A brand new marine-based youth training programme, coordinated by the Inishowen Basking Shark Study Group and funded by the EU LEADER programme through the Inishowen Development Partnership and Donegal County Council, is now underway in Inishowen. 20 young people, aged 14 – 17, from across Inishowen have been meeting at the RNLI Lifeboat station in Buncrana on Wednesday evenings and Saturday days to learn marine science and discovery skills, explore their coastline and conduct science experiments at sea. Local marine biologist Rosemary McCloskey serves as the programme coordinator: “During the programme the young people taking part will learn a variety of skills such as teamwork, communication skills, fieldwork and survey planning, and of course the maritime skills and marine science techniques which they will gain through practical training and on‐the‐water experiences.”Emmett Johnston, who coordinates the Inishowen Basking Shark Study Group, said, “It is a fantastic opportunity for local young people to experience their coastline, learn more about it and discover the scope of opportunities available to them in the marine sector. Whilst the basking shark project involves researchers from all over the world, we pride ourselves in attracting and providing opportunities for local marine scientists, which is why this youth training programme was always something we hoped to be able to offer.” Stella, one of the participants on the programme, spoke about the opportunity to take part: “I think it is important to protect our local marine life and to educate other people about it and this programme is a perfect way for me to do this. I love to learn about the amazing creatures living off our coast in such a hands‐on way. I am also keen to learn new skills and have fun with new people who share my interests. This programme offers a truly unique experience and I am really excited to take part.”
Whilst this training programme is the first of its kind, McCloskey said that the initial interest and feedback from the community shows there is scope for more: “This programme idea came from a consultation with 100 young people in the local area that was conducted in November last year. Since then the interest levels from the young people and the wider community has continued to grow, and the commitment and feedback from participants demonstrates to us that programmes like this are sorely needed to engage and inspire a new generation. Inishowen has huge potential to diversify its marine sector, but to do this we need to provide the opportunities for young people to gain the necessary knowledge and skills.”Updates on the conclusion of the project can be found here.