Ciaran O'Donnell, a specialist in fisheries acoustic research with Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory services at the Marine Institute has just begun a PhD research project that will link fisheries and seabed mapping acoustic technologies . By using both technologies he aims to learn more about how fish behave during acoustic surveys and therefore increase the precision of fish stock assessments.
Ciaran's research will focus on pelagic species, fish that swim in the water column, to see if there is avoidance behaviour during acoustic surveys and also to look at schooling behaviour and preferred habitat. He'll use the state of the art multibeam echosounder system that has just been installed on the RV Celtic Explorer to look beyond the data normally captured during acoustic fisheries surveys to see if some or any of the fish being targeted by the survey are moving away from the research vessel as it passes overhead them.
Ciaran explains, "I'm really looking forward to the sea trials of the new multibeam next week (16th -24th February) when we'll get a chance to use the most advanced seabed mapping technology alongside acoustic fisheries technology. We should be able to see a much broader picture than before."
"Acoustic surveys are very targeted and focussed and this will allow us to capture new information about what the fish are doing beyond the target of the downward looking fisheries echosounder. It will be like getting enhanced peripheral vision of the sea around the ship. We'll be able to see if fish are moving away from the research vessel and out of the survey path and therefore will potentially enhance the precision of our current survey methods. "
The project will bring together technology and data from fisheries and seabed mapping and Ciaran will work closely with the INFOMAR team and the advanced mapping services at the Marine Institute. The research project, originally designed by the INFOMAR team, brings together a number of experienced researchers including Dr Chris McGonigle and Dr Rory Quinn, University of Ulster, Dr Fabio Sacchetti, INFOMAR, Marine Institute, and Dr David Reid, Marine Institute and UCC.
Ciaran is chief scientist on annual surveys such as blue whiting, Celtic Sea herring, and boarfish surveys.