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Galway student studies impact of marine litter on wildlife



Marine litter has become a major issue that cannot be ignored, according to Galway PhD student Heidi Acampora who is researching the effects of marine litter on the health of the ocean.

Based in GMIT, Ms Acampora carries out her research on sea birds. She says European regulations such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) require countries to monitor marine litter through animal life and this has proven to be successful in other countries.

In the North Sea, for example, a species of sea bird called Fulmarus Glacialis (fulmars) are used for monitoring sea litter.

“My research aims to prove if this can be done in Ireland and if not through fulmars, then which would be the alternative species suitable for such monitoring,” said Miss Acampora.

“Sea birds are good indicators because they spend an enormous amount of time at sea, but come to shore to breed, and that is when we can assess them. Marine litter has become a major issue that cannot be ignored.”

According to Ms Acampora, it’s difficult to find parts of the sea that aren’t polluted, especially with plastics.

“Plastics break down into smaller pieces and marine animals can mistake them for food. You see, plastics are generally positively buoyant, so they are at the surface or high in the water column and birds can mistake them for small prey that they would be used to eating.

“So they think they are ingesting nutritious food, when in reality they are eating a synthetic material that can have severe damages to their health, even leading them to death,” she said.

Heidi became involved in this research when writing her Masters thesis, which focused on the ingestion of litter by a species of seabird which is very common in Australia; the muttonbird, also known as Puffinus tenuirostris.

“I was very moved and intrigued by the marine litter issue while doing that research. When I came back from Australia to Brazil, where I’m originally from, I joined forces with other people and groups interested in doing something on the marine litter issue, and we together founded an NGO, the Brazilian Marine Litter Association. So I ended up being very active on the subject, but still wanted to continue doing research,” she said.

“I had been to Ireland for a Summer School and saw GMIT was looking for PhD students, so I contacted them, told them my research interests and we wrote a project and applied for funding and I got it.”

Ms Acampora is funded by the Brazilian Government to do her PhD research in Ireland, but is still very active with the NGO she founded.

In her research, she analyses the stomach contents of seabirds. One such seabird found on Dog’s Bay in Connemara had ingested “an impressive amount of litter: more than 400 pieces of plastic!”

“It was clear that his small stomach had no more space for real food, because you see, some species of seabirds are not able to regurgitate non-digestible matter, so that litter accumulates in their stomach, leaving no space for actual nutritious food,” she said.

Marine litter can have a negative impact on not only seabirds, but also human health, according to Miss Acampora’s research. Marine life can get tangled in debris or nets and suffocate or suffer injury.

“Plastics have additives in their composition to give them certain characteristics, such as colour, resistance to UV or flames and the like. These additives are extremely toxic and they have been proved to cause hormonal disrupt on species.

“These impacts can escalate up the food chain and even fish or any seafood that we are known to consume could have been contaminated that way. Thus marine litter is not really only an aesthetical problem; it can cause an array of severe damage to marine and even human life.”

Heidi is currently putting together the ‘Republic of Ireland Beached Bird Survey’ with the help of volunteers who regularly walk the beaches and report or collect any dead seabirds they find.

She then takes these seabirds and analyses their stomach contents so she can carry on with the research on marine litter.

“And of course, it all starts with no littering. The litter you dispose of inappropriately on land is most likely to be carried by wind or rain, end up at sea and have an unfortunate encounter with marine life,” she said.

For more information on Miss Acampora’s research, visit or email

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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