By Sarah Ward
Living Seas Officer
Sussex Wildlife Trust is excited to be partnering with the University of Plymouth and Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA) on a new project which uses novel technology to understand the movement of fish in our local area.
The Sussex-specific part of the project, which ourselves and Sussex IFCA are working on, is part of a wider project known as FISH INTEL, which is a cross-Channel partnership supported and funded by the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg France (Channel) England programme, which focuses on a series of sites along the coastlines of southern England, northern France and Belgium.
FISH INTEL is using fish tracking technology and underwater video surveys to help us understand more about fish movements and the habitats individual species prefer. Here in Sussex, we’ve been focussing on Black Bream (Spondyliosoma cantharus) and European Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), specifically around the Sussex IFCA’s Nearshore Trawling Byelaw area. Sussex Wildlife Trust has been able to purchase additional fish tags and acoustic receivers, thanks to funding from The Pebble Trust.
The team has been out to sea deploying acoustic receivers and tagging fish. The tagged fish emit a ‘ping’ every few minutes, which can be picked up by the receivers if they are within a 200m range. This data will allow us to create simple presence / absence maps of where the fish are going; this can then be overlaid with other data, such as habitat type, so we can identify preferred habitats and infer fish behaviour.
Additionally, Natural England have further extended the project by deploying an additional set of acoustic receivers within the Kingmere Marine Conservation Zone, which is an area of particular benefit to Black Bream during their breeding season (this is due to the specific habitat that male Bream use to build their nests).
The equipment was deployed this spring and data will be retrieved at intervals throughout the year. Watch this space for future updates on the project, we hope to have some interesting data to share, particularly as we start to see the Sussex kelp forests restore over time.
Releasing tagged fish
All fishes are tagged by individuals from the University of Plymouth holding a UK Government Home Office License; the tags are selected so as to cause minimal disturbance to the fish once in place.
Tagged Black Bream have a notch cut out of their tail so that they can be identified. If you catch a fish with a notched tail, please photograph, release and report location and data to the FISH INTEL team.
All acoustic receiver equipment has been deployed under the necessary Marine Management Organisation license.
If you find the acoustic receivers either coastally or at sea, please do not interfere with this equipment. If you think the equipment may be dislodged or damaged, please alert the FISH INTEL team.
To keep in touch with the project, visit: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/marine-conservation-research-group/fish-intel-interreg
FISH INTEL Contact: [email protected]