Tony O’Callaghan – National Coordinator

Showing my age I learned to swim by not drowning when younger and messing about in the local river and I suppose spending a lot of time underwater , coming up for air occasionally. Moving on a few years and coming to Galway and discovering Blackrock and the ease of sea swimming , buying my first mask and snorkeling was a major experience for me and led to my first attempt to take up scuba –  dodgy sinus’s led to me having to postpone my career – until many years later after some surgery and with youngsters prompting myself and our youngest started diving with Scuba Dive West and I finally got to spent time underwater looking at the incredible variety of life we have in Irish waters.

After my training and lots of dives I found myself increasingly asking what am I looking at, the initial Seasearch Observer course was a revelation to me and I found myself trying to find out more about what I was seeing and discovering there is so much to see you can never really learn it all. Along with that I think the degradation of the marine environment has been obvious to everyone who has looked at the sea and one of the key ways to try to stop is to document what is there to set a baseline and then try to restore. I found myself trying to organize workshops on ID / recording skills to help my knowledge grow and it seemed natural then to take on some of the organizing of the training and recording – hence SeaSearch.

The key points become to train as many people as possible so that they know what they are seeing and then to encourage them to record.

Rory O’Callaghan – Coordinator for National Marine Monitoring Project

I, like thousands of other Irish people I suspect, learnt to dive in abroad doing a cheap PADI Open Water, though mine was done to pass some time during a storm that kept me confined to a hostel/dive centre so the visibility was murkier than the Salt Lake so I can’t ever say I’ve dived in Tropical tropical waters. On my return to Ireland I began diving in earnest around Galway with Tony enjoying the different species I’d see on my dives while doing my degree in marine biology in GMIT. But until Tony suggested we do the Seasearch Observer I had no way of marrying what I was learning in the classroom with what I was seeing in the water.

As I started it so early in my diving life I can’t say Seasearch has totally transformed my diving rather I’ve never known any other way. Depth, lifeless wrecks, caves or any of the other macho diving has never appealed to me, stick me in 2m in a seagrass bed and I’ll happily spend an hour exploring. Putting a name to all the species I see appeals to the scientist in me but Seasearch in a lot of ways harks back to the early days of naturalists wandering around observing the world around them. It reminds you that no matter how inconsequential a record or an observation may seem no one will ever be able to go back and record at that specific date and time in history to know what’s there and if you don’t write it down future generations will never know what the marine life present in Irish waters was like in the early 21st century.

That obligation to future generations has become more acute in recent years as I have two young sons and watching the damage wrought to dive sites in Galway (on top of all the wider scale problems like climate change, industrial fishing, ocean acidification, plastic pollution) makes me worry about the planet we’re leaving behind for them. I want them to be able to the explore the Serpula reefs of Killary harbour, watch wrasse and pollack chase through the kelp forests of Carraroe and enjoy the sheer magnificence of a firework anemone. Only by providing a strong scientific basis for the establishment of MPAs in inshore waters,monitoring the effects of those designations and working to restore habitats beyond their present degraded conditions can we ensure that our children will be able to enjoy the natural world and all it’s wonders. That’s why I Seasearch.