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‘Landmark’ SeaMonitor Conference Takes Place at Derry’s Historic Guildhall

1st March 2023
Attending the SeaMonitor-STRAITS Conference at Derry’s Guildhall, from left: Ross McGill, principal project officer of SeaMonitor Project, Loughs Agency; Dr Joanne O’Brien, Atlantic Technological University; Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh, Marine Institute; Dr Fred Whoriskey, Ocean Tracking Network; Dr Colin Adams, University of Glasgow; Sharon McMahon, CEO of the Loughs Agency; Dr Oliver Ó Cadhla, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Ireland; Andrew King, Special EU Programmes Body; Colin Armstrong, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; and Dr Jonathan Houghton, Queens University Belfast
Attending the SeaMonitor-STRAITS Conference at Derry’s Guildhall, from left: Ross McGill, principal project officer of SeaMonitor Project, Loughs Agency; Dr Joanne O’Brien, Atlantic Technological University; Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh, Marine Institute; Dr Fred Whoriskey, Ocean Tracking Network; Dr Colin Adams, University of Glasgow; Sharon McMahon, CEO of the Loughs Agency; Dr Oliver Ó Cadhla, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Ireland; Andrew King, Special EU Programmes Body; Colin Armstrong, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; and Dr Jonathan Houghton, Queens University Belfast

The Loughs Agency welcomed an international delegation of almost 100 marine scientists, academics and political representatives to Derry for the much-anticipated SeaMonitor-STRAITS Conference, which took place at the city’s Guildhall on Thursday 23 and Friday 24 February.

The two-day event, which was compered by biologist and comedian Simon Watt, provided an opportunity for the consortium working on the Loughs Agency-led SeaMonitor project to present their findings and highlight the benefits of tracking aquatic life in our seas and rivers.

It’s hoped that the data collated will be utilised to help inform policy and management decisions, with the protection of vulnerable marine species a priority throughout the process. The species targeted included salmon, seals, basking sharks, cetaceans and skate.

The SeaMonitor project has received €4.7m of funding from the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, 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.

Ross McGill shows Richard Hill, Joint Secretary of the North South Ministerial Council, the Loughs Agency’s Marine MachineRoss McGill shows Richard Hill, Joint Secretary of the North South Ministerial Council, the Loughs Agency’s Marine Machine

Over 1,000 animals were tagged throughout the life of SeaMonitor, while the receivers picked up over 4.5 million detections of a variety of species.

SeaMonitor also made waves in science circles for its innovation and ambition, with Europe’s largest fish counter deployed in the North Channel between Malin Head and Islay as part of the project. This particular counter measures comes in at over 60km and 100 receivers in length, demonstrating the scale of this important work.

Loughs Agency has collaborated with the European Tracking Network (ETN) throughout this process, with similar counters deployed in the Danish Straits, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Strait of Bosphorus and Dardanelles.

Sharon McMahon, Loughs Agency CEO addresses the conferenceSharon McMahon, Loughs Agency CEO addresses the conference

Day two of the conference focused on STRAITS, a new project that has received EU funding to the tune of €3.5 million as part of the Horizon 2030 initiative.

In collaboration with partners from ETN, this four-year project will run until the end of 2026 and will essentially act as the successor to SeaMonitor, ensuring that the landmark counter in the North Channel is redeployed and integrated with the other major counters around Europe.

A range of dignitaries attended the conference, including the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Sandra Duffy; Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB); and Mark Hanniffy and Richard Hill, Joint Secretaries of the North South Ministerial Council — all of whom conducted speeches expressing their admiration for the collaborative approach taken throughout the duration of the project.

The consortium working on SeaMonitor comprised the Loughs Agency, Atlantic Technological University, University College Cork, the University of California Davis, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Queen’s University Belfast, Ocean Tracking Network (Dalhousie University), Marine Institute and the University of Glasgow. All members of the working group were in attendance at the Guildhall.

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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