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Government Laboratory confirms rise in sea temperature 7 November 2008

From 1992 and prior to its 2006 closure, the Port Erin Marine Laboratory monitored sea temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, phytoplankton and inorganic nutrients in the sea on behalf of DLGE. Some records stretched back over 100 years. This work has been continued by the Government Laboratory. The newly published Marine Monitoring Report 2007 shows the results of the first full year since the Government Laboratory took over.

One key finding of the report is that the sea is definitely getting warmer. This is particularly relevant when considering climate change and its impacts. 2007 was the warmest since records began in 1904, with an increase of at least 1oC over the century, and most of the increase having occurred since the mid-1990s. Warmer water may lead to changes in marine life with repercussions, for example to the recreation and fishing industries, making the monitoring work of the Government Laboratory all the more important.

John Shimmin, DLGE Minister, said,

‘These findings are important to the fishing industry, to human health, to our enjoyment of the sea, and to ecological and climate change issues. The rises in sea temperature suggest we must do all we can to minimise our climate change emissions and prepare for the potential consequences climate change could have on our Island.’

The Marine Monitoring Report also found that oxygen levels are excellent, and that nutrients are at normal levels. There is no evidence of ‘eutrophication’ of Manx waters – the undesirable build-up of nutrients in the water, causing an accelerated growth of algae and other plants and upsetting the natural balance. Eutrophication of the sea can arise from farmland runoff, the use of fertilisers, and sewage discharges. The monitoring shows that this is not currently a problem in the middle of the Irish Sea.

Chlorophyll levels showed phytoplankton (algae) levels to have been normal. However, algae with the ability to produce toxins in shellfish were detected. This triggered detailed testing of shellfish themselves in order to ensure and prove there could be no threat to human health. This work is an essential service that supports the Island’s fishing industry – without algae monitoring the EU would not accept our shellfish produce.

Theresa Shammon, Marine Scientist at the Government Laboratory, said,

‘The data suggest our seas are of good quality for marine life – which can only be good news. Monitoring of the levels of oxygen, algae and nutrients provides vital information that supports Manx industries, such fishing and tourism, and our long-term records are recognised and valued far beyond our own shores. Although generally not well known the work of the Government Laboratory is crucial to many parts of Government and to the private sector, this recent addition being just one example.’

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