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SeaMonitor Marine Research Project Has Clew Bay & Achill as Key Study Areas

7th April 2021
Deploying the SLOCUM Glider. The SeaMonitor project uses innovative marine species tracking technology to better understand vulnerable marine life in our oceans
Deploying the SLOCUM Glider. The SeaMonitor project uses innovative marine species tracking technology to better understand vulnerable marine life in our oceans Credit: Ocean Tracking Network

Clew Bay and Achill, Co Mayo will be among the key study areas in SeaMonitor, a unique marine research project which is using innovative marine species tracking technology to better understand and protect vulnerable marine life in our oceans. The project is funded by EU INTERREG VA Programme and led by the Loughs Agency and supported by another eight leading marine research institutions, including the Marine Institute.

The innovative technology, called passive acoustic telemetry, relies on underwater tracking stations (acoustic receivers) to monitor the movements of marine animals tagged with acoustic transmitters. This technology will be used to better understand the movement and behaviour of species such as seals, basking shark, skate, cetaceans and salmon.

This new technology will be utilised in Clew Bay and Achill, to enable the Marine Institute to monitor juvenile salmon smolts as they make their first journey past Clare Island and on to the Atlantic Ocean. Acoustic receivers will be placed in strategic positions on what has been identified as the salmon “highway” through Clew Bay. This research will build on previous studies in the area, which indicate a high survival rate of salmon smolts through the Inner Bay and to Clare Island. Studies have also indicated that smolts following ocean currents seem to travel the northern route past Clare Island.

Clare Island, Co MayoClare Island, Co Mayo Photo by Catherine Waters/Marine Institute

As part of the SeaMonitor project, the Marine Institute will be tagging smolts from the Burrishoole catchment over the next two years. Their journey will be monitored through Clew Bay and Achill, onward along the shelf edge, west of Scotland and to the Norwegian feeding grounds from May to June. The salmon smolts will be monitored by the Marine Institute using a Slocum glider, an autonomous remotely operated vehicle. The glider acts as a mobile listening device for the acoustic signals from tagged fish, and has the capability to monitor environmental conditions such as temperature, salinity and current profiles. The range of the remotely operated vehicle and its ability to remain at sea for months at a time, allows the tracking of salmon and other marine species further and for longer periods than ever before.

"The salmon smolts will be monitored by the Marine Institute using a Slocum glider, an autonomous remotely operated vehicle"

“Scientists still know very little about the detailed migration routes of Atlantic salmon, within the marine environment,” said Dr Ciaran Kelly, Director of Fisheries Ecosystems and Advisory Services at the Marine Institute. “Using new technology to track the migration pathways of Atlantic salmon smolts through Clew Bay, Achill and beyond, will greatly increase our understanding of migration and identify important marine habitats for Atlantic salmon.”

“The Marine Institute’s Newport Research Facility has a long and distinguished record of conducting scientific work on Atlantic salmon. The Marine Institute appreciates the support and assistance from local fishermen in Co Mayo for marine research projects such as SeaMonitor,” Dr Kelly added.

SeaMonitor project partner, Queen’s University Belfast, will also monitor skate and basking shark in Irish waters including Clew Bay and Achill. Using acoustic technology and satellite tagging technology, Queen’s University Belfast aims to gain a better understanding of the movement patterns and residency of these fish to develop management plans for these highly sensitive and vulnerable species.

The SeaMonitor project will also deliver Europe’s largest telemetric marine array, stretching over 60 kilometres and comprising of over one hundred acoustic listening stations. ‘Europe’s largest fish counter’ is being deployed off the north coast of Ireland and will bridge the gap between Malin and Islay forming an acoustic detection line between Ireland and western Scotland. This technology will allow scientists to monitor the movement of tagged marine animals resident in this area or passing through during annual oceanic migrations.

Funding for the SeaMonitor 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 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.

Published in Marine Science
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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

 

At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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