• The Irish Coral Task Force and Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Study: Report on Two Deep-Water Coral Conservation Stakeholder Workshops Held in Galway in 2000 and 2002

      Grehan, A; Long, R; Deegan, B; Ó Cinneide, M (Marine Institute, 2003)
      Increasing public and media awareness of the unique nature of European deep-water corals has put the focus firmly on the need for sustainable management of European offshore living resources. The well documented destruction of deep-water corals off Norway and potentially along the entire European margin combined with extremely slow coral habitat recovery rates, has created a sense of urgency to move towards implementation of the appropriate management measures to ensure the long-term survival of this spectacular and important habitat. In the process, deep-water coral conservation has become in many ways a paradigm for a shift away from traditional sectoral driven resource management approaches, towards an inclusive integrated ecosystem approach to the management of European offshore resources. The EU Fifth Framework Programme, in an effort to increase the socio-economic impact of its R&D projects strongly encouraged the formation of scientist-stakeholder partnerships and development of a suitable research-product delivery mechanism. The major (€2.1 million) European Union funded research project: the Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Study successfully responded to these new challenges in a number of innovative ways. In particular, the establishment of an ACES project-stakeholder partnership through consultative workshops, provided a means for stakeholders to prioritise the scientific research and created a forum for rapid dissemination of scientific results. Complementary initiatives arising from these meetings, such as the formation of the ad hoc Irish Coral Task Force, provided a mechanism whereby scientific findings could be translated into policy advice for the appropriate national authorities. This report serves as a record of the consultative process undertaken during two stakeholder workshops held in Galway on 23rd June 2000 and 24th June 2002. Section A contains conclusions and summary records of the two meetings. Section B contains a series of papers presented at the workshops to provide detailed information on: cold-water coral research and conservation initiatives; fishing related issues; oil and gas related issues and conservation legislation and legal issues. The 2000 meeting was sponsored by the Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Study, while the 2002 meeting was sponsored by the Marine Institute (Ireland), as part of its support for the Irish Coral Task Force and ACES. Between the first and the second meeting, the need for scientific advice to support the designation of Special Areas of Conservation to protect corals under the EU Habitats Directive became a clear priority. Finally, it is obvious that much work remains to be done to achieve effective protection of deep-water corals and similarly threatened 'hot spots' of marine biodiversity along the European shelf and slope. It is also clear, however, that successful implementation of conservation measures will require on-going dialogue with stakeholders, and their participation in the decision making process.