Minister Malcolm Noonan TD visited County Wexford recently for a hands-on introduction to the annual Coastwatch survey which will run until October 15.
The event, coordinated by Coastwatch Ireland's, Karin Dubsky, took place in Duncannon Fort and was designed to give an overview of the state of the Irish coast.
The annual Coastwatch Ireland survey involves volunteers from all sectors of the community checking on a chosen 500m stretch of coast around low tide.
The volunteers note their observations on a survey questionnaire while on the shore and the data is collected to provide a snapshot of the condition of the area surveyed.
The annual initiative has been running since 1987 and feeds into a European-wide body of research.
Wexford, with its rich biodiversity both on land and in sea, has a very good citizen survey record.
A significant aspect of the survey is that it's an ideal initiative for families to get involved in.
A spokesperson for Coastwatch Ireland's Wexford branch said: 'Children love rock pools and parents are delighted to pass on their knowledge, however scant that may be, of the marine life to be found in and around those rock pools.'
The main purpose of the event in Duncannon Fort was to outline a proposal for a Waterford Estuary Management plan and a Heritage Fisheries Plus Plan within it.
The fort was chosen to introduce the minister to it as a possible management and information hub for such plan.
However, the minister himself said the fort was linked to the 'loveliest childhood memories' as his father, who was in the Irish army, brought the family there on visits.
The Cathaoirleach of New Ross Municipal District Council, Cllr Michael Whelan, in welcoming Minister Noonan to Duncannon outlined the importance of the estuary in addition to highlighting the significance of the fort and plans to develop it as a heritage site which could incorporate estuarine education and information hub functions.
Ms Dubsky and Sean Doherty, outlined the Heritage Fisheries Plus Plan objectives which would see fishermen return to heritage fishing gear and methods while also become key partners in research and management.
The group in attendance, who were limited in number and adhering to social distancing protocols, included an eclectic mix of sector representatives including a fisherman, an aquaculture operator, an historian, a Waterford councillor and marine engineer, a person working on the key estuary archaeology project, an estuarine ecologist and an environmental group representative.
Minister Noonan was very supportive of the craft revival potential, if heritage fisheries methods were to be revived, and also the County Council ideas of a maritime museum.
Minister Noonan appeared amenable to the idea that the space available is such that a multifunctional development could potentially work.
He commented that climate change and biodiversity loss are two equally serious and intertwined challenges and that the proposal outlined to him appeared to focus on solutions.
Minister Noonan also noted the ecotourism potential of the plans.
Historian, Bob Doyle set out the importance of the fort in terms of defence and protection and asked if its new purpose could be nature and heritage protection?
While doing so, Mr Doyle, pointed across the estuary's stunning views, from county Kilkenny, across to Passage East and on to Dunmore East and Hook head.
Ms Dubsky suggested the estuary and a cycling distance zone around it, could become an internationally known area for educational and ecotourism incorporating its unique range of biodiversity, archaeological, geological and historic features.
However, she added: 'Good information and management are crucial.'
The need for reliable water quality was a common theme mentioned by almost everyone in attendance and it was something noted by Minister Noonan.
He will also be hosting a zoom meeting later this month as a follow-up to his Duncannon Fort visit.
Minister Noonan also offered to participate in the Coastwatch autumn survey which will include fishermen participating in a marine litter estuary clean-up in areas that are inaccessible from the shore.
With regard to that aspect of the initiative, Sean Doherty, who is heading up the clean-up from the Waterford side of the estuary, said some sites can have more than 100 plastic drinks bottles located 10m off shore.