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Loughs Agency to Lead €1.6m Europe-Wide Project Monitoring Marine Life

16th February 2024
Atlantic sea trout and salmon are among the key species that will be tracked in the three-year NorTrack project
Atlantic sea trout and salmon are among the key species that will be tracked in the three-year NorTrack project

The Loughs Agency is set to lead a major marine tracking project after €1.6m of EU funding was secured by the European Tracking Network (ETN).

The successful bid came following an open call for funding by the EU’s Biodiversa+ scheme, which is designed to support research proposals relating to biodiversity projects.

At the national level, funding has been provided by the Environmental Protection Agency to enable the Loughs Agency to participate in the programme.

The three-year North East Atlantic Marine Tracking Network (NorTrack) project aims to monitor the movements of aquatic species critical to the North-East Atlantic (NEA).

This collaborative initiative will also address pressing questions related to major ecological challenges facing this vital marine region.

The remote tracking of animals, which is known in research circles as telemetry, has already provided vital information about the biology and ecology of aquatic species.

In addition to Atlantic salmon and sea trout, the project will enable the Loughs Agency to study the movements of European eel as well as predator–prey interactions.

NorTrack will work closely with the Horizon Europe-funded STRAITS (Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in Europeans Seas) project, which has distributed acoustic telemetry infrastructure throughout Europe so that the movements of various aquatic species can be studied.

‘These types of collaborative research initiatives are crucial in gathering data which can inform policy and decision-making’

Sharon McMahon, Loughs Agency chief executive said: “We are delighted to once again be playing a leading role in a major pan-European biodiversity project, supported by our brilliant colleagues at ETN.

“These types of collaborative research initiatives are crucial in gathering data which can inform policy and decision-making for matters within our remit.

“The funding obtained ensures that Loughs Agency can continue the exemplary work carried out in recent years on projects such as SeaMonitor and STRAITS, and the team looks forward to making a difference.”

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Tara Higgins, EPA programme manager said: “The EPA is committed to supporting Ireland’s participation and leadership in important transnational research partnerships like Biodiversa+.

“We are delighted to fund the Loughs Agency in leading the NorTrack research project, which will advance marine biodiversity monitoring in the North-East Atlantic and in turn contribute to international marine management, conservation and policy.

“The EPA also acknowledges the important role of our co-funding partners, the Marine Institute and the National Parks & Wildlife Service, in supporting the NorTrack project.”

More information on this project can be found at Team

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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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