Marine environmental monitoring is undertaken to provide evidence that environmental management targets are being met. Moreover, monitoring also provides context to marine science and over the last century has allowed development of a critical scientific understanding of the marine environment and the impacts that humans are having on it. The seas around the UK are currently monitored by targeted, impact-driven, programmes (e.g., fishery or pollution based monitoring) often using traditional techniques, many of which have not changed significantly since the early 1900s. The advent of a new wave of automated technology, in combination with changing political and economic circumstances, means that there is currently a strong drive to move toward a more refined, efficient, and effective way of monitoring. We describe the policy and scientific rationale for monitoring our seas, alongside a comprehensive description of the types of equipment and methodology currently used and the technologies that are likely to be used in the future. We contextualize the way new technologies and methodologies may impact monitoring and discuss how whole ecosystems models can give an integrated, comprehensive approach to impact assessment. Furthermore, we discuss how an understanding of the value of each data point is crucial to assess the true costs and benefits to society of a marine monitoring programme.
- Research vessel