The project is one of three highly innovative EU funded initiatives involving sea trout (called INTERREG) to encourage EU countries to work across borders. This new approach maximises the opportunity offered by EU cooperation to work 'bioregionally', reflecting environmental and ecosystem priorities, rather than political ones. The other two projects cover the North Sea and European Atlantic coastal regions.
Commenting on the project Mr Andrews said, "The effort made by the project management team under Jim Henderson's inspiring leadership to connect with local people may prove to be the hallmark of this project. With top scientists from Ireland, Wales and Scotland delivering the scientific aspects of the project, and with river and fisheries trusts, riparian owners, fishery managers, angling clubs and anglers collecting samples the project has already achieved a community buy-in. The key to its wider success is to engage communities within the river catchments by demonstrating to people how important the sea trout is as a biological indicator, as well as the contribution it makes to the local economy through jobs, retail outlets and tourism.
The Celtic Sea Trout Project will address five questions:
- What happens to sea trout after they have migrated to sea and how are the various stocks structured and interlinked?
- What is their marine ecology in terms of their feeding behaviour, diet and life history variation?
- What environmental and other pressures are they exposed to?
- How do their life histories respond to environmental variation in terms of stock structure and composition and, therefore, the subsequent quality of the fisheries?
- Can sea trout life history variation be used as a tool to detect and understand the effects of climate change?
These are big questions and their implications affect all of us, not just angling communities. The extraordinary and polymorphic life of the sea trout has until recently been neglected, but now recognition has arrived through its Biodiversity Action Plan status and through the three EU projects. As Dr Graeme Harris said in his opening address on the project, "the sea trout is the Cinderella of the salmonids world". This project addresses that point.