Novel satellite tags deployed on bass in Ireland

by David Proudfoot

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has undertaken an innovative tagging study to investigate the spawning migrations of bass. A large number of adult bass in Cork Harbour were tagged, and the study took place in partnership with Finn Okland from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Wildlife Computers, a leading electronic tagging company, and local angling experts.

Little is known about the migration patterns or spawning behaviour of Irish bass populations and this study was designed to contribute to addressing this significant knowledge gap and provide improved information to manage this iconic sport fish species.

Miniaturised satellite tags, developed by Wildlife Computers, were attached to angler-caught bass which were returned to the water within minutes after tagging. The lightweight tags are scheduled to release from the fish in late spring 2016, when they will transmit data about the fish location and other scientific information to the ARGOS satellite. ARGOS is a satellite-based system which collects, processes and disseminates environmental data from fixed and mobile platforms worldwide.

Finn Okland holds a satellite tagged bass

Finn Okland holds a satellite tagged bass

IFI’s CEO, Dr Ciaran Byrne, commented: “Bass is one of the most exciting and valuable recreational angling species occurring in Irish waters. This project was particularly timely given the major international focus on the distribution of bass and concerns about its status. Unravelling more about bass migrations through this partnership presents an excellent opportunity to gain new insights which are essential when considered in the context of IFI’s national role in protecting and conserving this important but vulnerable species.”

NINA’s Finn Okland, an international fish telemetry expert who is advising the project, was on-site for the sampling and tagging which was recently carried out over four days in Cork Harbour. This was a repeat of a similar tagging effort carried out in 2014 and information gleaned from the 2014 results was used to enhance the tags and improve the study this year.

Elaborating on the study Finn Okland said: “This is a very exciting project which is focused on investigating the migrations of bass using the latest technology and I look forward, with great anticipation, to the results in 2016.”

This tagging study is one element of IFI’s long-term National Bass Conservation Programme which aims to determine the status of juvenile, pre-adult and adult bass around the coast. Working closely with anglers is a key element of the programme given that bass is the only marine fish species that is managed exclusively for angling. The expertise of local anglers, who caught the fish which were tagged, was essential for the success of the project.

IFI’s Head of Research, Dr Cathal Gallagher, said: “Using this satellite technology was a highlight for Inland Fisheries Ireland’s National Bass Programme in 2015 and marks ongoing developments in the use of advanced telemetry in Ireland. It emphasises the importance of ‘Citizen Science’ in supporting bass research and further enhances the ongoing collaborative research with NINA and several other international partners on a range of species.”

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