THE largest reported honeycomb

reef in Europe may well

have been located in the Waterford

Estuary, which would establish

the area between Waterford

and Wexford as a priority habitat.

Coastwatch Ireland is currently

working hard to establish

if this honeycomb reef is the

biggest reported reef of its kind

in Europe; a near Saint-Malo

in Brittany currently holds the


“This is a tremendous discovery,”

said marine biologist Karin

Dubsky, who is co-ordinating the

project on behalf of Coastwatch

Ireland. “But we need more surveyors

and divers to see if we

can verifying the scale of the fi nd

we believe we have made, which

is a source of great excitement to

people in my line of work.”

Ms Dubksy explained: “Honeycomb

reef is created by a small


called sabellaria albeolata

which lives inside small tubes

that it builds from sand and shell

– quite why we do not know. But

when thousands of these worms

work together they can form

massive reefs along the coastline

and form useful habitat for other

marine life – in essence they are

the bioengineers of the sea!”

As part of the 2015 Biodiversity

Week, Coastwatch invited

the public to walk the shore

at low tide to check for reef

outcrops and help measure the

length and size of the reef, with

kayakers and divers also taking

part in the study, as he worms

continue building into shallow


On Monday last, May 18th,

the fi rst set of ‘Coastwatchers’

started checking the shore

simultaneously around low tide

on either side of the Estuary,

between the Hook and Duncannon

in Wexford, and between

Annestown and Brownstown

Head in Waterford.

“From the air, a member of

the Waterford Aero Club told us

it looked liked sprinkled cheese;

so we appear to be on the brink

of making a great fi nd,” said Ms


On the Wexford side, Emmet

Delaney found a healthy honeycomb

reef measuring between 10

and 55 metres wide, straddling

low water having walked two

500-metre survey units from

Booley Bay towards Duncannon

without reaching the reef’s end.

On the Port Láirge side, Alan

Walshe led a training event at

Tramore Lady’s slip, while pupils

from Our Lady of Mercy School

and other surveyors found reef

patches “like big hedgehogs”

attached to the bedrock over a

250 square metre area.

“And we’ve already had ‘reef

tourists’ in the area, after students

from a German University

decided to add a trip to the

Estuary to their itinerary after

travelling from Connemara,”

said an enthused Ms Dubsky.

A story more factual than

fi shy, this discovery could be of

enormous scientifi c signifi cance

for the Estuary, and no doubt

we’ll have more on this in future