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So, how were the nephrops?

Fri, 2018-01-19 10:00

Snow at sea At the beginning of January, we blogged about the research adventures of the Alba na Mara as she went off in search of nephrops. The Scientist in Charge of that survey got back in touch with us to let us know how they’d got on:

The west coast TV survey abroad Alba na Mara spent the first day of the cruise (6th Jan) in Fraserburgh due to poor weather. The weather continued to hamper the cruise as the vessel made its way to the west coast, eventually arriving at the planned destination off the north of Jura on Tuesday 9th Jan, following nights spent in Loch Erribol and at Kyle.

The following two days were spent using the TV sledge to survey areas of mud for Nephrops burrow abundance which have not previously been included in the summer Scotia Nephrops TV surveys. These annual cruises use information from BGS charts to direct where the Nephrops TV surveys will be carried out (except in the North Minch where VMS data form the basis of the survey design). To the north west of Jura there is a patch of mud extending out to Colonsay that is already charted. However on the 2016 January cruise (0116A) aboard Alba na Mara, exploratory sites beyond this known ground were investigated using underwater TV cameras and a drop frame. The preliminary results implied the mud covered a larger area than that presently charted, and it is on these grounds the TV sledge was deployed during this part of the 0118A cruise.

Two days were spent working between the north west of Jura and to the south of Mull before steaming to anchor off Kerrera on the night of the 11th. Due to the poor weather the work plan for the following two days involved calibration exercises between the TV sledge and drop frame, two methods for investigating Nephrops burrow habitat but each having unique characteristics. This work was carried out in the shelter of Loch Linnhe before heading for Oban on Sunday 14th for the planned half landing and a change of scientific staff.

Notable points so far on this survey have been the significant swings in temperature; outstanding sunrises; Kyle’s RNLI rib using Alba for training purposes; and the magnificent snow topped west coast hills.

Further Information


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Vacancy – Four Casework Managers, Aberdeen (closing date 12 February 2018)

Thu, 2018-01-18 10:00

We are currently seeking applications for four Casework Managers within the Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team based in Aberdeen. For further information on these vacancies, please click the links below:

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact Recruitment Team on 0131 244 8217 or via email

Further Information


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Celebrating the Year of the Engineer. Aries – more than just a star sign

Tue, 2018-01-16 10:00

ARIES sampler

As we mentioned in our blog earlier this month, 2018 is the Year of the Engineer as well as the Year of the Young Person. Over the next 12 months, we’ll be introducing you to some of our incredibly talented engineers, as well as showing your some of their work. First up, one of our inventions.

This is the ARIES sampler, developed and built by scientists and engineers at Marine Scotland Science.

ARIES, which stands for Automated Recording Instrumented Environmental Sampler, has the ability to collect 110 plankton samples in small codend bags, and 60 water samples at depths down to 3500 metres.

The open stainless steel frame means that it is also capable of carrying a large payload of other instrumentation which, at one time or another, has included a Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD), Optical Particle Counter (OPC), Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), underwater echo sounders and a holographic plankton camera.

ARIES has been deployed on a variety of ships for over 20 years and it continues to successfully collect data for our scientists on the winter MRV Scotia surveys in the Faroe Shetland Channel.

Further Information 

The post Celebrating the Year of the Engineer. Aries – more than just a star sign appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Vacancy – Fisheries Advisor (closing date 9 February 2018)

Thu, 2018-01-11 10:00

We are currently seeking applications for a Fisheries Advisor within Marine Scotland Science based in Aberdeen. This is a permanent and pensionable appointment and new entrants will normally start on the minimum of the pay range. Candidates with a disability who meet the essential criteria below will be invited to the assessments.

The postholder will be the principal Scientific Fisheries Advisor for Scotland. He or she will provide the main point of contact between Marine Scotland Science and a wide range of internal and external organisations and individuals (including, but not limited to, fisheries policy colleagues in Edinburgh, London and Brussels, the Scottish fishing industry and relevant environmental groups).  The postholder will also work with other senior managers within MSS to ensure the delivery of advice, contribute to the effective operation of the Programme, carry out relevant scientific analysis as required, conduct appropriate and original research, and potentially perform a corporate role to be determined by Marine Scotland’s Head of Science.

Qualifications Required
Applicants should be educated to postgraduate degree level (e.g. MSc, MRes, PhD) in mathematics, statistics, biological science or environmental science.

Essential Criteria
1. In-depth knowledge and extensive experience of fisheries science.
2. Good computational skills, with proven ability to programme in a high level language such as R, C++ or MATLAB, and the ability to easily adapt to new packages.
3. Experience of presenting scientific results, preparing reports and making presentations, and communicating with specialist and non-specialist audiences.
4. Experience of leading and managing collaborative scientific teams, and of working with fisheries stakeholders in a science-policy interface.

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find a link to below. To apply, you must fully complete and submit an online application via this website before the closing date. To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Dr Coby Needle who can be reached at or 0131 244 3304.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact Helen McLean on 0131 244 8217 or

Further Information


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2018 – A year for a double celebration

Mon, 2018-01-08 10:00

2018 is going to be a busy year with two things for us to shout about – the Year of the Engineer and the Year of Young People.

The Year of the Engineer

Designed to inspire the next generation of engineers, the Year of the Engineer also gives us the opportunity to celebrate and showcase all the types of engineering that we do within Marine Scotland. One look at our website shows just how wide our remit is, but as one of the operational parts of the Scottish Government, many people don’t realise just how much work is done, much of it bespoke, by the engineers in our workshops, labs, net store and on our vessels.

Our engineers are multi-skilled electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, instrumentation engineers and design engineers, and this year we want to give you an insight in to their work.

But that’s not all…2018 is also:

The Year of Young People

The Scottish Government has named 2018 the Year of Young People to celebrate the amazing young personalities, talents, and achievers that make up Scotland. It’s also about inspiring our nation, and Marine Scotland is keen to support young people through our outreach work. What you might not realise is that an any given year we attend a number of public events like family days at local fairs and shows, bigger events like the Royal Highland Show and we participate in open days like the Doors Open weekends. We also support school-related activities like visits, careers fairs, work experience places and the Nuffield Foundation.  Oh, and then there are all the university students who we support. Young people are the future and it’s great to inspire them and be inspired by them.

Over the next year, we’ll be sharing images and stories about our engineering and outreach work so sit back, relax and enjoy!

Further information

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Watching nephrops on TV

Fri, 2018-01-05 10:00

NephropsDuration: 6 – 22 January 2018


  • Large TV drop frame
  • TV sledge
  • 1 x 600m umbilical towing cable
  • 1 x armoured cable
  • Video cameras and associated equipment (plus backup)
  • Four lasers and 60cm bracket for the drop frame
  • 1 x BT201 prawn trawl (plus minimal spares)
  • Day grab and table
  • Prawn sorting table
  • Go Pro deep water housing


  1. To obtain estimates of the Nephrops burrow abundance to the north of Jura using the sledge UWTV system.
  2.  To compare two different methodologies to establish Nephrops burrow abundance (using the sledge and drop frame UWTV systems).
  3.  Weather permitting, to obtain estimates of the Nephrops habitat distribution in the area west of Mull and to the east of Coll and Tiree, using the drop frame UWTV system and sediment grabs.
  4. To obtain estimates of the Nephrops burrow abundance in the Inner Sound using the most appropriate UWTV system.
  5.  To use the video footage to record occurrence of other benthic fauna and evidence of commercial trawling activity.
  6.  To collect trawl caught samples of Nephrops for comparison of reproductive condition and morphometrics.


Survey activity will be very dependent on the weather, and it may be required to alter the work plans during the survey.

The priority of this survey will be to study in greater detail than is presently undertaken on the summer UWTV Nephrops survey on MRV Scotia, the area to the north of Jura using the UWTV sledge.

The location of the survey sites will be provided ahead of the survey.

The second objective is to follow on from work carried out in previous surveys, and spend at least two days performing comparative trials between the drop frame and sledge UWTV systems in an appropriate area in the South Minch. The sledge will be deployed five times on known Nephrops grounds, in parallel tracks 200 m long and approximately 50 m apart. The drop frame will then be deployed over the same ground a further three times, with video of the sea bed being recorded at all times with both methods. This work requires additional data to generate a larger data set to allow for a more robust analysis of the results.

It is hoped that in future this drop frame approach will be able to provide quantitative Nephrops burrow abundance data in areas where the sledge cannot be deployed. Details of the locations where the trials are to be carried out will be discussed with the ship’s officers during the survey, and will depend on weather and survey progress.

Weather permitting, the third objective involves habitat mapping work, and will be carried out in the area between Mull, Coll and Tiree, using the drop frame UWTV system. This continues the work first started in 2014 which is aimed at mapping the distribution of muddy habitat suitable for Nephrops in the South Minch in which the British Geological Survey has little or no data.

Site locations will be provided prior to the cruise. Each survey site will be located near to the boundary of the suspected Nephrops ground. The drop frame will be deployed to provide a visual record of the seabed type as the ship drifts over the ground. The search path will continue in one direction until the presence or absence of muddy sediment becomes apparent. All video footage will be recorded onto DVD and all significant observations will be recorded manually. These observations will include the boundary of the muddy sediment, the point where Nephrops burrows begin to appear or disappear, and any signs of anthropogenic activity.

The distance between, and the duration of each of these deployments will vary depending on the environmental conditions, obstructions (creels, fish farms, etc.), the size of the survey area and how quickly the boundary between Nephrops and non-Nephrops habitat is detected.  A Day Grab will be deployed at a suitable point along the track to obtain a sediment sample, and on recovery, the sample will be frozen.

Depending on the time available and having completed the previous objectives outlined above, it is hoped to be able to survey the Inner Sound using the most appropriate system (depending on creel densities in the area) for Nephrops burrow abundance. This will involve a standard abundance tow, in that the survey positions will be randomly generated (and supplied prior to the survey), with each tow lasting ten minutes, with the footage being recorded to DVD and the other essential data being recorded directly to PC.

Further Information:

The post Watching nephrops on TV appeared first on Marine Scotland.

New Year is a bit rubbish for the Scotia

Wed, 2018-01-03 10:00

Duration: 4-19 January 2018


  1. To undertake water, sediment and biological sampling for the Clean Seas Environmental Monitoring Programme (CSEMP).
  2. To collect water samples for nutrient studies as part of the Scottish Coastal Eutrophication Assessment Survey (SCEAS).
  3. Monitor and record all litter brought aboard in all trawls. Sample water column and sediment for micro-plastic litter. Collect fish guts and any other biota of interest for microplastic research.
  4. Deploy Aquatracka and Seabird 19 to collect fluorescence data.


Surface water will be collected for hydrographic nutrient studies (SCEAS) throughout the survey at fixed time intervals (Hourly for ammonia and every 30 minutes for nutrients). The vessel will sample from the Forth to Berwick initially, north to Montrose Bank then following the sediment/fish sampling track.  Nutrient samples will be analysed onboard as far as possible.  Any remaining at end of the survey will be returned to the laboratory for analyses.

Fish sampling will be carried out at the Montrose Bank, Fladen (Fair Isle), North Minch. and Colonsay CSEMP sites (Table 1). Weather permitting a fish site will be identified for the Faroe-Shetland Channel.

Sediment sampling will be carried out at the East coast, Inner and Outer Moray Firth, Faroe-Shetland Channel, Minch North, Minch South, Sea of Hebrides and Colonsay. Sediment sampling will also be carried out at the four CSEMP fixed sites (NMMP85 – North Minch, NMMP95 – Inner Moray Firth, NMMP105 – Outer Moray Firth, NMMP165 – Montrose Bank) (Table 1).

Sediments will be sampled for chemical analyses at all locations. Fish will be sampled for chemical analyses, biological effects and fish diseases.  Some biological effects measurements will be carried out during the survey.

Monitoring of all litter brought on board during trawling operations will continue throughout the survey. The catamaran will be deployed to sample for micro-plastics whenever possible and samples processed onboard.  Additional sediment samples will also be taken for micro-plastics where possible.  Fish guts and any other biota of interest will be preserved and returned to the lab for analysis.

The Aquatracka will be deployed in the Forth and in at least 1 other area to obtain reference measurements.

Sediment will be collected to provide chemistry laboratory reference material. Where possible, if sufficient suitable fish are obtained which are not required for other studies then livers will also be sampled for reference material.

Further Information:


The post New Year is a bit rubbish for the Scotia appeared first on Marine Scotland.

New metrics report measures up for assessing the effects of offshore wind on Scotland’s seabird populations

Fri, 2017-12-22 10:00

Marine Scotland has undertaken a great deal of research to understand how the development of offshore renewables may affect protected seabird species. Central to this work is an assessment of the consequences at population-level, with an important focus on the use of Population Viability Analysis (PVA).

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) have produced a report for Marine Scotland in which they make recommendations on the usefulness and application of a range of PVA metrics within an assessment framework. Knowing the relative sensitivities of the metrics is important because the information they provide is ultimately used by Ministers to determine if a predicted effect on the population is unacceptably large

The way to assess the relative performance of different PVA metrics is to undertake a ‘sensitivity analysis’, which determines the amount of change in the metric in response to changes in input parameters to the PVA model. The most relevant input parameters are survival and productivity – the principal demographic rates that drive population change.

CEH found that different types of metrics have different levels of sensitivity to input parameters. Ratio metrics performed well in populations of different status and under different scenarios of change, whereas probabilistic metrics were more sensitive to the mis-specification of input parameters – most were highly sensitive and are unlikely to be reliable, but one performed considerably better and provides information on probabilities that is not available from the ratio metrics.

Further Information

The post New metrics report measures up for assessing the effects of offshore wind on Scotland’s seabird populations appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Where are the seals around the UK?

Thu, 2017-12-21 10:00

Today, Marine Scotland published a new report in the Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science series on research commissioned from the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) to produce updated maps of grey and harbour seal distribution in UK waters.

Using a combination of telemetry data from seal tags between 1991 and 2016, and haul out counts of seals from aerial surveys between 1996 and 2015, these updated maps provide estimates of at-sea distribution of both grey and harbour seals at a spatial resolution of 5km x 5km.

The maps, funded by Scottish Government under the existing Marine Mammal Scientific Support Research Programme, will be useful for marine renewable developments, as well as for other marine spatial planning applications.

Further Information


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Meet our scientists – Berit Rabe

Tue, 2017-12-19 10:00

Berit RabeWho are you and what do you do?

I am Berit Rabe and I am an inshore physical oceanographer in the oceanography group within the Environment Monitoring and Assessment programme at Marine Scotland Science. I mostly work on a multi-disciplinary project related to sea lice and wild fish interactions using oceanographic field data and hydrodynamic model outputs to understand the dynamics and circulation of sea lochs and the coastal regions around Scotland. This specifically includes studying forcing mechanisms and estuarine circulation in Scottish sea lochs and evaluating connectivities between different areas with regard to pathogen dispersal. I am also giving advice to Marine Scotland’s licensing and operations team with regard to marine applications that involve dumping and dredging or inshore civil engineering projects for example. I also participate in the group’s sampling work at Stonehaven and in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel and am the scientist in charge during our group’s December hydro cruise. Recently I have become involved in the Athena-Swan self-assessment team to apply for Bronze status.

Why is what you do important?

It is important to understand the underlying physical conditions within sea lochs and in the coastal areas to manage pathogen dispersal and to sustainably manage the resources within the marine environment. This physical oceanography work is the basis for multi-disciplinary studies. The sampling work contributes to our long-standing time series and Athena-Swan aims to improve gender equality.

What’s your career path been – how did you get here?

I studied physical oceanography at the University of Hamburg/Germany, enjoying the requirement to work on research vessels for six weeks during the degree (my very first cruise actually investigated the circulation in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel, so I am back to my roots with Scotia trips to the same region). While working on my masters I also did a qualification to scientific diver and worked on underwater archaeology in Lake Constance. After graduating I moved to Canada to work at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth as a visiting scientist. From there I moved south to the US to work on my PhD at the University of Delaware, but the research was focussed on regions further north, in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. I investigated freshwater fluxes from the Arctic Ocean through Nares Strait, one of the straits connecting the Arctic to the North Atlantic. I spent time on Canadian coastguard icebreakers and also a year at the Oregon State University on the west coast of the US. After receiving my PhD I moved to Aberdeen to start at the Marine Lab.

If you weren’t doing this, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I would probably be working as an archaeologist, with a focus on underwater surveys, or be a travel writer.

What’s your favourite fishy fact?

The existence of Narwhals (as fishy as it gets for a physical oceanographer).

And what about one fun fact about you?

I have travelled to 46 countries and would like to see every country in the world someday.

Further Information

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Improvements in detecting toxic phytoplankton

Mon, 2017-12-18 10:00

Phytoplankton DNAA new report has been published in the Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science series which details the findings from a new study on toxic phytoplankton.

Toxic phytoplankton are a potential threat to the aquaculture industry because of the risk of food product contamination. Shellfish such as mussels for example can accumulate those toxins and become dangerous for human consumption.

Most countries that sell shellfish have monitoring programme in place to manage the risk and in Scotland, the Food Standard Scotland (FSS) runs a monitoring programme that involves shellfish flesh testing for toxins and phytoplankton quantification in water samples. Those water samples are screened using light microscopy, giving valuable information about the presence of toxin producing phytoplankton species, leading to alerts being raised when specific concentrations exceed trigger levels. However, this technique isn’t able to identify certain plankton to a species level, which can lead to potential mis-interpretation of the toxicity of the water column. Indeed, some species of the same genus are toxin-producing when others aren’t.

To try and improve the identification of toxic phytoplankton, molecular techniques that try to target DNA or RNA sequences that are specific to harmful species have been developed. In particular, a microarray technique, based on RNA quantification, was developed through the European-funded MIDTAL project (Microarrays For The Detection of Toxic Algae). In 2014, scientists from Marine Scotland were awarded a grant by MASTS to allow them to assess the microarray technique. Water samples were collected weekly offshore from Stonehaven during 18 month and processed for microarray analysis. The results were compared with light microscopy results and another molecular technique (qPCR).

This work was undertaken in collaboration with MICROBIA ENVIRONMENT who is the official microarray provider and Aberdeen University though usage of their scanner, and this report details the findings from this study.

Further Information

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Using genetics to map salmon run times

Thu, 2017-12-14 10:00

SalmonA key role for Marine Scotland Science is to provide the information to help to effectively balance short term economic gain and environmental conservation.  In the case of Atlantic salmon this balance is managed through Conservation Regulations.  The principle is that the economic benefits of harvesting by fisheries are allowed only where stocks are sufficiently healthy.

At present, Conservation Regulations, using best available information, are generally discharged on a spatial scale of river catchment.  However, previous work by our Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory (FFL) has shown that river stocks may include a number of salmon populations occupying discrete geographic areas and that have adapted to local environmental conditions.  There is a risk then that averaging across a catchment may fail to protect weak populations or, conversely, lose opportunities to exploit strong populations.

Our previous work has shown that salmon from different regions of a river catchment tend to return during different months of the year.  Hence, there is the potential for managing at a sub-catchment level by allowing killing of fish only during certain months.  To assess population strength of a run time group it is necessary first to establish the relationship  between return month and geographic region of the catchment where spawning occurs.  This requirement has been achieved in some rivers by tracking movements of salmon fitted with radio transmitters, a process that is highly resource intensive. However, FFL have now developed a genetic tool that has the potential to map return run times across wide geographic ranges rapidly and at much reduced cost.

In this case, small tissue samples can be taken from juvenile salmon throughout a catchment and specific genetic signatures can be used to infer the time of year that their population returns. Strength of the local population can be estimated by juvenile salmon production models that are in an advanced stage of development and hence it is anticipated that it may be possible to relate run time to population conservation status and to manage accordingly.  Trials are now underway to test the approach.

Eef Cauweiler
Molecular Population Geneticist

Further Information


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A new study shows that the seabed landscape crucial for fish conservation

Tue, 2017-12-12 10:29
Landscape effects on demersal fish revealed by field observations and predictive seabed modelling

Landscape effects on demersal fish revealed by field observations and predictive seabed modelling

A new study, led by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde and Marine Scotland Science and that is published in PLOS ONE, demonstrates the importance of protecting different seabed landscapes in order to maintain a healthy and diverse stock of fish, including cod, haddock and whiting.

Currently nature conservation and fisheries management often focus on protecting a single seabed type that is considered to be important to a commercial species, but do not routinely consider the importance of a mixture of seabed types on the marine ecosystem.

In particular, the authors highlighted the importance of a diverse and varied seabed landscape for the health and protection of Atlantic cod.

Researchers used predictive mapping and examined a 250 square kilometre area south of Arran in the Firth of Clyde from June to September in 2013 and 2014.

Lead author of the study Sophie Elliott, from the University of Glasgow, said: “The interaction of species within their landscape is rarely taken into consideration. This investigation highlights the importance of looking at landscape measures in the conservation and management of mobile demersal fish.

“Our work has shown that the mixture of seabed features matters to juvenile fish of commercial importance and understanding this could improve our ability to protect marine ecosystems and support fisheries.”

At present our marine conservation policies focus on protecting particular features such as seagrass and coralline algae beds. These policies do not consider the mixture of different features and how they could be of benefit to the wider ecosystem

Dr David Bailey, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, said: “The paper breaks important new ground by showing how the variety of different seabed types across an underwater landscape can matter to fish.  The techniques and ideas developed here could help identify the most important fish nursery areas, allowing these to be prioritised for protection.”

The authors hope to test their approach on a larger scale and include other species, which are of conservation and fisheries management interest.

The study, ‘Landscape effects on demersal fish revealed by field observation and predictive seabed modelling’ is published in PLOS ONE. The study was supported by Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage grant fieldwork funding,The ClimateXChange PhD scholarship and Natural Environment Research Council National Facility for Scientific Diving grant.

Further Information


The post A new study shows that the seabed landscape crucial for fish conservation appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Taking the Sea-Bird to the Faroe-Shetland Channel

Fri, 2017-12-08 10:00


8 – 18 December 2017


Sea-Bird CTD/Carousel, Plankton Nets (ARIES), water filtering equipment


  1. Test the CTD in the Buchan Deep off Peterhead and test plankton crane and ARIES at an appropriate location before its first use.
  2.  Perform routine hydrographic sampling at stations along the long term monitoring JONSIS section in the northern North Sea (Priority 1).
  3.  Perform routine hydrographic sampling at stations along the long term monitoring Faroe-Shetland Channel section: Nolso-Flugga (Priority 1).
  4. Conduct combined plankton/hydrographic observations by deploying Aries in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel at selected stations on the Nolso-Flugga lines (Priority 1).
  5. Take nutrient, chlorophyll, TA/DIC, oxygen samples along all standard lines.
  6. Perform sampling along the Stonehaven AlterEco section (going west from 2° E) (Priority 1).
  7. Run the thermosalinograph throughout the survey.
  8. Perform routine hydrographic sampling at stations along the long term monitoring Faroe-Shetland Channel section Fair Isle-Munken (Priority 2).
  9. Conduct combined plankton/hydrographic observations by deploying Aries in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel at selected stations on the Fair Isle-Munken line (Priority 2).
  10.  Recover one ADCP mooring at a position on Faroe-Shetland Channel Faroe-Cape Wrath (FCW/NWZ) section (NWZ-E) (Priority 3).
  11. Perform hydrographic sampling in the vicinity of the above ADCP mooring in order to calibrate the mooring equipment. CTD dip at mooring location with equipment (SB56 x2 and a MicroCAT) attached to carousel (Priority 3).
  12.  If conditions in the Faroe-Shetland Channel don’t allow further work in the Faroe-Shetland Channel, conduct VMADCP/CTD work in the Moray Firth (Priority 3).
  13.  If weather/time permits, perform a VMADCP survey on the Jonsis line (around 59° 16.96′ N, 001° 15.26′ W) (Priority 3).
  14. If sheltering in a suitable location around Shetland due to bad weather conduct VMADP/CTD surveys. If time/conditions allow conduct sampling along any of the following sections (in order of priority, no water sampling):
  • East of Shetland 2
  • East of Shetland 1
  • West of Shetland 2
  • North of Shetland 1

General Procedure

 After departing Aberdeen and completing appropriate drills, the vessel will proceed to the eastern end of the JONSIS line and complete hydrographic stations in a westerly direction (Table 1, Figure 1). On route to JONSIS test deployments of the CTD and carousel will take place around the Buchan Deep.  A test of the ARIES system will also be undertaken.

The vessel will then proceed to the Faroe-Shetland Channel. We will commence hydrographic sampling and ARIES sampling at selected stations along the Nolso Flugga survey line (Table 2, Figure 1).

On completion of the Nolso Flugga line, if time allows, the vessel will proceed to conduct hydrographic sampling and ARIES sampling at selected stations on the Fair Isle-Munken survey line (Table 4, Figure 1). Towed deployments of the ARIES sampler will be carried out only at selected stations along the two lines in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel.

The AlterEco line in the North Sea is high priority so depending on weather conditions and timing Scotia will make its way to the eastern end of the line for sampling (Table 3, Figure 1).

If time allows recover the NWZE mooring (plus CTD cast) in the FSC before heading to the AlterEco line (Figure 1).

In case we are sheltering in a suitable location around Shetland run the VMADCP and perform CTD sampling along specified lines.

If time/weather is better suited for work in the Moray Firth, conduct VMADCP/CTD survey in the Moray Firth.

If time/weather allows perform a VMADCP transect on the Jonsis line.

Mooring Positions (Recovery)

NWZE – 59° 54.56’ N  006° 10.14’ W (775 m) on FCW

 Scientific Procedures

It is expected that deployments of hydrographic equipment will be carried out with the CTD crane whilst the vessel is on station.

The ARIES deployments from the trawl deck will use the plankton crane.

Three container laboratories will be required (one wet chemical analysis laboratory, two dry containers for electronics work and communications with sampling equipment). Plankton sample sorting and processing will be carried out in part of the fish laboratory.

Hydrophones for receiving data from the plankton samplers will be installed on the drop keel before the start of the survey.

All plankton samples will be preserved in formaldehyde solution and ethanol.

CTD, Optical Plankton Counter and ARIES data will be worked on at sea.

The thermosalinograph will be run throughout the survey.

Figure 1: Map including the main monitoring lines Jonsis, NOL, AlterEco, and FIM, and the mooring location.

 Map including the main monitoring lines Jonsis, NOL, AlterEco, and FIM, and the mooring location.

Table 1: JONSIS line

CODES # Name Latitude Longitude Depth Spacing N, T,O, CH, DS 01  JO 1 59°   17.00′ N 02°   14.00′ W  75 m N,CH

  02 JO 1A 59°   17.00′ N 02°     5.00′ W  90 m 4.59 nm N,CH

  03  JO 2 59°   17.00′ N 01°   56.00′ W 100 m 4.59 nm N, T,O,CH, DS 04  JO 3 59°   17.00′ N 01°   48.00′ W  80 m 4.08 nm N,CH

  05  JO 4 59°   17.00′ N 01°   40.00′ W  90 m 4.08 nm N,CH

  06  JO 5 59°   17.00′ N 01°   30.00′ W  95 m 5.10 nm N,CH

  07  JO 6 59°   17.00′ N 01°   20.00′ W 110 m 5.10 nm N, T,O,CH, DS 08 JO 6A 59°   17.00′ N 01°   10.00′ W 120 m 5.10 nm N,CH

  09  JO 7 59°   17.00′ N 01°     0.00′ W 125 m 5.10 nm N,CH

  10  JO 8 59°   17.00′ N 00°   40.00′ W 120 m 10.20 nm N,CH


  11  JO 9 59°   17.00′ N 00°   20.00′ W 140 m 10.20 nm N, T,O,

CH, DS 12 JO10 59°   17.00′ N    00°    0.00′ W 135 m 10.20 nm Totals 1180 m 68.36 nm


Priority Stations are JO-01, JO-03 and JO-06a, JO-10

 Standard depths of water bottles:

5, 10, 20, 30, 50, 75, 100 and bottom*

*Fire a ‘bottom’ bottle if seabed is more than 20m below the lowest standard bottle


Table 2: Nolso-Flugga line

CODES # Name Latitude Longitude Depth Spacing N, CH, DS

  01 NOL-01 60° 56.00′ N 01° 00.00′ W 110 m   N, CH

ARIES 02 SEFN1 60° 58.70′ N 01° 17.70′ W 125 m 9.00 nm N, CH 03 SEFN2 61° 01.40′ N 01° 35.40′ W 155 m 8.99 nm N, T, O, CH 04 NOL-02 61° 04.00′ N 01° 53.00′ W 270 m 8.91 nm N, CH, DS

ARIES 05 SEFN3 61° 06.00′ N 02° 01.50′ W 440 m 4.57 nm N, CH 06 NOL-03 61° 08.00′ N 02° 10.00′ W 550 m 4.57 nm N, CH 07 SEFN4 61° 09.30′ N 02° 17.50′ W 630 m 3.85 nm N, CH 08 NOL-3a 61° 11.00′ N 02° 25.00′ W 730 m 3.98 nm N, T, O, CH, DS

ARIES 09 NOL-04 61° 14.00′ N 02° 40.00′ W 1080 m 7.82 nm N, CH

ARIES (Priority) 10 NOL-05 61° 21.00′ N 03° 10.00′ W 1370 m 16.03 nm N, T, O, CH

ARIES (Priority) 11 NOL-06 61° 28.00′ N 03° 42.00′ W 1235 m 16.84 nm Nil 12 FARN2 61° 32.00′ N 03° 57.00′ W 1200 m 8.18 nm N, CH, DS

ARIES 13 NOL-07 61° 35.00′ N 04° 15.00′ W 990 m 9.08 nm Nil 14 FARN1 61° 38.00′ N 04° 33.00′ W 530 m 9.07 nm N, T, O, CH

ARIES 15 NOL-08 61° 42.00′ N 04° 51.00′ W 235 m 9.44 nm N, CH

  16 NOL-09 61° 49.00′ N 05° 21.00′ W 180 m 15.84 nm N, CH, DS 17 NOL-10 61° 54.00′ N 05° 45.00′ W 290 m 12.37 nm N, T, O,CH

  18 NOL-11 62° 00.00′ N 06° 12.00′ W 125 m 14.04 nm Totals 10245 m 162.60 nm

 Standard depths of water bottles:

5, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1000, 1100, 1200 and bottom

If all 12 bottles used drop 50m, 200m and 400m depths in this order.

Fire a bottom bottle if seabed is more than 50m below the lowest standard bottle

If stations need to be missed they should be dropped in this order

[Priority 4: FARN1, FARN2], [Priority 3: SEFN1, SEFN2, SEFN3, SEFN4]

[Priority 2, NOL-3a, NOL-05, NOL-07, NOL-10]

ARIES Priorities: drop SEFN1 and NOL8 first

Table 3: AlterEco line

Some stations coincide with the Aberdeen-Hanstholm standard section operated by the Norwegians and Germans;, these are priority stations.  The Stonehaven Monitoring Site does not need to be sampled if it was recently (<7 d) sampled as part of SCObs.


CODE # Name Latitude Longitude Depth Spacing N, CH 01 AlterEco1 57° 00.00′ N 02° 04.00′ E     N, CH 02 AlterEco2 57° 00.00′ N 01° 48.00′ E   8.72 nm N, CH 03 AlterEco3 57° 00.00′ N 01° 36.00′ E   6.54 nm 04 AlterEco4 57° 00.00′ N 01° 22.00′ E 7.63 nm N, CH 05 AlterEco5 57° 00.00′ N 01° 08.00′ E   7.63 nm 06 AlterEco6 57° 00.00′ N 00° 54.00′ E 7.61 nm N, CH 07 AlterEco7 57° 00.00′ N 00° 40.00′ E   7.61 nm 08 AlterEco8 57° 00.00′ N 00° 27.00′ E 7.09 nm N, CH 09 AlterEco9 57° 00.00′ N 00° 14.00′ E   7.09 nm 10 AlterEco10 57° 00.00′ N 00° 00.00′ E 7.61 nm N, CH 11 AlterEco11 57° 00.00′ N 00° 14.00′ W   7.61 nm 12 AlterEco12 57° 00.00′ N 00° 28.00′ W 7.63 nm N, CH 13 AlterEco13 57° 00.00′ N 00° 42.00′ W   7.63 nm 14 AlterEco14 57° 00.00′ N 00° 55.00′ W 7.07 nm N, CH 15 AlterEco15 57° 00.00′ N   01° 08.00′ W   7.07 nm N, CH 16 AlterEco16 57° 00.00′ N 01° 28.00′ W   10.91 nm 17 AlterEco17 57° 00.00′ N 01° 47.00′ W 10.56 nm N, CH 18 AlterEco18 56° 57.80′ N 02° 06.80′ W   10.78 nm Totals 136.83 nm

Priority Stations are AlterEco1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16. AlterEco18 is a priority station if the SCObs sampling programme has not visited the site in the previous 7 days.

Standard depths of water bottles:

10, 30, 50, and bottom*

*Fire a ‘bottom’ bottle if seabed is more than 20m below the lowest standard bottle

Table 4: Fair Isle – Munken line

 (Amended for presence of Foinaven oil platform)


CODE # Name Latitude Longitude Depth Spacing N, CH, DS 01 FIM-01 60° 10.00′ N 03° 44.00′ W 150 m   N, CH 02 SEFF1 60° 13.00′ N 03° 51.50′ W 170 m 4.74 nm N, T, O, CH 03 FIM-02 60° 16.00′ N 03° 59.00′ W 200 m 4.84 nm N, CH

ARIES 04 SEFF2 60° 18.00′ N 04° 04.50′ W 330 m 3.36 nm N, CH, DS * 05 FIM-03 60° 20.00′ N 04° 10.00′ W 390 m 3.03 nm N, CH 06 FIM-04 60° 25.00′ N 04° 19.00′ W 655 m 6.88 nm N, CH

ARIES 07 FIM-05 60° 29.00′ N 04° 26.00′ W 995 m 5.45 nm N,T,O,CH

ARIES (Priority) 08 FIM-06 60° 35.00′ N 04° 45.00′ W 1090 m 11.15 nm N, CH, DS 09 FIM-6a 60° 38.00′ N 04° 54.00′ W 1030 m 5.33 nm N, CH

ARIES 10 FIM-07 60° 43.00′ N 05° 06.00′ W 915 m 7.70 nm N, T, O, CH 11  FIM-08 60° 47.00′ N 05° 16.00′ W 830 m 6.34 nm N, CH, DS 12  FIM-09 60° 51.00′ N 05° 29.00′ W 600 m 7.36 nm Nil 13 FARF3 60° 56.70′ N 05° 42.80′ W 333 m 8.90 nm N, CH

ARIES 14 FIM-10 61° 02.00′ N 05° 57.00′ W 280 m 8.68 nm Nil 15 FARF2 61° 07.20′ N   06° 09.40′ W 250 m 7.95 nm N, T, O, CH, DS 16 FIM-11 61° 12.00′ N 06° 22.00′ W 240 m 7.67 nm Nil 17 FARF1 61° 16.40′ N 06° 37.70′ W 100 m 8.80 nm Totals 8,558 m 108.18 nm

* FIM-03 – Use 60 20.25’N 004 09.00’W if above position is occupied.

Standard depths of water bottles:

5, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1000 and bottom

If all 12 bottles used drop 50m depth. Fire a bottom bottle if seabed is more than 50m below the lowest standard bottle

If stations need to be missed they should be dropped in this order

[Priority 4: FARF1, FARF2. FARF3], [Priority 3: SEFF1, SEFF2], [Priority 2, FIM-04, FIM-06a, FIM-07]

ARIES Priorities: drop SEFF2 and FIM10 first (Highest priority in this order: FIM6, FIM7, FIM5)

Further Information:

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Having eel-y good fun on the Alba na mara

Wed, 2017-12-06 10:00
Location of Sandeel fishing areas

Fig. 1 Location of Sandeel fishing areas

Duration: 6-19 December 2017


  • Sandeel dredge × 2 (modified 4′ scallop dredge with 6″ teeth and spare toothbars) with towing bar and camera attachment.
  • TV camera.
  • Minilogger (or equivalent).


  1. To determine the abundance, length and age of sandeels in the sediment from regions east of the Firth of Forth and around Turbot bank.
  2. To collect and preserve samples of A. marinus, specifically i) all 0-group sandeels (size to be estimated from age/length keys of sampled catches) not required for age determination; ii) 100 age-1 individuals from each of the northerly and southerly sub-regions.
  3.  To determine the sex and maturity stage of all sandeels selected for ageing.


All required gear will be loaded onto the vessel on 4 December. Scientific staff will be transported to Leith to join the vessel on 6 December.

Two regions of historical importance for sandeel fishing will be surveyed (see Figure 1 above). In the first half of the survey a series of eight dredge stations to the east of the Firth of Forth will be sampled following the protocol established in 1999.  A modified scallop dredge will be used to catch sandeels buried in the substrate at the priority stations given in Table 1 and Figure 2 (below).  Further stations in this region will be sampled if time permits.  In the second half of the survey, the dredge will be deployed at stations 20-36 in the Turbot bank region.  Ideally five repeat tows will be conducted at each station although this may be reduced to a minimum of two if catch quantities are low or available time is limited.  Dredge duration will be approximately ten minutes at a towing speed between two and three (ideally 2.5) knots.

At each dredge station, all sandeels will be identified to species level, measured, and otoliths (five, eight or ten depending on length strata, per half centimetre) will be taken for age determination (Objective 1).

All 0-group sandeels will be retained and frozen individually for later analysis. Sub-samples of 100 age-1 (size to be determined from age-length keys of sampled catches) A. marinus will be taken from the northerly (latitude > 57°N) and southerly (latitude < 57°N) sub-regions (objective 2).

Sandeels selected for ageing will be hand stripped and assigned a maturity stage based on a simple three-point scale (I = immature/indeterminate sex; MM= mature male; MF = mature female). Immature individuals will be individually frozen for further dissection and assigned to one of two stages (IM =Immature male or IF= Immature Female) (objective 3).


 Dredge station latitude and longitude. Priority stations (1-10) are highlighted.

Fig 2 Chart of dredge stations to be sampled in 2217A.  Areas historically fished for sandeel are shown in green.

Fig 2 Chart of dredge stations to be sampled in 2217A. Areas historically fished for sandeel are shown in green.

Further Information:

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Meet our scientists – Helen Downie

Tue, 2017-12-05 10:00
Helen Downie courtesy of Charlie Low Photography

Helen Downie, courtesy of Charlie Low Photography

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Helen Downie, a fisheries biologist in the Salmon Assessment Group, based at the freshwater field laboratory in Montrose.   I’m also involved with the Women and Equalities Network, which is looking to address gender balance in Marine Scotland.

Lastly, I also act as the local admin cover here in Montrose, so if you call our office then you’ll likely find yourself speaking to me.

Why is what you do important?  

The Salmon Assessment Group collects, collates and securely stores data on salmon and sea trout stocks which is used to support the development of policy on the management of these species. This data feeds into the conservation status assessment for rivers across Scotland which, under the Conservation Regulations, is used to determine whether salmon fisheries may retain fish in given areas. These data also contribute to the catch advice for fisheries, such as those in West Greenland, which exploit salmon stocks from a range of countries bordering the North Atlantic.

My work chairing the Career Progression Focus Group contributed to the creation of the Women and Equalities Network that I mentioned above.  This was formed as a tool to understand and address the factors causing a disparity in gender diversity with regards to staff grades.  This work is important as creating a fairer workplace will benefit all staff and ensure we make the most of our talent.

What’s your career path been – how did you get here? 

I became interested in native species conservation and mammal reintroduction through the course of my degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare.  Towards the end of my degree I heard that a charity local to home, Ayrshire Rivers Trust, was conducting water vole reintroductions.  I contacted them to see if I could volunteer during my Easter holiday, and from there got a job as a summer assistant and later assistant biologist.

Inevitably my focus moved from mammals to freshwater fish – wild Atlantic salmon in particular.  Unfortunately working for a charity amidst a recession meant that I had no job security, so I soon looked further afield and ended up here in Montrose.

If you weren’t doing this, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Tough question.  I like to think I could be tracking lynx in Norway, but realistically that would probably be too cold for me.  I’m sure wildlife conservation would be my main focus, but who knows, perhaps I’d be a potter instead.

What’s your favourite fishy fact? 

I can’t say I have one specifically, but I particularly like the symbiotic relationship between the goby and the pistol shrimp. In return for the goby acting as a “guide fish” to the blind shrimp, alerting it to predators and generally keeping nearby whilst the shrimp feels around for its dinner, the goby gets to live in the shrimp’s burrow and shelter from predators.

And what about one fun fact about you?

Those that know me know that I’m obsessed with rock climbing.  I won’t be winning any medals anytime soon, but I am very proud to have climbed the Penyal d’Ifac in Spain.  It wasn’t a hard climb technically, but quite difficult mentally thanks to my fear of heights!

Further Information

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New report published on Scottish Scallop Stocks: Results of 2016 Stock Assessments

Mon, 2017-12-04 10:00

Today we’ve Scalloppublished the latest in its Scottish Marine & Freshwater Science series – Scottish Scallop Stocks: Results of 2016 Stock Assessments.

Scallops are an important species for the Scottish fishing industry. The Scottish commercial dredge fishery for king scallop (Pecten maximus) began in the 1930s in the Clyde.  It has since expanded around the coast of mainland Scotland and its islands to become the second most important shellfish fishery in Scotland.  In 2015, total scallop landings into Scotland were in excess of 10,000 tonnes with a value at first-sale of almost £23 million.  Over 90 % of these landings came from dredge fisheries and most of the remainder was taken by commercial divers.

The report presents the results of Scottish regional scallop stock assessments carried out by Marine Scotland Science based on commercial catch-at-age data up to 2015, and survey data up to and including 2016. Stock assessments are presented for the East Coast, North East, North West, Shetland and West of Kintyre scallop stocks, with catch data presented for the Clyde, Irish Sea and Orkney.  The report also gives background information on Scottish fisheries for scallops and a description of the current management and regulatory framework.

The stock assessments provide estimates of fishing mortality, recruitment and spawning stock biomass over time and the trends in these quantities vary between areas. For example, recruitment to stocks off the east coast of Scotland has declined in recent years, whereas on the west coast it has increased, resulting in increased biomass in this area.  Currently there are no agreed reference points for Scottish scallop stocks.  Management advice is therefore provided on the basis of estimates of recent fishing mortality, recruitment and biomass in relation to historical values.

Further Information

The post New report published on Scottish Scallop Stocks: Results of 2016 Stock Assessments appeared first on Marine Scotland.

The power of MRSea

Mon, 2017-12-04 10:00

Renewable energy from offshore wind, wave and tidal stream developments is a key component of the Scottish Governments’ ambitions for creating a low carbon economy that contributes to action on climate change.

However, concern exists over the potential for such marine developments to negatively impact seabirds, marine mammals, and other protected species or habitats.

A key element of understanding the effects of renewables developments on the environment is the robust and effective monitoring of birds and marine mammals around constructed developments. Animals may move away from the development due to disturbance or displacement. However, detecting these changes is difficult because the number of animals may change at a site, or they may move within the site, regardless of any disturbances.

The challenge is to determine if any changes are due to a development or if these changes could have occurred anyway. Surveys of the site are therefore generally conducted before any development takes place, during construction and after construction in order to reliably determine any effects.

Statistical methods can be used to identify changes over time and across the site, but the ability of a study to detect genuine change is a statistical concept called its ‘power’. This essentially quantifies the chance that a study will correctly identify a genuine change.

A 2014 review of monitoring to detect changes in distribution or abundance of birds  at offshore wind farms recommended using power analysis when determining the design and level of effort of monitoring surveys. This would ensure that the monitoring proposed could realistically be expected to detect the magnitude of effects that may be of interest. This avoids limited resources being wasted, and helps advance our understanding of offshore renewables effects as rapidly as possible.

Marine Scotland commissioned the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM) at the University of St Andrews to review the available power analysis approaches and develop power analysis software.

The software (MRSeaPower) is a free package designed to work alongside the package MRSea (Marine Renewables Strategic environmental assessment) which was also developed by CREEM under contract to Marine Scotland. Both packages work with the freely available R software environment for statistical computing and graphics (

Whilst developed for seabird and marine mammal observation survey data, and marine mammal passive acoustic monitoring data, the MRSeaPower software would be suitable for other types of animals and environments.


The review of power analysis approaches, MRSeaPower software, case studies and user guide are available on the Marine Scotland webpages.

The post The power of MRSea appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Finding flatfish in the Forth and Fife

Fri, 2017-12-01 10:00

Duration: 30 November – 4  December

Sampling Gear:

  • BT 158 with 50 mm cod-end
  • 2 m beam trawl with 50 mm cod-end
  • Day grab and table
  • Catamaran and neuston net


  1. To undertake flatfish sampling in St Andrews Bay, inner Firth of Forth, and the Forth estuary in support of the Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme (OSPAR and MSFD D8).
  2. To undertake sediment sampling in the St Andrews Bay, Outer Firth of Forth and the Forth estuary in support of the Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme (OSPAR and MSFD D8).
  3. To undertake survey of sea-surface litter in surface waters of the Forth and Scottish east coast and record seabed litter collected by the trawls (MSFD D10)
  4. To undertake fish, shellfish and sediment sampling in support of the microplastics ROAME (ST014).


Fishing and scientific gear will be loaded in Leith at the end of the previous survey, prior to Alba na Mara sailing on 30 November.

Flounder will be sampled in St Andrews Bay and in the Forth estuary (Tancred bank), dab will be sampled in the inner Firth of Forth.  Five sediment stations will be sampled at each of St Andrews Bay, the outer Firth of Forth and the Forth estuary; at each station two grabs will be taken: one for contaminants and one for microplaastics.

The neuston trawl will be deployed in the Forth estuary, the Firth of Forth, and off the east coasts of Fife and East Lothian.  This net is to be towed at five knots, or less, for 30-90 minutes in order to collect and sample microplastics floating on the sea surface.  An additional sediment sample to be collected by Day grab from under the course of each catamaran tow for subsequent microplastics determinations.  Samples a variety of fish species will be adventitiously sampled from the trawls and frozen for work-up in the laboratory as part the microplastics ROAME (ST014).

Records will be made of seabed litter caught by the trawls.

Tables 1, 2 and 3 (below) list the sediment, fishing and sea surface litter survey sites, respectively.

Further Information:

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Understanding how seals use the water column in tidally energetic areas

Thu, 2017-11-30 10:00
Midpoint locations of each harbour seal dive (in red) overlaid on the high resolution bathymetry data

Midpoint locations of each harbour seal dive (in red) overlaid on the high resolution bathymetry data

As the tidal renewable industry continues to grow, increasing our understanding of the way that marine mammals use tidally energetic areas is of particular importance. This is a particular issue as there is increasing evidence that tidal energetic areas can be important foraging areas for marine mammals, therefore understanding how marine mammals use the water column is required to improve assessments of the risk of collision between seals and tidal turbines in highly energetic areas.

Building on work undertaken in a previous project which developed an improved collision risk modelling approach, utilising the most up to date information available on how seals (specifically harbour seals) use tidally active areas, this report presents a specific case study on how harbour (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) use the water column within the Brims tidal energy lease area, located between Orkney and the north coast of Scotland. The Brims site is much deeper than the site used in the original work and so provides an opportunity to consider how this affects seals’ use of the water column.

Summarising the most up to date telemetry data from 20 seals tagged between 2010 and 2016, the report details the proportion of time seals spent at different depths in the water column, as well as the number of times seals passed through different water depths during foraging dives in the Brims site.

The work, undertaken by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews, is an important step in understanding how seals use the water in highly energetic areas which can be used to inform collision risk models on the risks posed between seals and tidal turbines.

Further Information

The post Understanding how seals use the water column in tidally energetic areas appeared first on Marine Scotland.