More than a whistle

A recent paper using COMPASS data has been published in Frontiers in Marine Science with a focus on developing low-cost machine learning approaches to detect marine sound sources automatically.  This research involved data collected during the project by Scottish Association for Marine Science, Marine Scotland and Agri-food and Bioscience Institute.  The work from this research provides an “efficient framework for mining big marine acoustic data, for information on temporal scales relevant to the management of marine protected areas and the conservation of vulnerable species”.


A link to the  paper is found at

Acoustic devices used during COMPASS research trips. Image credit: Denise Risch

Historic whaling in Scottish waters and use of data for future protection

The scale/nature of whaling uncovered in the recently published paper in Aquatic Conservation on Historical occurrence of whales in Scottish Waters paints a bleaker picture of what was understood, though points to some signs of recovery & mitigation required for future protection.  Findings show that whaling off Scottish waters had a devastating impact on the species including fin, sei, blue, sperm & humpback whale & particularly on North Atlantic right whale with whaling contributing to the likely extinction of the species in the eastern North Atlantic.  It’s welcome news that some species of whales identified in this paper are showing some signs of recovery.  However, the future of the species appears uncertain particularly in light of impacts of climate change and other immediate threats such as entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes for which mitigation measures should be urgently implemented in the region. This study also highlighted, that passive acoustic work such as that undertaken through the EU funded INTERREG Va COMPASS project could help identify and protect important habitat to help further recovery of large whales in this region.

Bigger is better, new COMPASS research shows that bigger sea trout smolts have higher survival!’

Effective management of anadromous Salmo trutta is challenging because long-term data on life history, phenology & survival are sparse & most stocks across the range are highly diverse & data-limited.  A recently paper published in the Journal Fish Biology looks at in-river behaviour and freshwater return rates of sea trout from two coastal river populations which was part of the EU INTERREG Va COMPASS project.  The study identifies how researchers used acoustic telemetry to tag 448 sea trout across 3 life stages, to describe the phenology, spawning behaviour & return rates of smolts, finnock & adult sea trout in 2 Irish river systems during 2018–21.  The current study indicates body size was an influential predictor of behaviour & survival across all 3 life stages. Increased body size was positively associated with marine transition success in smolts, long-term marine survival in kelts and spawning behaviour in finnock. 


This work further demonstrates the complexity of sea trout life-history dynamics and provides a comparative perspective across different age classes. An understanding of life-history variation, behaviour and survival is fundamental for the successful management and conservation of sea trout stocks.


Link to paper:

COMPASS network of buoys expands to the Clyde Sea, Western Scotland

A new metocean buoy was deployed by Marine Scotland Science as part of the COMPASS network of buoys in Scottish waters on 21 April 2022.  The buoy was deployed off the NLV Pole Star, a vessel operated by the Northern Lighthouse Board.  It was positioned (55° 24.900’ N 005° 11.700’ W) within the South of Arran nature conservation Marine Protected Area in the Clyde Sea, regularly monitored by NatureScot, in 45 m of water.  The buoy is collecting meteorological (air temperature, humidity, pressure, solar radiation and wind speed and direction), waves, currents profile and surface temperature, salinity and pH data and transmitting them to base in near-real time.

New COMPASS buoy deployed by MSS in the Clyde Sea.  Image Credit: Matt Geldart. 

Tagging and track Salmon and Sea trout – video links

Inland Fisheries Ireland, has produced two excellent videos, one on the Acoustic Receivers deployment and one on smolt tracking which demonstrates the funded work undertaken by the salmonid team on COMPASS.

The Smolt tagging in NE Ireland 2019 – YouTube video demonstrates smolt tracking on the Castletown River in Ireland with the support of Dundalk and District Brown Trout and Salmon Anglers Association.

Salmonids for tagging

The Acoustic receiver deployment in NE Ireland 2019 – YouTube video illustrates deployment of the River Boyne Acoustic Array which is part of the wider COMPASS fish receiver network.

COMPASS Acoustic Network

The tagging and tracking of the salmon and sea trout is an integral element of the overall COMPASS project to identify the species behaviour and migratory pathways.  Check out the link to the videos to learn more about the work on the project.

COMPASS data – project models, Story maps and more …

Unique among the three Interreg Va Marine Protected Areas projects, COMPASS has a dedicated work package on Data Management. One of the key goals of this work package was to provide a platform on the Web to allow general users to access the data collected from the network of monitoring buoys deployed by the partners. This builds on both technical and process knowledge shared between the project partners in the Data Management work package and combines data from the Oceanography, Salmonids and Modelling work packages in one location.

In addition to presenting the data in easy to access and understand forms (including graphs of observations and animations of model outputs), a story map has been developed with the Salmonids work package. Story Maps allow the combination of data (maps, graphs) with other media (text, videos, images) to improve the communication of narrative information about a dataset.


The web portal can be found here:


The model visualisations can be found here:


The Salmonids story map can be found here:

Marine Mammal deployments for COMPASS