FISH INTEL researchers and stakeholders attend the project's final conference at the University of Plymouth Marine Station
Around 1,000 fish have been tagged in the English Channel as part of an ambitious project to preserve and enhance the habitats of some of the region’s key fish species.
Almost 200 acoustic responders have also been placed along the coasts of England, France and Belgium to enable researchers to paint a comprehensive picture of fish movements and the habitats that individual species prefer.
The work has been carried out as part of FISH INTEL, a €4million project supported by €2.8million from the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg France (Channel) England programme.
It has united scientists, fishers and regulatory bodies from the three countries with its focus being on five species – European sea bass, pollack, black bream, bluefin tuna, and crawfish – that play a critical role in the Channel’s fishing industry and ecosystem health.
With each individual fish having a unique signal, researchers have already discovered that some sea bass travel from the south coast of Devon to the coasts of Belgium over the space of a number of months. Other species, such as crawfish, stay much closer to home and tend not to stray more than 2km in any particular direction.
The project is also enabling researchers to see particular sites that different species frequent through the year, which it is envisaged will help establish protected areas while creating sustainable fishing industries in the future. 
FISH INTEL launched in March 2021 and the conclusion of the initial two-year project was marked with a conference at the University of Plymouth’s Marine Station attended by many of its key stakeholders.
But with the responders expected to remain on the seabed for at least five years, researchers plan to keep monitoring the data so that any changes in fish movements over a longer timeframe can also be assessed.
Their ultimate aim is to enable authorities in England, France and Belgium to implement Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management (EBFM) programmes with the aim of enhancing the condition and water quality in these habitats, as well as enabling activities – such as fishing, civil engineering projects and extract industries – to function in a sustainable way.
Dr Emma Sheehan, Associate Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Plymouth, is the project’s Principal Investigator. She said:
“The FISH INTEL project has been an international team effort, bringing together stakeholders from three countries to support the current and future conservation of our fisheries. Over the past two years, we have built Europe’s largest multi-species telemetry array which is allowing us to track fish along everything from estuaries to reefs, shipwrecks and coastal structures. It is also enabling us to see how individual species respond to emerging and expanding industries such as offshore renewable energy and aquaculture. The network we now have in place will mean we can continue to track these species for many years, giving us an unrivalled picture of the habitats they prefer and how we can protect them now and in the future.”
Miranda Krestovnikoff and Dr Emma Sheehan at the FISH INTEL conference
Miranda Krestovnikoff and Dr Emma Sheehan at the FISH INTEL conference
The conference was opened by marine biologist and television presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff, who has been exploring the abundance of marine wildlife in the English Channel for more than 30 years. She added:
“As a diver, I’ve spent a huge amount of time under the surface of the world’s ocean. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that there is an incredible diversity of stunning marine life right here in the English Channel. One of the real issues we are facing now is that most of it needs protecting, so that future generations can benefit from the ocean in a sustainable manner. We need to learn as much as we can about the fish, marine invertebrates and mammals living on our coastlines, and a project like FISH INTEL can play a big part in making that happen.”
FISH INTEL conference
FISH INTEL conference
FISH INTEL conference
Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme

The FISH INTEL project has a total budget of €4.1million, of which €2.8million is funded by the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg France (Channel) England (FCE) Programme.

Interreg France (Channel) England (FCE) is an EU programme set up to foster economic development in the south of the UK and north of France by funding innovative projects which have a sustainable and economic benefit.

It focuses on a range of specific objectives including supporting innovation, improving the attractiveness of the FCE area and developing low carbon technologies.

More information:

Marine Conservation Research Group 

The Marine Conservation Research Group investigates the consequences of human activity on marine biodiversity and its ecosystem services in order to provide scientific evidence and management advice for the benefit of marine ecosystems and society. 
Within the group, there are several units working in key areas of marine conservation:
Underwater landscape, coastal