The ‘first of its kind in Europe’, SeaMonitor will study the seas around Ireland, Western Scotland and Northern Ireland to deliver the largest telemetric marine array and spatial models.

The output will support conservation of basking shark, cetaceans, salmon, seal and skate, and provide three management plans: one for skate from Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura and two for salmon in the River Foyle and Clyde estuaries.

The project is led by the Loughs Agency, supported by eight leading marine research institutions, ‘using marine species tracking technology to better understand and protect vulnerable marine life in our oceans’, the Loughs Agency explains:

“For over twenty-one years, the Loughs Agency has been at the forefront of protection and conservation of our local waters and aquaculture,” remarked Sharon McMahon.

“Working with statutory and academic institutions and stakeholders, the project will “ultimately produce dynamic management plans for some of our most important and vulnerable species”.

Smart buoy network

SeaMonitor is is funded (€4.6m) by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme (Environment Theme) with match funding from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (NI) and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (RoI).

The investment will also extend the existing network of smart buoys and oceanographic models to create a line of acoustic receivers between Ireland and Scotland.

Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body, said Europe’s maritime territory must be protected for future generations and citizens:

“This tri-regional project will help to safeguard our precious shared marine environment by providing much-needed management and conservation work that will protect priority species and habitats.”

SeaMonitor will use the “best available technology” to track important marine species, remarked John Speers, Marine and Fisheries Director, DAERA.

“These animals spend most of their lives hidden from view and are only occasionally seen at the surface, making monitoring them very challenging.”