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ATU Scientists Track Marine Mammals in European Waters

7th December 2023
Dr Atlan Lok, Dr Evrim Kurtay, Dr Aytaç Özgül, pictured with María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo Galván, who are members of a research project, which is part of the EU “Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in European Seas” (STRAITS) initiative, that will study the movement of sea animals at four strategic locations
Researchers from Ege University, L to R, Dr Atlan Lok, Dr Evrim Kurtay, and Dr Aytaç Özgül, after the dive to attach it to their moorings, pictured with María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo Galván at the Dardanelles Strait, Turkey.

Underwater noise levels and movement of marine mammals are being tracked in European waters by a scientific team led by Dr Joanne O’Brien and a team from the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Galway.

The devices were deployed in Turkey and Spain in recent days by ATU’s Dr María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo Galván.

The research project, which is part of the EU “Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in European Seas” (STRAITS) initiative, will study the movement of sea animals at four strategic locations.

The aim is to “better understand their biology and ecology, and aid in conservation and management”, the team says.

Acoustic listening deviceThe acoustic listening device ready for deployment

The four locations are:

  • the Danish Straits, between the Kattegat Sea and the Baltic Sea;
  • the North Channel in the Celtic Sea;
  • the Straits of Gibraltar, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea;
  • the Straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

The EU “Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in European Seas” (STRAITS) initiative, will study the movement of sea animals at four strategic locations.Areas the equipment is being deployed around the European Straits/major swim ways Image by Dr Kim Birnie-Gauvin

Led by the Loughs Agency in Northern Ireland, the four-year €3.5m project is funded by the Horizon Europe Framework Programme, and the team is drawn from ten world-leading organisations.

ATU’s focus will be specifically on the movement of marine mammals. Dr María Pérez Tadeo, postdoctoral researcher at ATU’s marine and freshwater research centre, travelled to the Straits of Dardanelles last week.

The Straits of DardanellesDardanelles Strait, Turkey

Pérez Tadeo was accompanied by ATU Erasum intern Yaiza Pozo Galván and they set up the equipment and co-ordinated the deployment of the first passive acoustic monitoring devices for the STRAITS project.

The research visit to Turkey was funded by the Marine Institute.

“We brought the equipment to Turkey to set it up and it was then deployed in the Straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles by Dr Aytaç Özgül, Dr Atlan Lok and Dr Evrim Kurtay, researchers from Ege University, who dived to attach it to their moorings,”they said.

“ There was a heavy storm over here not long after the dive so we were extremely lucky getting the equipment in the water beforehand, since the weather window was very brief. Equipment was also shipped to Spain and was deployed last Wednesday in the Strait of Gibraltar by Dr Ricardo F Sánchez Leal and his team, researchers from the Spanish Oceanographic Institute,” they said.

“The study of animal movements offers one of the best ways to monitor animals from regional to continental or even global scales, and from minutes to decades,” the ATU team says.

“Although animal tracking is not new, it is only recently that the technology has enabled the tracking of animals over larger areas and longer timescales,”it says.

ATU marine scientist María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo GalvánATU marine scientist María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo Galván setting up the acoustic equipment onshore before its deployment

“ This advancement has yielded key information about the biology and ecology of these animals, but much more knowledge could be gained if efforts to tag and detect animals were performed collaboratively, as part of a network. This is one of the primary goals of STRAITS,”it explains.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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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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