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.