In October, 2014 a significant data acquisition programme was designed to acquire new baseline data, with the aim of filing existing data gaps with regard to protected marine species and sites in key offshore basins. The programme was established in liaison with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (National Parks and Wildlife Service).
In consultation with NPWS, a programme of targeted acoustic and aerial surveys of Cetaceans and Seabirds in the Irish offshore was agreed. This programme has been given the title of ObSERVE.
Under the OBSERVE Programme, a total of eight (8) static (i.e., moored) and six towed acoustic surveys for cetaceans in selected Atlantic Margin waters between 2015 and 2016 will be undertaken. The study area broadly covers outer continental shelf, slope and deep oceanic waters stretching from the Hebrides Terrace to the Goban Spur and concentrated on about four key zones of interest.
The programme provides for both static and towed acoustic surveys to be carried out between the spring and autumn seasons with combined detailed coverage of two zones of interest to take place in each survey year, respectively. The core purpose of these surveys is to use acoustic sampling methods and a towed survey design of standard transect length to best describe animal occurrence, distribution, density and abundance (where possible, otherwise relative density/abundance) within the prescribed offshore area, based on the acoustic data acquired.
Under the OBSERVE Programme a series of four combined line-transect and strip-transect aerial surveys for cetaceans and seabirds, respectively, in Irish offshore waters will be undertaken. Each survey will be carried out within a prescribed season and so will comprise a single replicate coverage of the study area.
The aerial element of the programme is being led by University College Cork with partners Aerosotravia, IMARES, and ALNILAM and the acoustic element of the programme is led by the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) in collaboration with the Marine Institute, Jasco Applied Science, SMRU Consulting and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.
Links to the websites for both the acoustic and aerial surveys have been registered at:
Publications from the ObSERVE Programme:
Signals From the Deep: Spatial and Temporal Acoustic Occurrence of Beaked Whales off Western Ireland