SeaMonitor project highlights benefits of tracking sea life

SEAMONITOR PROJECT BOARD: L-R - 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, 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 1st March 2023: The marine research programme, SeaMonitor, studied the seas around Ireland and Western Scotland through the use of advanced acoustic telemetry equipment. The Marine Institute is one of nine partners that has been involved in this research project over the past four years.

To conclude the SeaMonitor research project, Loughs Agency welcomed an international delegation of over 100 marine scientists, academics, and political representatives to the SeaMonitor-STRAITS Conference on the 23rd and 24th February 2023.

The conference 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. The data collated from this project 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 results of the project make for impressive reading, with over 1,000 animals tagged and receivers picking up over 4.5 million detections from a variety of species throughout the lifespan of the project.

As part of the project, The Marine Institute was able to track free swimming salmon juveniles hundreds of kilometres into the open ocean using advanced robotic technology. An ‘ocean glider’ equipped with an acoustic tag detector was deployed from the RV Celtic Explorer during a 2021 fisheries survey. During its two-month mission, the glider successfully detected four individual juvenile salmon smolts measuring only 15 to 19cm, nearly 600 km from their home rivers in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The four fish originated from the River Burrishoole in Co Mayo Ireland, the River Bann in Northern Ireland and the Rivers Clyde and Awe in Scotland.

Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh of the Marine Institute said, “The SeaMonitor project has provided a unique opportunity to identify migration routes of highly vulnerable marine animals hundreds of miles out at sea using the latest tracking technology, including remotely piloted autonomous underwater gliders.”

SeaMonitor has 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 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 and new ones planned for the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Turkish Straits.

The consortium working on SeaMonitor consisted of 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.

Dr Ciaran Kelly Director of Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services at the Marine Institute said “SeaMonitor has been a very successful project from a number of aspects, not only has it provided valuable insights into behaviour of vulnerable species in the marine environment, which will help their conservation, but it has also facilitated collaboration and the development of this technology through agencies operating across Ireland and the UK.”

The SeaMonitor project received €4.7m in funding from the EU’s INTERREG VA initiative.

For more information on the SeaMonitor project, visit






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