environmental & ecological services
MERC Projects

Desktop assessment and literature review of a proposed wave energy test site and associated transmission cable off the coast of Belmullet, Co. Mayo (2010).

MERC were commissioned by Tonn Energy to conduct a desktop assessment and literature review of available data on the natural environment in the area of Annagh Head, Co. Mayo as part of the site selection process for a proposed offshore wave energy development.

This study included the collation of data relating to commercial fisheries (including aquaculture), marine infauna and epifauna, landscapes and seascapes and terrestrial ecology. The report included, in addition to the actual datasets, an assessment of gaps in current data that would be required by an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Ecological assessment of the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site. Co Mayo. (2011)

MERC have recently (January 2011) completed a multidisciplinary ecological assessment of the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site at Belmullet, Co. Mayo on behalf of Tonn Energy. In this role, MERC coordinated and managed the delivery of marine mammal surveys, seabird surveys, benthic infaunal surveys, subtidal habitat surveys and terrestrial vegetation surveys within the study area. In addition to their management and coordination role MERC conducted all subtidal, intertidal and terrestrial ecology surveys within the AMETS and were responsible for liaison with the project team and the relevant authorities.

This study also provided input on the ecological factors relating to the cable route selection process as part of a preliminary assessment of the site.

Ecological survey of Ballyhalbert

In order to provide information on the seabed habitats and associated benthic communities along a potential marine outfall route, Aquatic Services Unit retained the services of MERC to conduct diver surveys of the area and compile a report on associated biotopes with the and provide subtidal diver stills imagery.

Bathymetric Surveying of freshwater lakes (2010-2011)

MERC, in association with Compass Informatics, were awarded a contract to carry out a bathymetric survey of over 180 lakes in Ireland on behalf of the EPA. This survey involves the mapping of lake bathymetry by acoustic surveys of specified transect lines to provide full bathymetric maps of each lake. Additional physicochemical data, imagery and anthropogenic impacts are also recorded.

Benthic surveys of Irish marine cSACs - as part of a scheme of Appropriate Assessment. Roaringwater Bay, Kenmare River and Tralee Bays (2009).

MERC have conducted surveys of subtidal sediments and reef habitats in a number of cSACs in Ireland on behalf of the Marine Institute. These surveys involve extensive grab sampling, video surveys and biotope mapping of large areas of seabed in Ireland. The results of this survey feed into a system of appropriate assessment in relation to fisheries in Ireland.

Surveys of sensitive, subtidal benthic communities within Irish candidate Special Areas of Conservation (2005-2009) and outside SAC’s (2010).

In furtherance of its policy of developing enhanced tools for managing Ireland\'s marine candidate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht commissioned MERC to conduct surveys of sensitive subtidal communities in a number of marine SACs from 2005 to 2009. The over-riding purpose of the project was to enhance the conservation of marine wildlife and associated habitats in selected SACs through the investigation of ecological quality indicators.

The result of this programme of surveys is a set of highly detailed habitat maps of the following sensitive subtidal communities throughout Irish cSACs

- Beds of seagrass Zostera marina

- Beds of maërl forming calcareous algae including Lithothamnion corallioides, Phymatolithon calcareum

- Communities of the polychaetes Lanice conchilega (Sand Mason), Sabella pavonina, (Peacock Worm) and the reef forming Serpula vermicularis (Tube Worm),

- Reefs of the Native Oyster Ostrea edulis (excluding licensed fisheries/aquaculture sites), Reefs of the bivalve mollusc ,Limaria hians (Gaping File Shell),

- Communities of Scolanthus callimorphus, (Burrowing Worm Anemone)

- Beds of the tubicolous anemone Pachycerianthus multiplicatus (Fireworks anemone), Communities of Virgularia mirabilis and other Sea Pen species,

- Beds of Neopentadactyla mixta and other burrowing sea cucumbers.

Survey to assess the efficiency of dredges within scallop and oyster fisheries. (2010-2011).

MERC conducted a series of dredges efficiency surveys within selected SACs on behalf of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara in furtherance to the Appropriate Assessment of these bays under the obligations of Article 6 of the EU Habitats Directive.

Appropriate Assessment for the landing of the Celtix Connect fibre Optic Cable at Bull Island, Co Dublin (2009-2010).

During 2009 and 2010 MDM Engineering contracted MERC to carry out an appropriate assessment for the landing stage of the Celtix Connect Ireland/UK fibreoptic cable.

Review and assessment of possible ecological constraints for the proposed Dublin to Anglesey sub-sea cable system (2011).

MERC conducted a review and assessment on behalf of Geo Networks Limited, UK. to assess ecological constraints for a proposed sub-sea cable off the east coast of Ireland.

A survey of Edwardsiidae Worm anemones in Valentia Harbour and Portmagee Channel cSAC (2007).

During 2007 the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht commissioned MERC to conduct a survey of E. delapiae in Valentia Harbour and Portmagee Channel.

Survey of Red Bay potential SAC, N. Ireland (2006)

MERC were commissioned by the Environment and Heritage Service of Northern Ireland to conduct a survey of Red Bay Co. Antrim in advance of a designation of this site as a candidate Special Area of Conservation. This survey, which involved the mapping and characterisation of an extensive maërl bed, was carried out by a combination of direct diver observation and drop down video. Conclusive mapping of maërl bed boundaries necessitated conducting video drops in water depths in excess of 60m with concurrent tidal streams of up to 3 knots.

Ground truthing of extensive areas of the seabed, backed up by diver video and stills imagery corroborated the drop down video imagery to a very high degree of confidence. Extensive diver coring of the seabed for infaunal analysis was also conducted.

Status of Irish Aquaculture (2006 and 2007).

The Marine Institute and Bord Iascaigh Mhara commission MERC to conduct a review of the status of Irish Aquaculture for 2006 and 2007. The aims of the project were to:

- Provide an objective and comprehensive source of information on the status of Irish aquaculture in each of the years indicated.

- Show the main trends in the production, employment export and market statistics for the Irish industry in each year.

- Summarise the current industry licensing activity, which is the responsibility of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (currently DAFF).

- Present the results of a wide range of monitoring programmes for farmed shellfish and finfish, which are carried out primarily by the Marine Institute

- Highlight the various research and development initiatives in the area of aquaculture that are underway in various state agencies and third-level institutes

- Report on other issues/events/initiatives that occurred in each of the study years.

METIRC - (Marine Ecological Tools for Reference, Intercalibration and Classification) Marine Angiosperms Subcontract (2006).

The purpose of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) is to establish a framework for the preservation and, where necessary, the improvement of water quality of inland surface waters, transitional and coastal waters and groundwater. The prime and overriding objective of the Water Framework Directive is for all surface waters, artificial and heavily modified waters and groundwaters to achieve good water status by 2015. The WFD has been transposed into Irish Law by National Regulation S.I. 722 of 2003. The Directive contains a very large number of tasks in a variety of areas, including scientific/technical, information management, economic and administrative, which must be addressed by each Member State.

In fulfilment of one of these tasks the Marine Institute commissioned MERC to conduct a survey of intertidal sea grass beds, rocky shores and salt marsh areas of high ecological value throughout Ireland and test the results of this study against reference values set for their assessment as tools for monitoring. This project involved the identification of salt marshes in Ireland and their subsequent survey and mapping of boundaries along transects at various locations throughout Ireland.

Production of a plan to survey and assess the conservation status of Irish sea cliffs

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht commissioned MERC in 2009 to produce a plan to survey and assess the conservation status of Irish sea cliffs.

‘Vegetated sea cliffs of the Atlantic and Baltic coasts’ (EU code 1230) are listed under Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). A baseline conservation assessment undertaken in 2007 indicated that the habitat structure and functions and future prospects of vegetated sea cliffs were ‘unfavourable-inadequate’ The main pressures and threats include erosion, grazing, recreational pressures, development of golf courses and housing, dumping and cutting of peat. In some cases, coastal protection works interfere with the natural functioning of sea cliffs, particularly those of the soft variety, which are prone to erosion.

MERC produced a detailed survey plan following extensive examination of the current literature and baseline data on Irish sea cliffs together with detailed field trials to produce both a methodology to obtain baseline data on the extent, structure and function, conservation status and future prospects of Irish sea cliffs and a monitoring plan to assess their conservation status into the future.

Production of a conservation management plan for Slyne Head Peninsula cSAC. (2009)

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht commissioned MERC to produce a conservation management plan for Slyne Head Peninsula cSAC.

Slyne Head Peninsula has been designated as a candidate Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive due to the presence of fifteen EU Annex I habitats and three EU priority habitats (machair, coastal lagoons and orchid-rich semi-natural dry grasslands). The site is also designated due to the presence of slender naiad and petalwort two species listed under Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive.

MERC conducted detailed surveys of the site to assess the current conservation interests and any impacts or activities impacting on its conservation status. Consultations with local landowners and fishermen were also carried out as part of the overall assessment of the site in relation to its management needs. A detailed conservation management plan, including strategies for mitigating damaging activities and was drawn up for the site.

Screening assessment for appropriate assessment of Keeper Hill SAC. (2011)

MERC conducted an appropriate assessment screening assessment for UPC Ireland Ltd., in advance of the decommissioning and replacement of an existing telecommunications mast at Keeper Hill SAC, Co. Tipperary.

Ecological report, Ballyhoura, Co. Cork (2011)

MERC conducted an ecological report for KNNS networks, in advance of the construction of a telecommunications mast at Ballyhoura, Carker North, Co. Cork.

Screening assessment for appropriate assessment for proposed upgrade works to National Way marked trails (2011).

MERC conducted an appropriate assessment screening assessment for Ballyhoura Failte, in advance of proposed upgrade works to walking trails in the Ballyhoura Mountains. Co. Tipperary.

Ecological report for assessment of track maintenance at Keeper Hill, Co. Tipperary.

MERC conducted an ecological report for Coillte Teo. to assess options for track maintenance work at Keeper Hill, Co. Tipperary.

Audit of biological datasets.

MERC were commissioned by Westmeath, Laois, Cork, Cork City, Laois, Kildare, Meath, Roscommon, Cavan, Kerry and Monaghan County Councils 2006 and 2007 to conduct audits of biological datasets relevant to each of the counties.

This project required the researching and collation of large volumes of metadata in relation to the biodiversity of the counties outlined above and the development of a suitable database capable of presenting the results and of being queried. This project has provided the relative counties and MERC with a vast resource of biodiversity data for a range of Irish counties, some of which contain data related to the marine environment including data from previous Environmental Impact Assessments.

Fisheries on the Gaeltacht Islands of Ireland: Sustaining island traditions

MERC in association with Nautilus Consultants were commissioned in 2007 by Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann (The Irish Islands Federation) to conduct a survey of fisheries on the Gaeltacht islands of Ireland to assess the current state of fisheries on the islands and make recommendations that will ensure a viable future for island fishermen, their families and dependant onshore industries.

The study involved the preparation of an up-to-date assessment of fisheries on the Gaeltacht (Irish Speaking) islands of Ireland, and included the following tasks:


  • A review of all available information which is relevant to island fisheries including the efficacy of existing support schemes, legislation (Irish & European), reports, databases or any other relevant publications.

  • Consulting with island fishermen and other stakeholders to identify the issues affecting them.

  • Consulting with relevant state agencies to determine their viewpoints on the issues identified.

  • Consulting island fishermen to determine accurate and up to date information on employment levels, vessels (age, number, length, type, engine size), equipment, onshore infrastructure, target species, fishing effort, access to markets, ancillary/dependant industries (boat building, processing etc), demographics of fishermen and their families, local organisational structures and the perceptions and ideas of island fishermen.

  • Assessing the approximate cost of modernising the island fleets (vessels & equipment).

  • Determining what onshore infrastructure is necessary on each of the islands for a sustainable fishing industry e.g. mooring, piers, ice making, forklifts, cranes etc.

  • Examination of case studies and innovative fisheries practices in other countries and determining if they can be replicated on the Irish Islands eg diversification, technical conservation methods, stock management, marine protected areas, measures for increasing product value, MSC certification, island produce branding etc.

  • Examining precedents on islands/regions in other countries to determine if a case can be made for advantageous treatment of island fishermen in Ireland.

  • Recommending ways to encourage young people to participate in the fishing industry. Including an examination of the current barriers to their involvement.

  • Analyses all of this information culminating in a report that makes practical proposals to enable fishermen to stay in the industry and to provide a basis for sustainable fisheries in future.

Biological appraisal of seabed fauna and flora of proposed aquaculture development site at Skeam West, Roaringwater Bay, County Cork. Client: the Aquaculture License Appeals Board.

The study was commissioned by the Aquaculture License Appeals Board in support of a technical evaluation of an appeal against a decision by the DCMNR to grant an aquaculture license. The survey involved diver assessments of the sea bed in the proposed development area and associated video and photographic documentation of the current conservation status of the seabed.

Survey of Malahide Marina for evidence of colonies within the genus Didemnum

Client: National Parks and Wildlife Service Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht of Ireland.

This project carried out a detailed survey of the invasive genus Didemnum within the area of Malahide marine and environs, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Ireland. Areas colonised were mapped and video and photographic records were made.

Survey of intertidal mudflats at Carna, Co. Galway.

The National University of Ireland, Galway commissioned MERC to conduct as assessment of intertidal sediments at Carna Bay Co. Galway as part of the requirements for an EIA in advance of a planning application for development of the site. This project involved the survey, coring and processing of sediment cores from an area of intertidal and subtidal mudflats at the NUI Galway research facility at Carna Co. Galway.

Survey of Zostera beds at Kilronan Harbour, Inis Mor Co. Galway.

This survey involved the mapping, photography and abundance estimates of areas of subtidal Zostera marina in the vicinity of the main pier at Kilronan in advance of a Planning application for a pier extension.

Biodiversity of Cill Chiaráin Bay, Co. Galway.

This study, funded by the Heritage Council, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and Udaras na Gealtachta, examined the archeology, natural heritage, cultural heritage, people and livelihoods of Cill Chiaráin Bay, Co. Galway. It provides a comprehensive overview of an area of very rich natural and cultural biodiversity in Ireland.