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Research Vessel Surveys

The Marine Institute conducts a wide range of surveys on the RV Celtic Explorer, RV Celtic Voyager and on chartered vessels. Surveys are mainly used to estimate trends over time. They tend to use the same methods, and operate in the same areas year after year, so any changes in the amount of fish that these surveys observe are likely to result from changes in the stock. These are an important element of our annual work programmes under the DCF.

  • Blue Whiting Survey - This survey's objective is to provide an age stratified abundance and biomass index for pre-spawning /spawning aggregations of blue whiting observed over the survey area. This data is combined to produce a global estimate of abundance for this widely distributed stock on the western spawning grounds. It is carred out over 21 days late March / early April each year.
  • Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic Survey (WESPAS) - The primary objective of the survey is to provide an age stratified abundance and biomass index for target species observed over the survey area. This represents; spawning/pre-spawning aggregations of boarfish and feeding aggregations of Malin Shelf herring. In addition data is collected on the hydrographic conditions encountered over the survey area alongside seabird and marine mammal abundance surveys.  It is carried out annually over a 42 days in early summer in the north-west, the west and the south-west of Ireland.
  • Spawning Herring Acoustic Survey -  The objective of the survey is to provide an age stratified abundance and biomass index for pre-spawning /spawning aggregations of herring observed over the survey area. It takes place annually in the autumn in the Celtic Sea over 21 days.
  • Western IBTS 4th quarter - This survey provides a relative index of abundance for commercially exploited demersal fish stocks around Ireland. In particular recruitment indices for tuning ICES stock assessment models. The survey also collects data on non-commercial fish, elasmobranch, cephalopod and invertebrate species; oceanographic data; litter data; and additional international research sample requests where possible. It is carried annually out over a 42 day period between October and December, surveying fish stocks in the Celtic Sea and off the west and north-west of Ireland.
  • International Mackerel and Horse Mackerel Egg Survey - This survey is part of an international consortium of nine European countries that run the international mackerel and horse mackerel egg surveys every three years. These provide the main fishery independent data for the assessment programme. Scientists collect, count and stage mackerel and horse mackerel eggs from plankton hauls. Fishing tows are also carried out to collect adult fish for fecundity and atresia estimations.      
  • Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey (IAMS)  - The main objective of the survey is to obtain biomass estimates for anglerfish and establish an abundance index for megrim in VIa and VII. Secondary objectives are to collect data on the distribution and relative abundance of anglerfish, megrim and other commercially exploited species. The survey also collects maturity and biological information for commercial fish species. It is carried out annually between February and April, over 4 legs of 10-11 days each.
  • Nephrops Underwater TV Surveys - the main objective is to obtain quality assured estimates of Nephrops burrow densities for the following Functional Units FU16, 17, 19, 20-21 and 22. The UWTV footage is also used to collect ancillary information each station such as the occurrence of sea-pens, other macro benthos and fish species and trawl marks on the sea bed. The survey is typically carried out between June and August over 3 legs of 10-12 days each. Prawns are a vital resource for the Irish fishing industry and the underwater TV survey programme is a key input to assessing this resource, worth over €80m to the Irish industry.

All research surveys involve international partners and are coordinated through ICES who ensure that the protocols and methodologies used are standardised. The survey data are used in international stock assessments that inform scientific advice on fishing opportunities for the coming year. 

Reports from many of these surveys can be accessed in the Marine Institute's Open Access Repository. 

For further information on the each of the surveys above is available here.