IWDG appoint new Marine Policy Officer

Dr Stephen Comerford joined the IWDG in May as a Marine Policy Officer. This comes at a time of unprecedented pressures on our marine waters, especially inshore with a multitude of policies being developed which will have far reaching and profound effects on our marine environment. The IWDG have been bombarded with formal consultations on government policies, requests for online meetings with industry and obligations to contribute to meetings and workshops.

IWDG identified this new position as key to delivering our new Strategic Plan (2023-2028) and we needed to act now and invest in a full-time officer to develop IWDG policy and articulate at the different forums. If we wait any longer we will miss the opportunity to be a positive influence on many of these issues from offshore renewables to marine protected areas and marine spatial planning.

These issues are the ones most likely to impact on whales, dolphins and the broader marine environment in the coming years and decades and it is important that the IWDG maintains its position as a source of evidence-based scientific advice and information. Stephen’s work with the many stakeholders in the marine sector including government, NGOs, developers, semi-state bodies, academia and the public, will ensure that whales and dolphins are fully considered during the planning process during this period of legislative change and the development of Ireland’s offshore resources.

Stephen was awarded a PhD in marine fish ecology from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (now the Atlantic Technological University, Galway) in 2012. Since then he has worked around the world in underwater noise mitigation for marine seismic and windfarm construction, and more recently in consenting for offshore wind projects. Stephen has been involved with the IWDG for many years reporting sightings, carrying out surveys and working as a Marine Mammal Observer.

Stephen lives in Dún Chaoin in West Kerry close to Blasket Sound and is often to be seen on the headlands with binoculars or telescope enjoying the many sightings of humpback, fin and minkes whales; bottlenose, common and Risso’s dolphins; porpoises, basking sharks and other species in what is a European hotspot for marine life. When conditions are right Stephen joins other IWDG members on offshore trips gathering photo-ID and other important data on marine mammals.

Stephen can be contacted on stephen.comerford@iwdg.ie

or policy@iwdg.ie