A new research project funded by Horizon Europe will track aquatic animals across all four corners of Europe in support of conservation and management.
Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in European Seas (STRAITS) is a four-year, 3.5-million-euro project funded by Horizon Europe—an EU Framework Programme—that will deploy tracking equipment in major swimways across Europe to monitor the movements of aquatic animals at a pan-European scale.
This research will build on SeaMonitor (2019 – 2022)—an EU INTERREG VA Programme that was established to advance the conservation and management of the seas around Ireland, Western Scotland and Northern Ireland.
STRAITS consists of 10 organizations—including the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN)—who are working to advance the understanding of aquatic animal movements and changing the way biodiversity is monitored in European waters to support of conservation and policy initiatives.
Although animal tracking is not new, it is only recently that the technology has enabled the tracking of animals over larger areas and longer timescales. This advancement has yielded key information about the biology and ecology of these animals, but much more knowledge could be gained if efforts to tag and detect animals were performed collaboratively as part of a focused, resourced network.
Photo: Bluefin tuna, Kim Birnie-Gauvin
Within the framework of the European Tracking Network—a Europe-wide network of tracking equipment, researchers and experience—STRAITS will deploy acoustic telemetry arrays in four major swimways in Europe: 1) the Danish Straits, between the Kattegat Sea and the Baltic Sea, 2) the North Channel in the Celtic Sea, 3) the Strait of Gibraltar, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and 4) the Strait of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea (see map).
“This cross-continental partnership is building on the foundation and experience that SeaMonitor and other European-based programs have developed and is continuing to leverage resources in support of integrated efforts to track critical species and ecosystem changes,” says OTN executive director, Fred Whoriskey.
Locations of the STRAITS tracking arrays, images courtesy of the European Tracking Network
STRAITS will also leverage ongoing acoustic telemetry tracking projects, expand efforts to connect tracking initiatives from across Europe, develop data management plans and networking to promote synergy, and deliver data to national and international governing bodies.
“This is a major win for the monitoring of aquatic life in Europe. Identifying migration routes, estimating survival, locating spawning grounds, determining the timing of major transitions, assessing threats—these are all questions we can begin to address, at the scope that is necessary to draw meaningful conclusions for the conservation of aquatic life,” says Kim Birnie-Gauvin from the Technical University of Denmark, and one of the project partners.