Bournemouth University is taking part in a multimillion pound EU project – SAMARCH -to investigate the decline of marine life.
The five-year project called SAMARCH (SAlmonid MAnagement Round the CHannel) is investigating levels of salmon and sea trout which are currently 70 per cent lower compared to levels in the 1970’s.
Salmon and sea trout play a key role in coastal and river ecosystems and are estimated to be worth as much as £1billion a year.
The cross-border project includes 10 partner organisations – five in France and five in the UK, funded by the EU’s Interreg VA France (Channel) England programme.
It will use state-of-the-art fish monitoring facilities on five rivers across the south of England and northern France, including the Freshwater Biological Association’s River Laboratory on the River Frome, the Environment Agency’s facilities on the River Tamar, the Institut National de Recherche Agronomique’s facilities on the Scorff and Oir and Agence Française pour la Biodiversité’s facilities on River Bresle.
The investigation will also study the behaviour and mortality of salmonid populations in estuaries and coastal waters to determine where losses are greatest. DNA analysis will be used to map areas in the English channel that are important for sea trout, provide new information to improve the tools used by the regulatory bodies in England and France to manage their salmon stocks.
The project will fund more than 20 placements per year for undergraduate and postgraduate students to work on the salmon and trout research.
Professor Genoveva Esteban, leader of BU’s contribution to SAMARCH, said: “This is a unique opportunity for students to work on fisheries placements and research projects in the UK and France.
“The partnership will facilitate cross-border student exchanges and knowledge – not just for the benefit of all partners, but of society in general.”
Dylan Roberts, SAMARCH project manager and head of fisheries at Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: “It’s been a real team effort to get this project off the ground and has required patience and perseverance. It took a total of 2.5 years to process the application, which was approved in May last year – now the hard work starts.
“We know that for the past 30 years management has focused on salmon and sea trout in the freshwater environment. We also know that currently only some 5 per cent of young salmon survive to return to our rivers, but the technology now exists so we can learn more about their time in transitional and coastal waters.
“Over the next five years, through collaborating with our project partners, the Environment Agency in the UK and Agence Française pour la Biodiversité in France, we aim to improve the management of salmon and sea trout in Channel waters and generate new information and tools to inform current and develop new policies”.
The Trust is offering a reward of £50 for anyone who finds a sea trout with an electronic tag inside, giving the date and location of the recovery to firstname.lastname@example.org.