The COMPASS project has been formally approved to proceed, and the groundwork undertaken by the partners since January 2017 is now developing into some full blown activity. The Project Management Office is currently being established at AFBI, and recruitment for many of the new posts across the partnership is well underway (and in some cases complete). We are very excitied to finally start the activity and to work with each other, and are lokoing forward to our upcoming meetings and workshops that will define our work for the short to medium term. The project partners are heavily involved in the procurement of the additional hardware that will be required to undertake this ambitious project, and some baseline oceanographic and Passive Acoustic survey has already been undertaken across the Malin Shelf region.
Coming up in the next few months will be an official project Launch Meeting to be held in NI, and a Passive Acoustic Monitoring workshop organised by, and held at SAMS in Oban at the end of August as part of the Marine Mammal Work Package.
Alongside the Management and Communications functions, the project is structured into 5 scientific work packages which will deliver the programmes requirement for managing protected areas and species:
• T1 – Oceanography. The Oceanography work-package will deliver an integrated network of buoys for oceanography in regional seas by creating new moored observation stations at key locations (where the requirement has been identified) and integrating these with established monitoring stations already within the region. Activities co-developing the skills to deliver new parameters of significance to MPA’s, such as those associated with Ocean Acidification (OA) will complement activities designed to co-ordinate monitoring across the three jurisdictions in the region. These activities will implement common practices and telemetered data interfacing directly with the Data Management work-package; this will ultimately facilitate data assimilation from the project and established sources for the regional assessments required by policies such as the MSFD and WFD.
• T2 – Data Management. The COMPASS project aims to leave a legacy of improved data integration and interoperability to facilitate the data flow between the regional partners and the end users. Supplying data, and any further developed information products in a coherent manner will enable the better understanding of regional marine habitats, species and marine protected areas (MPAs). As ocean observations and modelling are key to regional assessments, the data produced in this project should be treated as a legacy asset and must be managed accordingly and this framework provides a useful focus. An overarching aim of this Work Package is to ease delivery to the partner organisations respective national oceanographic data centres (NODCs) for long-term curation and dissemination.
• T3 – Salmonid fish. This work package aims to define the habitats used by outward migrating salmon and resident marine phase sea trout through a network of moored acoustic receivers. The critical issue for both species is population decline, without full knowledge of cause. The species are closely related and are present for some of their lifecycle in the same rivers and coastal waters, but there is an emerging need for very different population management strategies due to differing life history strategies and ranges used in the marine environment. Separation of legislative provisions for the two species which have been closely linked in the UK and Ireland for almost a century is now an obvious management objective.
• T4 – Marine Mammals. This work package will develop passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) program for marine mammals (cetaceans and pinnipeds) in relation to a cross-border (Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic Ireland) network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Data on the occurrence of marine mammals will be integrated with oceanographic, visual and ambient noise data sampled at similar spatio-temporal scales to increase understanding of habitat associations and environmental drivers for observed seasonal occurrence of mobile species. Spatially explicit habitat models for highly mobile marine mammal species will be developed as part of this project. In addition to species distribution, data collected via the COMPASS PAM network will be used to assess long-term changes in ambient noise levels within this cross-border region, in accordance with Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) Descriptor 11 (underwater noise) requirements. MSFD reporting across the proposed monitoring network will boost current efforts by CEFAS in setting up a UK wide long-term monitoring network for underwater noise as well as extend this into Irish waters.
• T5 – Modelling. The modelling work package will address the programme objective of developing cross-border capacity by drawing together two currently unrelated national hydrodynamic models, the Irish Northeast Atlantic Model and the Scottish Shelf Model (SSM), or an alternative west coast domain, into an integrated model system for the target region. This interfaced hydrodynamic model will itself address one of the programme’s required model outputs, providing simulations of the evolving marine environment, but it will also provide the underpinning for two further models. These will consider biological connectivity between sites across the region and hydrodynamic habitat type, both of key importance in understanding, developing and managing MPA networks