Marine Institute to show off shark nursery find at Galway Science Festival

Galway Daily news Marine Institute teaching people about new shark discovery
Scientists discover rare ‘shark nursery’ west of Ireland

After a rare discovery of a shark nursery off the coast of Galway attracted international attention a short while ago, the Marine Institute is coming out to talk about this amazing find.

Earlier this month an ocean mapping survey discovered this deep-sea shark nursery by complete accident in what’s being hailed as a “Eureka” moment for researchers.

Members of the Marine Institute, as well as the survey’s chief scientist, will be at the Galway Science and Technology Festival this Sunday, November 25 highlighting the recent discovery.

The SeaRover survey was exploring deep ocean coral 200 miles off the coast of Galway when it stumbled across an incredible find 750m below the surface of the water.

Large number of shark eggs, often called ‘mermaid pouches’, nestled among the coral and large numbers of Blackmouth catsharks and Sailfin roughsharks nearby.

“It was incredible, real David Attenborough stuff,” said David O’Sullivan, chief scientist for the SeaRover survey.

“This is a major biological find and a story of this magnitude would have been on ‘Blue Planet’ if they’d known about it. Very, very little is known on a global scale about deep-sea shark nurseries.”

At the Science Festival at NUI Galway this weekend the shark themed stand will teach kids and their families about what goes into mapping the ocean floor and how this led to them finding such a large number of sharks.

This nursery is the largest such discovery ever made in Irish waters. It was found by scientists using the Marine Institute’s remote sub, the ROV Hollande I.

The large number of eggs that were spotted by the sub indicates that females may gather in this spot to lay their eggs, with the nearby coral providing ideal shelter for juvenile sharks.

It’s likely that the eggs belonged to the Blackmouth catshark, of which a large number were seen at the site. The more solitary Sailfin roughshark was also observed in the area.

The Sailfin roughshark is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature meaning it may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future.

The species grows up to a length of 1.2 m and is usually observed moving slowly with deep water currents feeding on small invertebrates.

“Our key objective is to assess, protect and monitor Ireland’s rich offshore marine biodiversity so we can begin to manage our marine resources effectively,” said David O’Sullivan.

“Without a knowledge of what lives in our seas we are at risk of never fully understanding and appreciating Ireland’s marine environment.”

The stunning images of the shark nursery were acquired by the national seabed mapping programme: Integrated Mapping For the Sustainable Development of Ireland’s Marine Resource (INFOMAR).

This programme has been carrying out expeditions to map areas likely to have coral reef habitats by identifying specific seabed morphological features.