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The Marine Institute has announced funding of €700,000 for seven new Cullen PhD Scholarships over the next four years.

Five of the scholarships will provide scientific research findings that will deal with the effects of climate change on fisheries and marine systems. The other two scholarships will investigate new production methods in the aquaculture sector, and the conservation of biodiversity in the Burrishoole Catchment, Newport, Co. Mayo.

Work on the projects will begin early next year. They are:

The Cullen Scholarship Programme, established in 2014 in memory of Anne Cullen who made a significant contribution to the career development of many undergraduate students that have taken part in the Institute's annual summer Bursary Programme, provides research training opportunities for scientists in marine and related disciplines, leading to Masters and PhD degrees. Since its inception a total investment of €3.1 million by the Marine Institute has been provided to fund 34 scholarships.

New scientific research on ferox trout in Lough Corrib & Lough Mask highlights the importance of conservation of this valuable trout stock

A new scientific paper entitled ‘The spawning location of vulnerable ferox trout (Salmo trutta L.) in the Lough Corrib and Lough Mask catchments, Western Ireland’ has been published in the Journal of Fish Biology by scientists from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) in conjunction with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

Ferox trout are large, long-lived, fish eating trout normally found in deep lakes; they are believed to be genetically distinct from normal brown trout, having evolved after the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago. Ferox are highly prized by trophy anglers and Lough Corrib and Lough Mask have recorded the great majority of Irish specimen ferox trout since angling records began in the 1950’s. Little was known about the spawning location of ferox trout compared to normal brown trout, and a radio tracking study was initiated in both catchments in 2005. Local anglers and IFI staff helped catch large ferox trout on both lakes in order to insert radio tags. The fish were released after tagging and then tracked with help from the Irish Air Corps helicopter unit and by walking spawning streams with a radio tracking antenna to determine in which streams ferox spawned.

Results from radio tracking showed that the majority (92%) of ferox trout tagged in Lough Corrib spawned in a single spawning stream, the Cong river, while the majority (76%) of ferox trout tagged in Lough Mask spawned in the Cong canal and Cong river. These results indicate that these streams are most likely the principle spawning locations of ferox trout in both lakes.

Dr Paddy Gargan, Senior Research Officer at Inland Fisheries Ireland and lead author on the publication said: “The occurrence of ferox trout predominantly in single spawning rivers in both catchments highlights the vulnerability of the ferox populations with estimates of their population size thought to be small”.

Dr Cathal Gallagher, Head of Research at Inland Fisheries Ireland welcomed the findings and said: “It was important that conservation measures, based on this research, have been introduced in the Corrib and Mask catchments continue to protect ferox trout. These conservation measures have reduced the number of ferox trout being killed and claimed as specimens and support the conservation of this unique trout”.