AQUAFACT – monitoring and managing resources through marine ecology
09 March 2017
AQUAFACT International Services Ltd is Ireland’s longest-established marine ecological consultancy, specialising in monitoring and managing resources in marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments.
Back in early 1986, Dr Brendan O’Connor and Dr John Costelloe set up AQUAFACT, having worked as doctoral and post-doctoral researchers for almost 14 years in NUI Galway. In the 1980s, EU environmental legislation was developing with the advent of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) legislation and the upsurge of the Green Party in Europe.
Additionally, mariculture was developing strongly in Ireland and there was an increasing need for studies such as site suitability surveys, oceanographic and sea bed surveys and EISs. It therefore seemed like an opportune time to set up such a consultancy and this was the foundation of AQUAFACT.
The early days of business were carried out from Unit 7 in the Enterprise Ireland Incubator Units, Newcastle and AQUAFACT remained there until 1991. Numbers of employees increased from the initial two as the amount and range of work expanded. In 1991, the company moved to its present location at Liosbaun Industrial Estate, Galway. AQUAFACT now has has a steady number of around 12 employees, including graduates of both NUI Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.
One of our core specialities is sediment profile imagery (SPI). This is a photographic survey technique specifically developed to survey the sea bed and has been AQUAFACT’s main source of securing work outside Ireland. The camera is lowered to the sea bed from the ship and the central column then slowly falls and penetrates the sea floor to a depth of about 25cms.
The camera then takes a picture of this profile of the sediment. The images are later examined in the laboratory for some 20 different biological, chemical and physical parameters. The results of these analyses are combined to give an ‘index’ of the health status of the sea bed at that location.
To date, we have successfully completed SPI surveys in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Norway, the North Sea, the Arctic, off California, Canada, the Bering Sea, Nigeria and Guiana. We have also given SPI training courses in Perth, Australia.
AQUAFACT works with another Co Galway-based company, Marine Technology (based in Oranmore) to develop and build SPI hardware. In addition to these international SPI surveys, AQUAFACT has completed marine ecological surveys in Namibia, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the Barents Sea and Albania. These contracts included teaching and training courses in Namibia and Angola, assessment of water quality in terms of shellfish production in Namibia, dredging and reclamation studies in Saudi, Qatar and Bahrain and baseline marine survey work in the Barents Sea and Albania.
AQUAFACT has also completed contract work in offshore oil, gas and renewables over the years. The company was part of survey teams that worked in the Connemara Field (Porcupine Bank) and the Corrib Field (NW Mayo) and has completed surveys at the Kinsale Field, off the Co Cork coast. AQUAFACT was part of a team that carried out three strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) for oil and gas exploration around the Irish coast on behalf of the Irish Government.
With regard to renewables, the company was lead consultant in two marine wind farm EISs (one in the western part of Galway Bay and one in Dundalk Bay) and is currently part of a team working on a wave farm off the Co Clare coast.
Over the years, AQUAFACT has worked closely with Tony Cawley of Hydro Environmental, a consultancy based in Clarinbridge, Co Galway. Cawley’s speciality area is the use of computer models to predict changes in current patterns and speeds in the sea brought about by the construction of, for example, new piers in the sea.
The two companies had significant input to the Environmental Impact Study on the proposed extension of the Galway Docks with AQUAFACT collecting measurements in the sea, Hydro Environmental running the software and both companies assessing the likely impact of the modelled output. This EIS is the first in Ireland to apply for planning permission under Section 6.4 of the EU Habitats Directive (Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest, IROPI).http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2017/03/09/aquafact-marine-ecology/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Screen-Shot-2017-03-09-at-17.04.34-1024x676.pnghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Screen-Shot-2017-03-09-at-17.04.34-300x300.pngSponsoredenvironment,Galway,marine