplines, which does not include economics', and to catamarans as 'new-fangled devices'.

There are plenty of problems in realising the full value of the sea as a resource; there ought to be plenty of money. If the Government chooses it can levy the mining, petroleum and other industries with their eyes on the continental shelf. It could even place a small levy on the fishing industry, thereby making it take a direct interest in the applied science being done in their name.

If there is to be criticism of Professor Bary, it is that he failed to put enough effort into the hard-core economic analysis. Perhaps a co-ordinated effort by the Cahill-de Courcey Ireland-Reynolds lobby could fill in this gap, and help Professor Bary with the kind of arguments he needs. A lifetime of experience in an environment where marine research has had high priority has left him ill-equipped for the type of politicking necessary to convince Irish administrators steeped in the traditions of the maritime provisions of the 1921 Treaty(7).

October 18 1972

(The following extracts are from a review by Miles Parker commissioned by the writer in association with the column).......Fergus B Cahill's report to the National Science Council on Marine Resource Development is the most significant report since the 1964 American survey, which in turn was the most significant since the 1959 FAO report, which etc etc.

It is to be hoped that unlike the other reports, whose proposals were largely ignored, this report will be read in minute detail, broadly discussed, and its proposals.....acted on with high speed.....

Mr Cahill suggests that a Board for Marine Science and Technology be set up, later to become a statutory Marine Development Board.....two centres would be set up, one for nautical science (research and development in the field of maritime transport, naval architecture, harbour engineering, nautical training etc) in Cork, and one for marine science (marine and fisheries biology, oceanography, submarine geology etc) in Galway.....

The first task of these centres would be the collection of basic data, in which this country is badly lacking, particularly inthe fields of oceanography and hydrography......

October 25 1972

(Miles Parker continued)....It would seem more reasonable to place the Fisheries research and development section on the south coast...close to potentially important fishing grounds....within 20 miles of Cork and thus within reach of necessary technical services, while being out of reach of Cork's polution. The physical proximity of of this section to the Centre in Galway is not as important here as in a country the size of Canada, which Mr Cahill uses as an example.....

....he makes no mention of the work of ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) or ICNAF (the International Confederation of North Atlantic Fisheries), or the fact that Ireland is a member of both bodies......(which are) only open to the participation of civil servants.....it is essential that these be scientists, not laymen...

...another advantage of the Cork location would be that it could link up with the newly started courses in food technology in UCC...

November 15 1972

The November issue of the 'Skipper' contains a report of a submission by the Institute of Professional Civil Servants to the National Science Council on the question of the location of the proposed Marine Research Institute. Instead of Galway, as proposed in Fergus Cahill's report, recently reviewed in this feature by Miles Parker, the IPCS want Kinsale(8).

I welcome the taking up of this type of debate in the columns of the Skipper. All the factors have not by any means come out. Certainly, near Galway City the bay is polluted, but this does not prevent the university having a marine biology station near the clear water at Maoinis near Carna. There is much to be said for having fisheries research close to an existing centre specialising in marine biology, and beginning to take the interdisciplinary science of oceanography seriously. The proposed move to Kinsale, despite some possible physicsl advantages, would keep things compartmentalised (a Civil Service vice...) and throw away the opportunity of human symbiosis presented by the Galway proposition as espoused by Fergus Cahill.

The concentration of marine, oceanographic and fisheries research in one centre would help to justify spending money on a proper research vessel, such as the catamaran as designed by Professor Bary (see Technology Ireland, August 1972).

Alternatively, a vessel run as a service by an independent body could perhaps equally well service a multi-centred research system. If fisheries research changes over to the system of being financed by a levy on the catch (just as the Moorepark centre of AFT is going over to a system which includes a levy on milk) we may expect the debate in the Skipper to assume a higher level of intensity.

I look forward to an open seminar, organised by the Federation of Fishing Co-ops, at which Professor O Ceidigh, Professor Bary, Dr Went and others will discuss with the skippers how best to allocate the resources from the central fund and from the levy between the various rival interests: basic and applied research, education and training, systems development, quality control, etc. Does my imagination run ahead too far?

January 24 1973

On the initiative of the Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Gulf Oil Terminals (Ireland) ltd.. agreed in 1970 to sponsor a fellowship awarded to Dr Geoffrey B Crapp M Sc, Ph D, for marine research in Bantry Bay, site of Gulf Oil's crude-oil transhipment terminal. The purpose of this fellowship in marine biology has been to investigate the ecology of the inner part of Bantry Bay, including research on the flora and fauna of the bay as a whole.

Dr Crapp has completed the first part of this study (the intertidal fauna) and the results will be available shortly. Dr Crapp is currently continuing the research programme in Bantry on a Department of Education Post-Doctoral Fellowship.

In order to continue and support Dr Crapp's research in Bantry Bay, Miss Madeline Willis BSc has been appointed as research assistant in marine science for a period of two years. Her work will be under the supervision of Professor FJ O'Rourke, PhD, MRIA, Professor of Zoology in University College Cork, where Miss Willis has registered for a higher degree.

Miss Willis was born in Portsmouth and read for her BSc in the University of Wales at Bangor. She holds the British sub-aqua club qualification (second class) and has experience of scuba diving in Irish waters as well as in the Persian Gulf and the West Indies....

October 10 1973

In the course of July I had the opportunity of spending a couple of days with Professor Bary of UCG doing oceanographic survey work in Galway Bay. This gave me a chance to observe at first hand the practical problems associated with running a laboratory at sea.

The current procedure is that they hire they Aran Queen(9) for three days in the mid-week, once a month......In two hours hard work Professor Bary, his research student and two technicians convert the Queen into something resembling a research vessel. This involves mounting a petrol-hydraulic winch on a wooden base....a derrick is improvised with a steel ladder and wire stays, a structure contrived of gaspipes and more wire stays is put up to support the plankton trawls. A small petrol-driven pump gives service water for flushing down plankton into the trap at the end of the conical net, also for driving the vacuum pumps necessary for filtration..... (The permanent fixtures on the Queen associated with these temporary structures constitute a hazard to unsuspecting passengers on the other days of the month; this strengthens the case for a proper vessel.)

The basic experimental procedure is to cover, in each three-day period, about 20 locations spaced in a grid covering the whole of the bay area.

At each station, samples are taken using sample-bottles which are lowered by means of the winch. They are spring-loaded, with a trigger-release mechanism activated by a weight which slides down the wire.

A depth-temperature profile is read with a recording thermograph, a robust and ingenious instrument which gives a permanent trace on a glass covered with gold film.

The contents of the sample-bottles are put through various processes. Some are stored at low temperature (using solid CO2) in order to slow down any chemical changes. Some are filtered to get the phytoplankton. All samples have their temperatures recorded, using doubled thermometers, with allowance for pressure effects. These provide fixed calibration-points on the continuous thermograph record.

To pick up significant numbers of zoo-plankton it is necessary to sweep a large volume of water; this is done with conical trawls having a well-defined entry area and a means of recording the distance traversed. This provides useful data on the life-cycles of fish and crustacea, as much of the zoo-plankton is constituted by larvae.

The analysis of this data, collected over a period of years, provides a basis for understanding the laws of motion governing the water in the bay, together with an understanding of the reasons underlying the presence or absence of fish of various species, the ability or otherwise of oysters to spawn, etc.

The analysis of the data is where the real science comes in. Its collection is a matter for a force of skilled and competent technicians. The present operation is clearly as yet only at the level of a training-scheme for technicians and researchers. It is unlikely to have any impact on the economics of the Galway fisheries until ot expands its scope, to the extent of establishing correlations between oceanographic measures and the volume and location of catches.

The achievement of a degree of mutual confidence between working fishermen and researchers remains a remote objective. It would be helped if it were possible, for example, to relate the current fall in south-east coast herring with oceanographic factors giving rise to a change in location, rather than simple over-fishing of the stocks. Such changes have been recorded elsewhere in the past.

Returning to Galway bay: there are beginning to be indications of a pattern. The fresh water from the Corrib tends to run out along the north coast. But in a dry summer, the oceanic drifts would tend to over-ride this pattern, and the salmon would not run in along their customary paths, to the dismay of the Connemara lobster-men, some of whom see a good haul of salmon as a step towards owning a trawler.

There is an analogy between this work and the National Soil Survey work being done by the Agricultural Institute. There is, however, no direct, centralised responsibility for all aspects of marine research, as was advocated by Fergus Cahill....in 1972..

Professor Bary's work has suffered; he cannot find the key decision-maker to lobby. He has had NSC grants, but this method of financing suffers from 'stop-go' problems; it is currently in a 'stop' phase.

Professor Bary is critical of some of Fergus Cahill's proposals; he is sceptical of the idea that putting people together in one place necessarily generates a viable research system. The key factor is resources, on a continuous basis. People separated geographically, if they have resources, can communicate and co-ordinate.

On the other hand, people concentrated in one place can sometimes combine to get resources, where isolated people lack the necessary credibility. Both views are, in a sense, correct; the basic initial step is political.

It is worthwhile outlining what the present splintered departmental approach to research vessels has made available. There is a 46ft ketch, Oona III, owned by the UCG Zoology Department since 1967. This carries equipment (winches, nets, grabs, dredges etc) but is essentially a fair-weather, inshore boat. The Corunna, a converted tug, 62ft with two 150HP engines, is more of an all-weather vessel (one can work up to force 6) but it is narrow in the beam and lacks an unencumbered work-area. The Cu Feasa, owned by the Department of Fisheries and used by them for fisheries research, is 50ft with a 300HP engine. This vessel also suffers from design defects. In general, it is not economic to convert a vessel designed for something else for use as a floating laboratory. One needs to start from scratch.

This Professor Bary has done. The July-August 1972 issue of Technology Ireland carries his design proposal for a catamaran research-vessel; this type of design gives the best ratio of working space per unit cost.

Thus, comparing the performance of a 50ft catamaran and a 70ft tug: the former can take a 20-tonne load in a force 8 gale with a 12 degree roll, compared to a 5-tonne load and a 25 degree roll for the latter.

Having watched the performance of the improvised derrick on the Aran Queen, I can see the importance of the 12-degree roll.

The capital outlay on the 85ft by 40ft catamaran, including gear, is estimated at 135K. This would not be a great extravagance for a national vessel, which would provide a properly-staffed service to all those interested in marine research, on a time-sharing basis.

Better a national vessel working a full year on oceanography, marine biology, hydrography, and fisheries research tham a fleet of small departmental vessels which spend most of their time idle in port. Such a vessel could also provide a basic training in practical seamanship, forming part of a Regional College course orientated towards that end.

Can we not provide a professional service in seamanship for our researchers, instead of having them waste their time being amateur mariners?

January 1 1974

(For a reference to the seamanship tradition among the Irish, see the entry under the above date in the 'Non-renewable Resources' chapter).

July 24 1974

The National Fishermen's Defence Association have produced a well-argued booklet entitled 'Driftnetting of Salmon in Ireland' at 15p. It can be obtained from the Secretary, Frank Gallagher, at Killybegs, or from Seamus Mac Riocaird at Howth.

This is a closely-argued polemic against those who would cut back on drift-net licences on grounds of alleged threat to angling. It makes good use of such statistics as are available, but it does show up that more quantitative measurements need to be done, by tagging and other means, of the western fish resources, of which the salmon are the most newsworthy.

One of the most powerful arguments in favour of driftnetting for salmon in the west of Ireland context is that it constitutes a stepping-stone for an inshore farmer-fisherman towards buying a bigger boat and going for full-scale commercial fishing. The growth of the Killybegs and Burtonport fleets owes much to the salmon season; once the fleets are there they tend to fish consistently throughout the year. This argument was used by Arthur Reynolds, editor of the 'Skipper', to help win the case (in or about 1967) for opening up the Corrib salmon run to the Connemara fishermen, with a very positive effect on the development of the fleet operating in Galway bay.

What is needed is the allocation of enough resources by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to ensure that reliable data is collected, and a predictive dynamic population model developed. This is a job for a Marine Research Institute, working with university marine and fresh-water biologists, using appropriate computing expertise. It is little use making regulations from an inadequate theoretical basis.

There also needs to be established socially effective mechanisms for managing co-operatively a common resource. The infighting will continue until there is a generally accepted understanding of stock conservation principles, and the regulations based on them are shown quantitatively to be correct to the satisfaction of all concerned.

July 24 1974

(The following is extracted from an article by Dr Cathal O Lionain(10) which was commissioned by the writer for publication in association with the column)

....Recently Bord Iascaigh Mara decided to investigate the possibility of using a computer to aid them in forward planning.......

The planning system developed is in the form of a mathematical model, programmed to operate on any modern digital computer.....representing the real world (in this case the Irish sea-fishing industry) through a series of mathematical equations. These...make explicit the relationships between the variables which describe each facet of the industry, from the catching sector through to the retail outlets.....

The number of variables....runs into hundreds; hence the need for the computer. The industry itself is in continuous evolution....for the model to be successful it must incorporate the dynamics of this evolution...by building in.. conditional decision sequences.....

Once the model is set up and proven, it then becomes a very useful tool to the decision-maker, since it can be used in the experimental sense to test the effects of various plans which might be embarked upon in directing the development of the industry......It can simulate a five-year period ahead in about ten minutes......

The model takes as its starting-point the number of fishing-vessels in the fleet in the year under consideration...classified by size....based in any one of five regions.... The computer then simulates the fishing operation, sending boats out to sea for a certain number of hours each day, and days in the year. The catch in the given time-period is a function of the species fished, and the stocks in the region in question, as well as boat size.

This information.....allows the model to generate landings....for the entire fleet....calculates costs, revenues, break-even point and profitability of each vessel class....quantities caught relative to maximum sustainable yield...routes the quantities landed through the various market sectors... It computes the contribution to the Irish economy....checks whether a market is capable of absorbing the volumes....deflects to other markets surpluses when they occur....keeps track of investment in the form of government grants and loans.....return on capital.

September 25 1974

(The following are extracts from an article by Niall Herriott(11) which was commissioned by the writer for publication in association with the column. It continues on the following day).

....Mariculture in Ireland is in its infancy, though trout-farming in fresh-water is well established with about half a dozen farms.... The great difficulty in the way of mariculture is the traditional view that the sea-shore and its resources are common property, available to all. Only where there are protective leases (as in Japan, where some of the most advanced mariculture accurs with Government encouragement) can the shore-line be efficiently utilised. In Japan, suitable areas are designated, and the local fishermen's co-operatives...allocate sub-areas to individual marine farmers. In Ireland there is provision for granting leases to cultivate shellfish on the sea-bed, but the Government is slow in utilising this because of the conflicting constitutional safeguard on public ownership of the shoreline.

It is for this reason that what passes for mariculture in Ireland is usually not farming, but harvesting of natural stocks with sporadic attempts at improvement.... Until there is protection and management of the resource on grounds that are leased or owned, we cannot speak of mariculture. (There is, in fact, a precise parallel with agriculture.)....

Bord Iascaigh Mara has put a good deal of emphasis on marine farming in its development plans...... Finance is scarce and initiative even scarcer...only one project has got backing so far...... Although the grant scheme is ostensibly orientated towards fisheries co-ops...it is unlikely that the people of the western seaboard will become involved (without promotion)..... Otherwise....the people who will take advantage of the favourable conditions....will be the big corporations like Unilever and ICI, who are diversifying into fish farming as fast as they can, also established fish-farmers from the Continent, who are finding their areas threatened by disease and pollution.....

Surveys of the numerous derelict oyster-beds along the west coast have also been carried out by BIM. Most of these beds were associated with the various 'Big Houses' of the Ascendancy.....

...There is a shortage of oyster seed ('spat').... Imported oyster seed from hatcheries abroad is prohibitively expensive, and the taking of young oysters from public beds is prohibited for conservation reasons....

A second method ofobtaining 'spat' is by artificial propagation in hatcheries. It was partly for this reason that the Government financed the UCG Shellfish Research Laboratory near Carna... Applied research into hatching, rearing and cultivation techniques is being carried out with the native or flat oyster, with the Pacific or Japanese oyster, with scallops and with the clam known as the 'parlourde' in France.....

An experimental...project for the oyster beds owned by Gael Linn in Cill Chiarain bay....would include....a re-seeding programme....

The Pacific oyster, known in the trade as 'gigas'....is likely to be heard of a good deal inthe future..... It can grow to commercial size in 18 months....compared to three, four or even five years for native oysters..... It can only be produced in hatcheries, as it does not breed naturally in these cooler waters. Thus there is no danger of valuable native oyster-beds being over-run by 'gigas'.

....it is the native oyster that remains the big potential money-spinner especially now that many of the French native oyster-beds are threatened by serious disease epidemics, and because the Dutch...industry is experiencing a recession due to dyking of inlets. There were 3.8M oysters produced in Ireland in 1972.....given a transition to modern farming conditions, the figure (is potentially) higher than the 30M target suggested for the mid 70s by the American fisheries experts in 1964.

September 26 1974

(Continuing Niall Herriott).....Already at least three semi-state bodies are involved in pilot-scale salmon-farming projects in inlets in the west, one of them in collaboration with an overseas firm.....

Salmonid farming is capital-intensive and not likely to employ many people, unlike shellfish farming, which lends itself well to co-operative development, as in France......

Of the several types of mussel cultivation, one is already practiced at Wexford Harbour, Carlingford Lough, the Boyne estuary, Cromane (Co Kerry), and several other places. This is the re-laying of intertidal mussels to achieve faster growth in deeper waters, where they can feed at all times. The mussels are later dredged up from these public fisheries.....

...Supplies of good-quality mussels are still insufficient and can be produced only by expanding the industry into private farming.... For this to occur, licences and legal protection for areas of submerged sea-bed, or moored rafts, or buoyed ropes would be needed....

This presents an ideal opportunity for co-operatives or small family businesses to develop rope cultivation of mussels....a pilot-scale off-bottom mussel cultivation development scheme in a suitable inlet on the west coast(12)...would be a sound socio-economic investment....

...Brief mention must be made of the scallop, which is farmed in Japan using rafts....and could eventually be farmed here also, for the first time in Europe. There is also the 'parlourde', a native clam, for which the French pay the incredible price of 3.50 pounds per pound in the shell.....

Fishing is a form of hunting, and as such a primitive method of food-getting.... The biological potential for mariculture is high. It is the social, legal and economic difficulties which are the stumbling blocks.

Mariculture should be slotted into the co-ordinated approach to marine resource development that is called for by Fergus Cahill....

July 1 1975

Two recent events again drew attention to the embryonic western fishing industry. The first was a seminar organised by the Western Regional Scientific Council in Galway, in May. Brian Casburn, of the Galway and Aran Fishermen's Co-op, filled in the economic background: landings 600,000 pounds in 1973, rising to 800,000 in 1974, exclusive of shellfish. There are 24 trawlers employing 120 fishermen, and 35 smaller boats employing 70-80 people part-time. These jobs at sea are estimated to generate a further 1000 on land (though this sounds to me like the Iceland figure, where the industry is well cross-linked and integrated).

The scientific interest was looked after by Dr John Mercer of UCG, who stressed the problem of fish stock conservation and planning in a situation where the Irish share of the catch was small (10% or so).

John O'Connor of BIM called for a procedure of licencing foreign trawlers to supply Irish factories while Irish fleets were building up. Arthur Reynolds, editor of the Skipper, outlined the historical reasons for the delayed start of the industry. There is a full summary of the symposium in the June issue of the Skipper.

To capitalise the expansion of this somewhat mercurial industry is a tricky 'hen-and-egg' problem. Gaeltarra(13) have been paying some attention to it. First fruit of this, however, are not in wet fish, but in the more tricky oyster business. This, however, is beginning to look like a sounder investment thanks to the work of the UCG Carna research laboratory.

A new firm, Beirtreach Teo, was launched on May 28 by the Minister for the Gaeltacht, Mt Tom O'Donnell, at a conference in the Bank of Ireland head-office. This firm, based on the work of the Carna laboratory and financed by Gaeltarra, will be concerned with the commercial development of oyster farming along the western coastline. The initial phase involves the employment of 12 people in (a) developing the lab spawning techniques to a routine commercial procedure (b) developing raft and other techniques for growing the spat at sea (c) identifying potential sites.

Both native (ostrea edulis) and Pacific (crassostrea gigas) oysters are envisaged; the latter species has reproduced successfully under hatchery conditions and has the advantage of more rapid maturation. It does not...reproduce under natural conditions in Irish waters and therefore does not constitute an ecological threat to the native species.

Economic linkages with local co-operatives are expected to emerge when the various sites have been developed over the coming five-year period. Beirtreach Teo is the first major investment by a State company in mariculture; it is also, I think, the first major investment by the State in the exploitation of a science-based technology developed in a university in Ireland, at least in recent times.

(Perhaps we are recovering from the negative experience of the Drumm battery project(14) of the thirties; this was a courageous but premature venture into technological innovation in which fingers were badly burned (to the tune of a quarter of a million thirties pounds). The imprint of this has remained in the folk-memory of the Civil Service; this, perhaps, explains the caution with which the national Science Council has approached financing the economic exploitation of the research and development work carried out in the universities and colleges of technology in recent years under its sponsorship.)

Gaeltarra is to be complimented on pioneering the reversal of this tradition.

December 12 1975

The OECD has produced a critique of the National Science Council's marine science programme produced in October of last year by Fergus Cahill and Owen Sweeney. The authors of the OECD Report are Dr F Sollie (Norway), Dr G Hempel (German FR) and Mr C Riffaud (France); all are Directors of inportant marine centres.

They support the NSC recommendations, criticising them, if anything, for not being agressive enough in the battle to overcome the inertia with regard to the sea which we have inherited in Ireland.

They suggest priorities as follows: (1) ship-time (2) data-collection and processing (3) petroleum (4)oceanography (5) mariculture (6) environment. This ranking is a compromise between importance and urgency, and on both counts the provision of ship-time clearly heads the list. I understand that the State is said to be acting on this; what relation the announcement has to the administrative reality remains to be seen.

March 9 1976 I am reminded by the March issue of Arthur Reynolds's 'Skipper' of the critical state of the fishing industry with regard to the question of the territorial waters.

The Icelanders have shown the way. No system of common exploitation of resources between competing national fleets can allow the resource to be conserved. This ought to be obvious from the history of agriculture. Land cannot be made productive unless it is enclosed and a single agency manages it. The grey stone of the Burren stands as a monument to the overgrazed and eroded commonages of mediaeval times. The history of the Plains Indians and the buffalo will be repeated in our Western seas, unless there is a single management agency: this can only be a national State.

Unfortunately we are not well-enough equipped to measure what is going on and to sense the danger signals. There is in the 'Skipper' a frightening little article by Dr Alec Gibson, of the Department, which gives 'catch per unit effort' figures for landings in the Ramagiri district of India. Over a period of 12 years, the number of boats goes up from 7 to 600, the catch from 600 to 19,800 tons, while the catch per trawler drops from 95 to 33; the effort per trawler to pick up this declining catch increases from 7.4 to 720 units. Dr Gibson computes that the the yield of the fishery could be optimally sustained with 300 boats.

Such computations can be made, but you need reliable statistics. Dr Gibson's article is an attempt to persuade fishermen that the Department's data-gathering excercises are worthy of support, especially if the fishermen need to make the necessary strong case at the Law of the Sea conference.

Catch per unit effort statistics in Ireland are notoriously hard to come by. I know, in that I have tried; in the end I had to pay someone who was close enough to measure the 'effort' as well as the catch, to collect them specially for a particular purpose(15).

However good our own statistics are, we remain in the dark as to what is really going on as long as fisheries arre exploited on a commonage basis by other national fleets. They may produce statistics, but why should we believe them?

We should hold out for a 200-mile limit, strongly policed. Until our own fleet builds up to the optimal level (determined by scientific analysis of catch per unit effort statistics collectd meticulously by a single strong national agency), we should licence other peoples' boats to fish provided they land the catch in Ireland. We should invest in processing capacity to match the sustainable output of our 200-mile territorial waters. In other words, we should become the Iceland of Europe.

No less of a policy than this will permit the long-term conservation of the stocks. Our representatives in New York from March 15 would be likely to get the support of the people in taking as hard-nosed a line as this, whether or not they have the support of the Government.


1. Sea Fisheries Board, usually abbreviated to BIM.

2. This was an important part of the research activity of the UCG chemists in the 20s and 30s, under the late Professor Dillon.

3. Taoiseach in 1982; he was then Minister for Finance under Sean Lemass.

4. See the 'Non-renewable Resources' chapter; also below (October 18 1972).

5. Research Officer of the Maritime Institute, a voluntary promotional body which he founded in the 50s. It maintains a maritime museum in Dun Laoire.

6. The principal technical periodical serving the industry in Ireland, owned and edited by Arthur Reynolds.

7. This reserved to the British Government ultimate control over all maritime affairs, including even servicing the lighthouses. Dr de Courcey Ireland has written extensively on this negative legacy.

8. One can perhaps here see the influence of Dr Went; this view was also echoed in Miles Parker's review above.

9. A small passenger cruiser which normally services the 'short sea route' to Inis Mor, via Ros a Mhichil.

10. Originally a physicist, Dr O Lionain evolved into techno-economic modelling in Aer Lingus in the 60s, where he worked in association with the writer inthe Economic Planning Department. He then joined Stokes, Kennedy and Crowley, a Dublin firm of auditors and management consultants.

11. Then an English research student doing a post-graduate qualification in marine biology in Ireland.

12. Such as Killary Harbour, where Niall Herriott now manages a mariculture enterprise. This pattern should become more the norm, if investment in R and D in the Irish 3rd-level education system is ever to pay off.

13. Gaeltarra Eireann (now Udaras na Gaeltachta, with an added elective component) promotes preferential investment into industrial enterprises in the Irish-speaking districts. This fragmentation of State industrial promotion has its negative aspect. The writer did some computer modelling of fisheries development concepts for Gaeltarra, on a single-port basis, at the same time as Dr O Lionain was working for BIM. It would have been better if we had been working as a team. We did co-ordinate to some extent informally, as we happened to be ex-colleagues who knew each other.

14. An attempt to develop an electric traction system for Dublin suburban rail using an improved nickel-iron accumulator. Not only was the technology unripe, but the cultural gap between the (Protestant/Unionist) railway engineering fraternity and the (Catholic/Nationalist) engineers of University College Dublin ensured that the probability of success was even further reduced. The initial enthusiasm of the Government in 1930 was under the influence of the success of the Shannon hydro-electric scheme. See H J P Murdoch, 'Invention and the Irish Patent System', University of Dublin (Trinity College), Administrative Research Bureau, 1971.

15. The Gaeltarra computer-based planning project touched upon in Note 13.

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