On Wednesday 17th September 2014 a team of 18 scientists and 16 crew will embark on a week long survey of Irish offshore waters, concentrating on the continental shelf. This is the sixth dedicated 'Cetaceans on the Frontier' survey to take place on-board the R.V. Celtic Explorer since 2009, supported under the Marine Institutes competitive Ship-time scheme in collaboration with Woodside and will be led by Chief Scientist, Dr. Joanne O'Brien of the GMIT Marine & Freshwater Research Centre.
R.V. Celtic Explorer
This years team of scientists and students from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and BirdWatch Ireland will aim to carry out a variety of scientific investigations around some of the most interesting and important marine habitats in Irish waters. Primarily, the survey is focused on recording the distribution and abundance of cetaceans through visual and acoustic techniques. This involves two teams of observers on deck (visual) during daylight hours in conjunction with detecting any communication signals emitted from the animals with a towed hydrophone (acoustic). Surveying using acoustic methods will also continue during hours of darkness. Records will also be taken of all other megafauna encountered such as turtles, sharks, tuna or sunfish.
Marine Mammal Observers in action
If the opportunity arises or weather permits, the IWDG RIB 'Muc Mhara' will be launched to try to gather biopsy samples from cetaceans encountered. These samples can be used for genetic and pollutant analyses and give vital information on our offshore species which are often hard to encounter. With the assistance of staff from RPS Australia we will also retrieve acoustic loggers in the Porcupine Seabight area which were positioned there during a dedicated cetacean and seabird cruise on the R.V. Celtic Voyager in May 2014.
A seabird team from BirdWatch Ireland will undertake a visual survey recording the distribution and abundance of seabirds encountered as well as continuing a survey of anthropogenic marine debris (macro litter) which began in 2012. Additionally, the night-time team will generate conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) profiles of the water column, by collecting temperature and salinity recordings at various depths.
This collection of various datasets is extremely important to piece together what is happening in these offshore ecosystems, and will contribute towards Ireland meeting requirements of the EU Habitats and Birds Directives aiming to ensure the effective conservation of these important offshore ecosystems.
Sightings and pictures from the current trip will be posted here on the COTF blog and also on the new COTF Facebook page.