IWDG Surveyors join 2016 Celtic Sea Herring Survey

9th Oct 2016

Since the first Marine Institute Celtic Sea Herring Acoustic Survey in 2004, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group have collected sightings of whales and dolphins through dedicated cetacean researchers throughout the surveys. This information is so important as herring are one of the most important prey species for dolphins and whales and the Celtic Sea attracts internationally significant numbers of fin and humpback whales at this time of year.  If we are to manage the fishery for the benefit of fishing communities and predators, such as seabirds and marine mammals, we must understand the relationship between all the players.

The Marine Institute onboard RV Celtic Explorer map the distribution and abundance of herring, sprat and any other pelagic species (e.g. pilchards) and tow through acoustic marks and thus provided size and age of fish, essential data for assessing stock biomass and informing fisheries managers who ultimately set quotas. The IWDG are represented on the Celtic Sea Herring Management Advisory Committee who advise the Minister on management issues with respect to this fishery of which making such predators such as whales and dolphins are considered when managing this stock. The data collected each year on the annual Celtic Sea Herring Survey is the baseline for managing this fishery and the IWDG have 12 years of longitudinal data collected simultaeously with stock assessment. The data have been made available to a number of studies who have tried to understand the ecosystem links.

This year Meabhdh Quinn is the IWDG researcher onboard RV Celtic Explorer collecting these data, assisted by Gary Kett and later on Stephanie Levesque (who is currently onboard Song of the Whale). Gary will also be assisting seabird surveyor Niall Keogh, who is working on a PhD at GMIT on winter ecology of seabirds in Ireland, and together will record the important marine predators associating with this fishery.

Niall, Gary and Meabhdh onboard RV Celtic Explorer

For all those interested in this very important work, a daily blog of the survey can be found at:

http://cetaceansonthefrontier.blogspot.ie/2016/10/celtic-sea-herring-acoustic-survey-2016.html

IWDG is also contracted to carry out an independent observer study onboard commercial vessels fishing in this fishery. This information on bycatch and discarding is essential to ensure the fishery is managed in an environmentally sustainably fashion. This ids the 4th consecutive year the IWDG have been asked by the CSHMAC to carry out this work. IWDG feel it is important data but also an opportunity to maintain strong links with the fishing community especially the skippers and crew who allow IWDG researchers to accompany them on commercial trips. We learn a lot from them on the challenges of fishing successfully in todays world.

Fair winds to all .....

Dr Simon Berrow

IWDG Chief Science Officer