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The SeaMonitor project – which is supported by eight leading marine research institutions located in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, the US and Canada – will use innovative marine species tracking technology to better understand and protect vulnerable marine life in our oceans.
Listening stations from Malin Head – Ireland’s most northerly point – to the island of Islay in Scotland will record transmissions from a variety of mobile marine species tagged by the project’s scientists.
The data collected using acoustic telemetry will be used to support the conservation of vulnerable species such as salmon, basking sharks, skate, dolphins, whales and seals.
At the University of Glasgow, researchers from the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (IBACHM) based at the Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment for Ecology and the Natural Environment (SCENE), a field station on Loch Lomond, are tracking juvenile Atlantic salmon as they make their way out to sea.
Professor Colin Adams said: “Although we know much about the ecology of salmon in freshwater, we know much less about their life fish as they make their way for the first time into marine waters. What we do know is that only a small proportion of these fish return as the majestic adult fish of postcards, and that that small proportion is declining.”
In the EU Funded SeaMonitor project, researchers are tracking these small salmon as they move out to the coast, looking at where their migration is successful, where it is less successful, the routes they take and if they are likely to come into conflict with human coastal zone activities.
The researchers at UofG are tracking fish through Loch Lomond and down the River Gryffe and into the Clyde Estuary and out to beyond the North Channel; and in a large project, in partnership with the Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fisheries Management Scotland, the researchers are tracking fish from a number of rivers from the Solway to the Hebrides, tracking them through coastal waters along the west coast of Scotland.
Prof Colin Adams added: “This exciting research allows us to address fundamental questions about why and how animals migrate but also to tackle highly applied issues that relate specifically to the future management of this highly charismatic fish.”
Sharon McMahon, Loughs Agency CEO, said the deployment of the fish counter marked a major achievement for the SeaMonitor project. She added: “Loughs Agency is proud to be leading the way alongside expert colleagues to deliver such amazing marine research infrastructure that will ultimately help protect some of our most important species.”
Funding for the €4.6m project has been provided by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme (Environment Theme), which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding comes from the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in the Republic of Ireland.
Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body, welcomed the announcement. She said: “I’m delighted to see such a significant achievement for the SeaMonitor project, made possible through the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme and the efforts of all its partners in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland working together collectively.”
“This is a much-needed step forward for the conservation of a number of vulnerable species within our shared oceans. It only serves to highlight the benefits that are created through strong, mutually beneficial cross-border partnerships in the management of marine protected areas and species. Well done to all involved for advancing our understanding of our seas,” she added.
Dr. Fred Whoriskey, Executive Director of the Ocean Tracking Network explained: “This project is important in so many ways. It will unite and empower scientists from Europe and abroad to tackle pressing management issues, provide global networking for scientists to efficiently use resources, and engage the public in project outcomes. We are pleased to provide technical support and counsel, as well as tracking infrastructure to SeaMonitor which is contributing to the conservation of Europe’s valued marine animals.” SeaMonitor is a project supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme (Environment Theme), managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
Dr Ciaran Kelly, Director of Fisheries Ecosystems and Advisory Services at the Marine Institute added: “We are delighted to collaborate with partners on the SeaMonitor project and provide technical support and ship-time on the Marine Institute’s research vessel, the RV Celtic Voyager. Tracking the migration of species and identifying environmental signals influencing their movement is essential to effectively protect and manage our marine ecosystems.”