A question-and-answer session with Dr Martha Hall, Project Manager, and Amy Cartwright, Project Support Officer.
Tell us about your project
The Fisheries Innovation for sustainable SHared INTerchannEL resources (FISH INTEL) project is an exciting cross-channel, multi-national partnership that uses underwater acoustic tracking technology to identify the environmental conditions that a range of important marine species need in order to thrive. The project brought together 12 project partners from the UK, France and Belgium representing research institutions, regulatory bodies, NGOs and industry, all with a common interest in the Channel/Manche region.
FISH INTEL focuses on seven sites along the coastlines of southern England, northern France and Belgium. Across these sites, the project monitors marine species including European bass, pollack, crawfish, black bream and bluefin tuna, which are considered commercially important for the region. The project has already established a comprehensive picture of fish movements and the habitats that individual species prefer. The knowledge gained throughout the project is now being used to help authorities across the region develop and implement a holistic approach to fisheries management programmes known as Ecosystems Based Fisheries Management (EBFM), which considers the entire ecosystem of the species being managed, rather than focusing on one species or feature of conservation interest alone.
What have been the key outputs and results for FISH INTEL?
What lessons have you learned through this project?
Working together is vital, as fish stocks have been shown by the project to be shared, and both the fish populations and the commercial fishing industry will never be truly sustainable unless streamlined ecosystem-based fisheries management is implemented on both sides of the Channel.
The social and cultural differences between countries need to inform how research is to be communicated on the different sides of the Channel. Stakeholders from different countries have different perceptions and use different terminology, which can cause delays and challenges with project communication.
Brexit will make future collaborations across the Channel much harder, and although there is a need to work towards more synchronised management to ensure the viability of fish populations throughout the Channel region, the partnership will have to work hard to continue the co-operation without the availability of many avenues of common funding.
What have been the highlights of delivering a cross-border project?
The opportunity to form new and lasting relationships with researchers, marine management organisations and conservationists in the UK, France and Belgium has been invaluable. We have already started discussing ideas for new research that will further the work of FISH INTEL. The unique data generated through this cross-border project could not otherwise have been collected and allows detection and tagging of fish in numerous territories, which in-turn generates an appreciation that fish stocks are a shared resource. Fisheries management can be very variable, but we are connected by the science.
What difference will this project make/ legacy will it leave?
In creating the largest multi-species, multi-country telemetry network in Europe, FISH INTEL has laid the foundations for future telemetry projects in the region, helping to support sustainable fishing practices into the future by gaining a better understanding of the ecology and behaviour of different marine animals that are economically and ecologically important to the region, and informing the management of these species going forward. Finally, the project has generated essential evidence and effectively engaged stakeholders on the topic of implementing EBFM, setting us on a sure path to achieving the goal of increasing the proportion of transitional sites with Good or High Ecological Status (GES) in the FCE region.
The recently completed FISH INTEL project ran from February 2021 to June 2023 and had a total budget of €4m (€2.8m ERDF).