Shoal of Tuna in the Mediterranean Sea Guido Montaldo

We're working with 11 other partners on a major EU-funded project to learn more about fish behaviour.

Fish intel project logo.jpg

Led by the University of Plymouth, FISH INTEL uses cutting edge technology to monitor key fish species and understand how they use different ecosystems within UK, French and Belgian seas.

By tracking fish movements and studying their habitats, we hope to build a comprehensive picture that will inform commercial fishing policies and help marine life to thrive.

Which species will we monitor

The project will focus on the following commercially important species:

  • pollock (Pollachius pollachius)
  • bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus)
  • bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)
  • crawfish (Palinurus elephas)
  • black bream (Spondyliosoma cantharu)

Researchers want to know more about species movement between coastal habitats, potential shallow-deep water movements and wider area movements between continents. They are interested to find out where the fish go, when they migrate, how they use different habitats and whether they reside in marine protected areas or just pass through.

Where is the project taking place

The project will monitor fish movements in eight locations within the English Channel/Manche region.

England

Isles of Scillies (crawfish)
South Cornwall (bluefin tuna)
Devon (bass)
Sussex (black bream)

France
Mer D’Iroise (crawfish)
Baie de St Brieuc (windfarms)
Baie de Seine (pollock and other)

Belgium

Offshore windfarms of Belgium (pollock)

Fish INTEL map.JPG

How does it work

Innovative acoustic tracking devices (pingers) will be attached to crawfish or inserted into fish. Fish then 'ping' a unique code that is 'heard' by fixed listening devices placed within different habitats such as estuaries, mussel farms, shipwrecks, reefs and windfarms. The animals can be specifically located by ‘triangulating’ their position between up to three devices. Underwater video surveys will also be carried out.

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Acoustic tag glued to carapace of crawfish

Pelagic or 'open-sea' species, such as bluefin tuna which are starting to appear in UK waters between July and September, require much wider international collaboration. These fish will be tagged using 'pop up archival tags' (PAT) and satellite tracking technology.

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Listening devices placed about 10km apart in southern Cornwall, in 50m of water

Principal investigator, Dr Emma Sheehan, explains some of these techniques in the video, below.

What does FISH INTEL aim to achieve

The two-year project will give us an insight into which habitats individual fish species prefer, both within and outside of marine protected areas. We'll be looking at how fishing, climate change and other human activities (such as windfarms and mussel farms) are impacting on ecosystems within the Channel/Manche region.

The resulting data can then be shared with key stakeholders including fishers, regulators and policy-makers. We hope that our findings will lead to better cross-channel collaboration and improved marine management measures, such as recommended catch limits and seasonal restrictions.

Principal Specialist in Marine Protected Areas, Dr Jean-Luc Solandt explained: "Fish INTEL will allow us to manage our fish populations more effectively. Currently our seas are not well managed, and the science behind the findings will allow us to protect key feeding, breeding, and nursery areas of these species. It will allow us to see how fish move, and whether we need to designate new marine protected areas, or extend current marine protected areas. "

the science behind the findings will allow us to protect key feeding, breeding, and nursery areas of these species.

Jean-Luc Solandt, Marine Conservation Society

Who else is involved

FISH INTEL is a €4 million Interreg project involving UK, Belgian and French academic institutes, fisheries government scientists (CEFAS in England, INFREMER in France) and regulators (Isles of Scilly Fisheries and Conservation Authority).

The project builds on work by the University of Exeter and the University of Plymouth and is part of much longer-term research into commercial fish and shellfish habitats.

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