Important research that will help advance the management of our seas around Ireland, Western Scotland and Northern Ireland has not totally ceased during the Covid-19 pandemic. The EU INTERREG VA-funded SeaMonitor project, which is led by the Loughs Agency and supported by another eight leading marine research institutions, was able to deploy some of its innovative species tracking technology to better understand and protect vulnerable marine life in our oceans.
Since April, scientists from across the partnership have managed to safely tag and release over 250 fish from 5 rivers in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The technology, called acoustic telemetry, involves deploying a series of listening stations from Malin Head, Ireland to the island of Islay in Scotland that will record transmissions from a variety of marine species tagged by the project’s scientists. The data, which is due to be downloaded from the receivers in the autumn, will be used to support the conservation of a variety of vulnerable species such as salmon, basking sharks, skate, dolphins, whales and seals.
Loughs Agency Designated Officer, Sharon McMahon, explained: “Loughs Agency are proud to be leading the way alongside expert colleagues to deliver such significant and innovative marine research infrastructure that will ultimately help protect some of our most important and vulnerable marine species. The Agency’s team together with project partners are continuing to work hard to ensure project objectives are delivered during these unprecedented times, while maintaining the appropriate social distancing and health and safety protocols for field work.”
Funding for the SeaMonitor project has been provided under the environment objective of the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), to the tune of €4.7m. Match-funding for this project has been provided by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland.
Welcoming the deployment Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body, said: “I’m delighted to see such significant achievements for the Sea Monitor project given the significant challenges faced by all involved. 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 continued.
For more information about the project visit: www.loughs-agency.org/seamonitor or follow the project on Twitter (@SeaMonitor1)
Staff from the SeaMonitor Project getting ready to deploy equipment on the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer prior to lockdown in March of this year. From Left to Right: Diego del Villar and Caroline Finlay (Loughs Agency), Nathan Glenn (Ocean Tracking Network), Morgane Pommier (Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology), Joseph Pratt (Ocean Tracking Network) and Ross McGill (Loughs Agency).