Acoustic Surveys for Cetaceans in the Irish Atlantic Margin

Project Goals and Objectives

The goal of ObSERVE project is to “provide robust scientific knowledge with respect to protected species occurrence and ecology along the Irish Atlantic Margin". The project is divided into two complimentary contracts: ObSERVE-Acoustic will carry out acoustic monitoring along the shelf edge while ObSERVE-Aerial will carry out aerial surveys of an extensive area of Irish offshore waters (see

The ObSERVE-Acoustic project started in April 2015 and aims to determine whether the shelf edge and adjacent waters to the west of Ireland is an important habitat for a range of cetacean species but in particular beaked whales. Beaked whales are a group of deep-diving species which are rarely sighted in Irish waters but do strand, albeit infrequently. At least four species are known to occur: Bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus), Cuvier's (Ziphius cavirostris), Sowerby’s (Mesoplodon bidens) and True’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon mirus) with a single stranding record of Gervais beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus). Long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) are also abundant along the shelf edge and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are also common in deep water to the west of the shelf edge and both are known to dive to great depths. 

This project was initiated by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) in partnership with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DCHG) to provide robust data with which to inform conservation and management by assessing the importance of these shelf edge habitats for whales and dolphins.  This is an excellent example of best international practice and is a leading project in the management of offshore habitats for whales and dolphins.