Ground Breaking Research into Irelands Offshore Habitats and Species

Environmental Information Online

December 4, 2018

The twin ObSERVE Aerial and ObSERVE Acoustic projects have announced their findings

The ObSERVE teams - ObSSERVE Aerial in University College Cork and ObSERVE Acoustic in Galway Mayo Institute of Technology - began their study in the spring of 2015 and over the past three years have surveyed large areas of the Atlantic Margin, Celtic and Irish seas, collecting and analysing data. Their results, published recently, reveal a wide spectrum of whale, dolphin, and bird species inhabiting these waters. Species included beluga, blue, fin, and rarely-seen beak whales as well as bottlenose dolphins.

Welcoming the findings, Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, Sean Canney T.D., said:

"The ObSERVE programme, shows how important it is that government keeps investing in research into our marine environment. The information gathered by the ObSERVE Programme has significantly improved our knowledge of the environment, offshore Ireland, and will help to point the way forward for future regulation and sustainable development in tandem with advancing the conservation of protected species".

Dr Simon Berrow, GMIT and Dr Joanne O'Brien, GMIT (ObSERVE Acoustic) said:

"The innovative ObSERVE project has provided a unique insight into the distribution and abundance of cetaceans in the offshore waters of Ireland. By combining a range of aerial to acoustic techniques it has not only provided an invaluable new dataset for abundant and widespread species but has provided the first insights into rare and illusive species that spend nearly their entire life underwater at great depths.

Through collaboration with international experts the ObSERVE project has not only built research capacity in Ireland but has established Ireland as a world leader in the proper environmental management of our offshore resources.

The results of the ObSERVE project provide robust data to inform not only managers of our offshore resources but also to inform our marine conservation agencies on their obligations. This will ensure ObSERVE will be used for a wide range of issues and stimulate further use of this data".

Dr Mark Jessopp UCC (ObSERVE Aerial) commented:

"The ObSERVE aerial programme was particularly ambitious and logistically challenging, but has provided essential information on the distribution of cetaceans in summer and winter over two consecutive years. In addition, it has provided essential information on seabirds during both the summer breeding and overwintering periods. This is the first time we have been able to get robust estimates of cetacean abundance in winter and seabird abundance at sea essential to inform management and conservation of populations".

The ObSERVE Programme is contributing vital information on the occurrence, distribution and density of sensitive species within key offshore areas. This and future information generated under the programme will provide robust environmental baseline data and confidence to the regulatory regime in assessing offshore activities including oil & gas exploration, cables and offshore wind, and to conservation authorities responsible for the protection of marine biodiversity.

ObSERVE Programme reports and datasets are being made available to all interested parties through the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment's website[2] and, in addition, through the National Biodiversity Data Centre[3] which provides an online platform for mapping Ireland's biodiversity.

Read more about this on the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment's website.

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