NI scientists to monitor whale songs and dolphin chatter
Scientists plan to eavesdrop on whales and dolphins as part of a new plan to protect sea mammals and marine environments.
Almost £6m has been set aside for the project which will be centred on the Irish and Scottish coasts.
It is being led by scientists from Northern Ireland's Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).
They are developing a network of marine monitoring devices.
The scientists will be able to record whale and dolphin chatter, allowing them to identify numbers and species in the water.
The technology will also enable them to assess whether noise from commercial fishing, or other marine industry affects them.
Dr Adam Mellor of AFBI says noise can have a big impact on sea mammals:
"Displacement from noise is a very real effect and....if it doesn't cause them to move will change their behaviours and, at the most acute levels, can cause physical and physiological damage to the animals."
As well as assessing the environment for marine mammals, scientists hope to learn much more about the salmon and sea trout which spawn in our rivers.
Very little is known about what happens to them, or where they go when they return to the open seas.
Some are to be caught, fitted with trackers and followed to try to help scientists fill in the gaps in our knowledge.
Bigger marine buoys with complex equipment slung underneath will also be used to assess the state of the oceanic climate and its impact on underwater habitats, plants and animals.