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Haiku to lemon sole

Tue, 2018-07-17 10:00

If you thought our scientists just did fish, think again… sort of.

The head of Sea Fisheries Programme, Dr Coby Needle, has written this haiku about a lemon sole. It’s not his first foray in to poetry for this particular fish. He wrote an Iambic Pentameter earlier this year too.

It’s fish, Jim, but not as we know it.


F remains steady

As do the current stock trends

Recruitment unclear


Reopen advice?

Proxies and SSB good

So no need to change


Coby Needle, April 2018

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Celebrating the Year of the Engineer with a father and son – Phil Copland

Tue, 2018-07-10 10:00

Phil Copland's motorbike

As we mentioned in our blog in January, 2018 is the Year of the Engineer as well as the Year of the Young Person. Over the course of the year, we’ll be introducing you to some of our incredibly talented engineers, as well as showing your some of their work.

Unusually within our engineering section, we have a father and son team – Phil and Danny Copland. It was too good an opportunity to pass up so this month you’ll hear from dad Phil about what he does (and what it’s like working with his son) and next month, Danny gets his own back!

Who are you and what do you do?

It was May 1974 when the fateful words were uttered “That’s the civil service. That means a job for life!” by my proud mother.

It’s not exactly what a hard-ish living, motorcycle riding 20 year old really wants to hear.

I’m Phil Copland and I’m a civil servant… still, after a smidgeon over 44 years. I work mainly with electronic and acoustic systems and my job title is Acoustic Survey Scientist. In my career I have been Scientist In Charge (SIC) on pelagic stock surveys, seabed mapping and demersal fishing surveys as well as taking part in various ICES working and planning groups.

How did you get here?

My qualifications are a handful of Highers plus an ONC in Electrical and Electronic engineering and a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt at a BSc. I did however get an offer to train with the Scottish national rowing squad which might explain my failure.

I’d answered an advert for DAFS (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland who were offering four posts at ASO (Assistant Scientific Officer) level. I had only applied to work in the Electrical fishing group but was confronted by an interview panel of thirteen people (they had added two more posts between advert and interview). I was offered three posts and chose the Electrical Fishing one.

Most work in the Electrical Fishing (EF) section was field site and vessel based. The field site at Little Loch Broom was situated on the opposite side from any road access and had to be built from scratch with everything being ferried across by rubber boat. “Scientific work” included breaking and transporting rocks, mixing and laying concrete and refurbishing the stone jetty. I reportedly said that “It’s not an ASO you need it’s a JCB”.

Underwater, we dug trenches in the sea bed for fish cages and laid electrical and TV cables and we also moved a 1 tonne diesel generator to the site on a pair of rubber boats using a wooden frame and various block and tackles. That all went horribly wrong and ended in the small hours of the morning in the pitch black with the rubber boats trapped under the generator which was now suspended from a vertical rock face. The more glamorous part of job was scuba diving and driving rubber boats!

Much time was spent working on research and charter vessels, designing and building scientific equipment and electronic circuit boards. It was like being in the boy scouts, I do have knot tying and fieldcraft badges, with the added frisson of possible drowning and/or electrocution.

I continued working in the EF section until the project ended and moved to the Acoustics group. As I was trained as a diver and subsequently had limited imagination and the invunerability of youth, I continued to dive on mobile fishing gears demersal and beam trawls for a number of years until common sense overcame my testosterone level. My year was filled with field work at the Loch Duich site where we installed and removed a raft in the loch annually and sea time was on various vessels taking part in “Stock estimates using acoustic techniques”. In short, bounce sound off fish schools and the more energy that comes back the more are there. Simples! Imagine being asked to estimate the number of worms in your garden and being given 4 hours and a teaspoon. That’s stock estimation.

I hesitate to admit that after 40 years I’m back advising on the new electrical fishery for Ensis ( razorclams) and I really, really wished I’d paid more attention at the time instead of burning the candle at both ends and driving a large motorbike.

Tell us more about your work

We provide support for various groups in the laboratory as well as partner organisations, including the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), by operating multibeam and sidescan systems as well as acoustic positioning units which geo-locate images from drop and towed cameras. We maintain all of the acoustic net monitoring systems used on demersal trawls for our international surveys. Being partially retired, I no longer go to sea, apart from occasional single day training exercises, but in the past I could be away from home for up to 140 days per year.

At the start of my career, promotion for non-degree staff was very much delayed and being “too young” was a valid reason for non-promotion. I recall being criticised for publishing a paper early in my career as this wasn’t expected of staff at the lowest scientific grade. I’m glad to say that things have changed.

I concentrated on the practical aspect of my work and don’t regret that I didn’t “chase” promotion. I felt that I had an exciting and rewarding time as science was very much “can do” and much of what we did was ground breaking. I’m proud that the work that we did at the L. Duich site establishing the target strength of various fish species and species identification using multiple frequencies and broad band acoustic systems is still valid and the basic concepts and techniques are still in use 30 years later.

The large European, Norwegian and American institutes would look closely at the work we were publishing here at the Marine Lab in Aberdeen and this influenced their future work. As an institution, internationally, we punched well above our weight as our staff were innovative, practical and adaptable.

On a personal level my family, Christine Danny and Michael had to cope with my frequent absences because surveys were always during school holidays. I’m proud that they managed to cope so well.

So, what’s it like working with your son?

Danny has a big task ahead as we will shortly lose two out of four acoustic engineers. I’ve worked with countless students and colleagues over the years who had little or no acoustic knowledge and training staff in the use of acoustic systems is what I do. Danny is very realistic and has come in with no illusions as to the steepness of the learning curve in terms of the practicality of maintaining, and deploying equipment and collecting data with our systems. We must be getting on OK as he hasn’t complained to his Mum about me. Yet!

What would you say to any aspiring young engineers?

Engineers in the lab have become a bit of an endangered species. In general we have a top heavy age structure with many of our engineers having been here for decades. We need practical engineers who are prepared to get stuck in and learn from all of their colleagues be they engineers, scientists or sea going officers and deck hands. Our sea going engineers can’t work in isolation. Variety is the spice of life and for a sea going engineer there is nowhere better than the lab. Opportunities abound now for advancement and I would strongly encourage any entrant to take advantage of the myriad of courses that exist to help them progress their careers.

And one fun fact about you?

I’m not a very exciting person and that may be down to my time away from home. Getting home to the family was a holiday in itself and you will find me in the garden or taking the house apart to sort whatever bit has fallen off. However, either due to a flash of rebelliousness or more likely just a post mid-life crisis I have after 40 years, gone back to motorcycling. I am the proud owner of “Princess”, a very shiny, bling laden Honda CB1100 – a modern bike with 70’s retro styling. She is so named as the previous owner did only 165 miles in 3 years and didn’t take her out if it was wet or dusty. I didn’t reveal to them that I live up a long muddy farm road and that she would be going from a catwalk model to working the means streets of Aberdeen. I’m looking forward to some good weather so I can get out and about on her despite the inevitable cleaning required. So, if you see a rotund, stately gentleman, looking like a worried meerkat, on a shiny red bike, wave but DON’T PULL OUT!

Further information

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Scallop Stock Assessment

Fri, 2018-07-06 11:00

Survey: 1018A

Duration: 4-23 July 2018

Fishing Gear: Scallop dredges


  1. To carry out a survey of scallop stocks on the East Coast.
  2. To age, measure and assess shell damage on all scallops caught.
  3. To collect information on by-catch of other commercial fish and shellfish species.
  4. To identify and quantify numbers of starfish species in all dredge tows.
  5. To collect frozen whole scallops for heavy metal testing as part of the OSPAR assessment of hazardous substances in the marine environment.
  6. To carry out camera trials if conditions and time allow.
  7. To record and retain marine litter obtained during the dredging process (monitoring for MSFD).


Figure 1: Survey station locations for scallop dredge survey 1018A

The survey will depart from Fraserburgh on 4 July and after vessel drills, will head for the first station of the survey.

Scallop dredge hauls will be made at sites used on previous surveys as shown in Figure 1. Hauls will be of 30 minutes duration. From each haul, all of the scallops will be measured to the half centimeter below and aged. In addition, numbers and size distribution of commercial fish and shellfish species will be recorded along with scallop shell damage and starfish numbers and species. Scallops (ten individuals per station) will also be collected from selected sites and frozen for heavy metal analysis back at the laboratory. Any litter collected in the dredges will be recorded as set out in the SOP and placed in bags to be disposed of on return to port. Camera trials will be carried out if conditions and time allow – with the aim being to collect footage of the fishing gear while in operation.

The survey will end in Fraserburgh on 23 July 2018 where all equipment and staff will then return to the laboratory.

Further Information:

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Scottish Ocean Climate Status Report 2016 published

Wed, 2018-07-04 10:00

Map showing SCObs stations

A new report by scientists in Marine Scotland that examines the variability and trends in the physical conditions of the seas around Scotland in the last decade and further into the past has been published.

Describing the conditions in 2016, the most recent year for which a full dataset is available, the Scottish Ocean Climate Status report shows that there are complex linkages between the ocean and the atmosphere so there are descriptions of a whole range of oceanographic, meteorological and riverine parameters. Datasets collected as part of the Scottish Coastal Observatory (SCObs) (detailed in the map above) and the Offshore Long Term Monitoring programmes were analysed, alongside acquired meteorological, river flow and modelled data, as well as global metocean ( meteorology and physical oceanography) indices. These can be used to investigate many aspects of general long-term change, as well as shorter-term variability.

The report presents information in relation to the Scottish Marine Regions, as well as larger-scale descriptions (including North Atlantic and global) in order to provide context-setting prevailing conditions. Hence the report contains basic information that will be needed by the regional assessments required under the National Marine Plan, as well as information relevant to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the various climate change related processes in Scotland, such as the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme.

Around Scotland both air and sea temperatures have warmed at a similar rate to the global pattern of century-scale warming, as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014. This long term warming is associated with impacts such as rising sea levels, retreating Arctic sea ice and glaciers, and northwards shifts of marine species.

However, the century scale warming we are currently experiencing has not been constant, in reality. There is variability from year to year (inter-annual), from decade to decade (decadal) and between periods of several decades (multi-decadal), in addition to the longer-term trend. Some of this variability is seen just within our region, and some of the variability has been the same across the globe. At a multi-decadal scale, during the 1970-1980 to 2010 warming episode, air and sea temperatures across Scotland warmed at a faster rate than the global average.

The importance of observational time series in characterising long-term climate trends was noted by the Royal Society in a 2017 climate update report1, showing how valuable the long-term monitoring that MSS and others carry out both offshore and in coastal waters is.

1Royal Society (2017). Climate updates: progress since the fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC.

Further Information

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An Egg Hunt of Large Proportions

Thu, 2018-06-28 10:20

Survey: 0118H MRV Altaire (Part 3)
Duration: 22nd May 2018 – 6th June 2018

This survey was tasked with providing answers to one very simple but, up to now, unanswered question. How much further west of the current survey extent would a mackerel egg survey need to go to secure a mackerel spawning boundary, in other words how far would we have to sample until we found zero eggs?

A similar survey was conducted last year aboard an Irish charter vessel which surveyed all the way out to 57’45N 23’45W and although the abundance of eggs found were low it still fell short of providing a zero boundary. Also it only undertook a single western transect as it had a broader remit which, together with input from the International Ecosystem Survey in the Nordic Seas would provide useful information to establish a Northern spawning boundary during May/June when the mackerel spawning in this Northern region is at its most expanded.

Survey 0118H was therefore tasked with mapping the mackerel spawning activity in the northwestern region, including Rockall and Hatton Bank and further west until a zero boundary was established. This would be completed by deploying the Gulf 7 plankton sampler on a series of transects going east to west and vice versa; heading steadily north up towards Iceland.Survey 0118H Survey track and stations

How far west Altaire had to go to establish this boundary would dictate the Northern extent of the survey, as in addition transit time to and from the survey area was also significant. Altaire departed from Ullapool on the 22nd May at just after midday in near perfect weather conditions and after performing two sets of flowmeter calibrations she continuedMEGS scientists braving the cold in the Arctic Circle South through the Minch before heading West and onwards towards Rockall Bank. Looking after the science onboard, there was very much an international flavour to the survey with scientists from Scotland, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Germany.

Calm conditions were experienced during most of the survey and progress was excellent. The most southerly transect at 55’45N was completed in just over a day and a half with the zero boundary finally being reached at 25’45W; which was well west of Hatton Bank and in fact way over and into the South Iceland Basin. A similar pattern continued further North with the boundary tracking in a northeasterly direction and running parallel with the edge of Hatton Bank.

ADeploying the Gulf 7 plankton sampler on Hatton Bank - 0118H Surveylthough some freshly spawned eggs were observed over the colder and deeper waters of the South Iceland Basin; it was clear that the majority of the spawning activity was taking place on the banks themselves. This pattern continued into the northern reaches of the Iceland basin with egg numbers increasing, together with the temperature, towards the eastern end of the transects located on the fringes of the shallower and warmer Iceland – Faroe – Scotland Ridge .

From there Altaire proceeded west then North; first across the mid-Atlantic Ridge at Reykjanes before surveying up the west coast of Iceland; eventually crossing into the Arctic Circle and deploying the Gulf Sampler at 66’34N and 24’31W.

Whilst surveying northwards up the western side of Iceland calm and clear conditions were experienced as were blue and humpback whales and Orca. Disappointingly, the following day the weather became very cold with thick fog so there was no chance for any scenery shots although we knew that stunning coastline views were close by.

The water temperature at 20m north of the Reykjanes ridge was around 8 degrees Celsius; cooling further to just over 6 degrees by the time we hit the Arctic Circle. We were fairly confident that we would not find any mackerel eggs on this western leg and reassuringly that turned out to be the case. Mackerel do not tend to spawn in water with temperatures much below 8.5 degrees and so we had to wait until midway along the last transect before we started picking up mackerel eggs again south of Iceland.

There were 83 deployments, in total, with four flowmeter calibration runs and a further 79 plankton deployments. During the survey Altaire covered somewhere in the region of 3400nm. The survey was very successful in defining a hard spawning boundary in the northwest albeit Altaire was required to survey out to nearly 27 degrees west to secure it. It was also successful in describing the bigger picture; specifically the temperature profile within that region with the warmer temperatures observed on the flanks of the offshore banks yielding significant numbers of mackerel eggs whereas the colder water located over the deeper basins yielding very few or no spawning.

Interestingly on the sampled locations, where we also sampled last year, we were able to make a direct comparison and noticed a significant difference in the surface temperatures with those from this year being typically 1- 1.5 degrees Celsius colder. These data together with the additional information provided by the Nordic surveys will be extremely useful and will inform the planning process for the triennial mackerel egg survey in 2019 where Marine Scotland Science plays a lead role.

Finally , a massive thank you to all of the crew on the MFV Altaire for all the help, advice and assistance provided during the survey which was invaluable and ultimately ensured the overall success of the survey.

Further Information:

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Live and Acoustic with Herring and the Sprats

Tue, 2018-06-26 10:13

Survey: 0918S

Duration: 28 June – 20 July 2018

Sampling Gear:

  • Midwater trawls PT160 x 3;
  • Demersal trawl (BT237);
  • Seabird 19plus CTD;
  • GoPro cameras x 2 with underwater housings and lights; and
  • Scanmar trawl eye sensor.


  • To conduct an acoustic survey to estimate the abundance and distribution of herring in the north western North Sea and north of Scotland between 58º30’-62ºN and from the shelf edge to 2ºE, excluding Faroese waters.
  • To obtain biological samples by trawling with pelagic and demersal trawl for echosounder trace identification.
  • To obtain samples of herring and sprat for biological analysis, including age, length, weight, sex, maturity and ichthyophonus infection throughout the survey area.
  • Collect samples and data for stock identity determination for herring caught west of 4 ºW (photos and otoliths for morphometric stock ID analysis and tissue samples for genetic analysis).
  • To test feasibility of using GoPro cameras mounted in the net and on a dropframe to further aid in species identification in the echogram scrutiny process.
  • To obtain hydrographic data for comparison with the horizontal and vertical distribution of herring and sprat.


All fishing gear and scientific equipment will be loaded onto the Scotia in Aberdeen. The vessel will depart from Aberdeen on 28 June and, after required vessel drills, make passage to Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, where calibration of all echosounders will take place (approximately 8-12 hours at anchor). Crew training and trial deployments of fishing gear will take place on the way as required by the fishing master.Figure 1 Transects to be completed by Scotia 0918S

After calibration the vessel will make passage to the start of the first transect to the east and follow a pattern of parallel transects running east/west, at normal steaming speed (10.5 knots), progressing northwards. The whole survey area is bounded by 58º30’-62ºN and 02ºE to the 200 m contour. Transect spacing is 15 nm. This may be adapted during the survey to maximize area coverage given the time available. The proposed survey design is shown in Figure 1.

A 24 hour mid survey break will take place on 11 July to allow for the transfer of staff and to comply with the WTD policy. A calibration will be conducted around the mid survey break in a suitable location or in Orkney at the end of the survey if time permits.

Acoustic data will be collected at four frequencies (18, 38, 120 and 200 kHz) between 03:00 and 23:00 hours. Fish shoals seen on the echosounder will be identified using either a pelagic trawl (PT160) or the demersal trawl (BT237). Survey trawling operations will be carried out between two and four times per day at any time between 03:00 and 23:00. Samples of all species caught will be measured for length to partition the echo integral amongst species and size classes for target strength functions. Individual herring, sprat and mackerel will also be weighed to establish a length-weight relationship. Otoliths will be collected from a sub-sample of the herring according to the following length stratified scheme to determine age; two per 0.5 cm class below 22 cm, five per 0.5 cm class from 22.5-27.5 cm and ten per 0.5 cm class for 28.0 cm and above. For each herring in the subsample the state of maturity, gonad weight, liver weight, whole and gutted weight, presence of food in the stomach as well as the presence of Icthyophonus infection will be recorded. The maturity scale used throughout the survey will be the Scottish eight stage scale. Where sprat is encountered five per 0.5cm length class will be sampled for age, weight, sex and maturity.

In the area west of 4ºW, in addition to the above described sampling, random sampling of 120 fish above 24 cm length will be carried out for each haul with photographs taken for morphometric stock identification analysis and a tissue sample taken for genetic analysis. Otoliths from these fish will, subsequent to aging, be made available for morphometric analysis. After photographing them, and where possible, these randomly sampled fish will make up part of the standard sampling for herring. Additional fish will be collected to ensure the relevant numbers of fish are collected per strata for acoustic data analysis.

A GoPro camera and underwater lights will be mounted in the trawl as required to aid in species identification in the echogram scrutiny process by delivering additional information on time of capture of and composition of the catch. A GoPro camera may also be deployed manually on a small drop frame on echotraces to investigate the feasibility of using this technique to verify species composition of echosounder traces in untrawlable areas. This exercise will be conducted with the vessel in DP.

Where required, a vertical hydro dip will be carried out immediately following a trawl, this will require the vessel to use its DP system to remain on station. The decision to carry out vertical dips will be based on the requirement to achieve one station in each ICES rectangle.

The ships thermosalinograph will be run continuously to obtain sea surface temperature and salinity throughout the survey area.

Further Information:

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Today is the day of the Seafarer

Mon, 2018-06-25 10:00

Today is the ‘Day of the Seafarer’ and to celebrate, we wanted to share a very special poem penned by our resident bard, net rigger and father of two Matt Kinghorn.

It’s a little something for all of you who work at sea.

Day of the Seafarer

It’s not easy you know, going to sea,
Maybe for some but not for me.

I grew up on the coast hearing waves hit the shore,
The wonders of the ocean impossible to ignore.

My Dad, a skipper, already under its spell,
Fishing all year, his boat dancing in the swell.

Painting blue on the deck and white on the rail,
Hand in hand with my father longing to set sail.

“Wait until you’re older” Mum said “then you can”,
I’d be just like my hero I thought, my Dad, the fisherman.

Like any other trip, he filled his boat with supplies,
We hugged, we kissed, we said our goodbyes.

But he never came home, I never saw him again,
And it still hurts as much now as it did back then.

Many years have since past, that little boy has grown,
I have a wife and two daughters, a beautiful family of my own.

I go to sea now too, I find it hard when we’re apart,
But my family sail with me in my thoughts and in my heart.

I’ll so often find myself gazing over the side,
Wishing my father could have met them and talked of us with pride.

It’s not easy you know, going to sea,
But I’m just trying to be the best dad that I can be.

Further Information:


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Introducing the European Marine Biological Resource Centre

Mon, 2018-06-25 10:00

On the 19th of June 2018, the European Marine Biological Resource Centre celebrated its adoption as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (EMBRC-ERIC).

Hosted by France and based in Paris, EMBRC-ERIC is a pan-European Research Infrastructure (RI) for marine biology and ecology research, providing state of the art facilities, technology platforms and advanced services to study marine organisms and ecosystems. Among its objectives, it is to enable new technologies and marine biological models to further our investigation capabilities for life-science breakthrough discoveries, and to support a modern approach to long-term marine ecological monitoring efforts. “EMBRC ERIC is a truly multidisciplinary effort and a driver in the development of blue biotechnologies, including at regional level, supporting both fundamental and applied research activities for sustainable solutions in the food, health and environmental sectors.” – said Mr. Jean-David MALO, Director of Open Innovation and Open Science, European Commission – DG Research and Innovation.

EMBRC-ERIC has nine founding Members who operate as “nodes”: The Kingdom of Belgium, the French Republic, the Hellenic Republic, the State of Israel, the Italian Republic, the Kingdom of Norway, the Portuguese Republic, the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Marine Scotland, under the Scottish Government banner, is delighted to be part of the UK Node along with the British Antarctic Survey, the Marine Biological Association of the UK, the University of St Andrews, Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS) and the University of the Highlands and Islands (through the Scottish Association of Marine Science).

Further information

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Multi-tasking with the Scotia: Part 2

Fri, 2018-06-22 14:15

The second week on the Nephrops TV survey on Scotia was considerably less eventful than the first – thankfully!

The work progressed well having travelled through the North Minch recovering and then deploying another COMPASS cetacean mooring at the Shiants, and then working down past Uist and Barra, replacing a third COMPASS mooring en route.

After a trawl in the evening of the 11th the vessel headed for Stanton Bank where a further two COMPASS moorings were recovered and a replacement deployed. Eight TV stations were surveyed whilst at Stanton Bank using this rare opportunity of visiting the area (and the unusually calm conditions) to gather Nephrops abundance data, the first time in over 10 years.

When starting to finalise the arrangements for the half landing, it became apparent that there were no available berths in Campbeltown. Following several calls to various ports, Belfast was the only port able to provide a berth on Friday 15th, leaving the Clyde to be surveyed over the weekend when the trawlers would not be working. This is an advantage for the survey as the seabed is not disturbed as much as when the trawlers are fishing thus improving the visibility on the seabed.

Working out that there was sufficient time before going to port, the vessel steamed north east to Skye and began working through the remaining TV stations in the South Minch before a storm arrived on the night of the 13th. With all but five stations completed and having carried out a trawl, the vessel headed for Colonsay to shelter and remained there till midday on the 14th. Once the weather eased the vessel travelled through the Sound of Islay and started working in the Sound of Jura, where a number of stations were relocated due to the density of creels. Late that evening TV operations stopped to allow time to steam to Belfast for an 8 am arrival, which left five stations in off Jura for the return leg of the survey.

After a welcome break in the city, the vessel had a short steam north to the first station in the Clyde on the 16th. Work began around Ailsa Craig in flat calm, sunny conditions and after a trawl later that day, Scotia headed for the Kilbrannan Sound on the west side of Arran for daylight on the 17th. From here the vessel worked north towards Loch Fyne and then down the east side of Arran, with the remainder of the Clyde TV stations and a trawl to be completed by midday on the 18th.


Further Information:

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Celebrating Science and Year of the Young Person – Julia Black

Thu, 2018-06-21 10:00

2018 is both the Year of the Engineer and the Year of the Young Person and this blog is about one of our many colleagues who are inspiring the next generation with their Outreach work.

Meet Julia Black a Molecular Geneticist at Marine Scotland Science. Gummy bears and strawberry laces in science! Read on to find out more.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Julia Black, a molecular geneticist, have been working in the MSS Marine Laboratory since 1999, mostly on the diagnosis of fish and shellfish pathogens.

Why is what you do important?
Detection of disease in farmed and wild fish and shellfish leads to improvements in and the healthy maintenance of Scotland’s aquaculture and fisheries. We often have to process a lot of samples in a short period of time to give a rapid result.

What’s your career path been – how did you get here?
Did a degree in Genetics at Aberdeen University, worked in the tissue typing (organ transplant matching) department of the Blood Transfusion Service for over 5 years and then got a job here at the Marine Lab.

If you weren’t doing this, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
Travel agent or travel guide writer – I love to plan a holiday!

What’s your favourite fishy fact?
So many – swimming goggles can be made from fish scales. Scales can also be found in some lipsticks while ketchup originally contained fish (mainly anchovies).

What made you decide to be involved in Outreach?
Schools are struggling for resources – being able to go into school or help with work placement students gives the children opportunity to experience or learn something completely new.

What do you enjoy most about doing Outreach?
Going into primary school classes – the enthusiasm is infectious, makes you look at your own subject with new eyes. And you can get asked some very interesting questions (some of which are best not to repeat!!). I often do what I call Sweetie Science – raspberry jelly ‘agar’ plates with hundreds and thousands to represent bacteria and DNA made from gummy bears and strawberry laces.

Would you encourage others to get involved in Outreach too?
Absolutely, I went into one school with a colleague – the children were initially not very engaged, as the rest of their class was on a residential trip. But by the end of the session, we had them all looking down microscopes and competing to build the best wind turbine from pencils and cereal packets. Events like the Doors Open Day in Stonehaven are great too – so many people coming in who may otherwise have never engaged with Marine Scotland before.

Further Information

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What’s at our Disposal? The latest from the research vessel Alba na mara

Wed, 2018-06-20 10:00

Survey: 0918A

Duration: 18 June – 1 July 2018

Sampling Gear: TV drop frame, TV winch and cable, 2 x day grabs and RoxAnn.


  1. To undertake grab, underwater television (UTV) and RoxAnn surveys of sea disposal sites and assess the condition of the seabed, identify the predominant benthic epifauna species, and the distribution of man-made debris. Some of the disposal sites are added as contingency.
  2. The disposal sites identified for survey are:Ullapool, Isle of Eigg, Canna, LochMaddy, Stornoway, Lochinver, Scrabster, Scrabster Extension, Thurso, Wick, Fraserburgh, Aberdeen, Stonehaven, Arbroath, Montrose.In addition, a potential site at Uig may be surveyed between Ullapool and Isle of Eigg sites.It is not anticipated that all sites will be surveyed. However, the list allows for contingencies based on weather conditions.
  3. Sediment samples for Objectives 1 will be analysed for chemical and physical parameters.
  4. Drop-down TV survey of Caithness – Moray cable, working from north (Noss Head end) to south (Portgordon end).


Scientific staff and equipment will be transported to Ullapool for loading the vessel and set-up selected survey equipment. The Alba na Mara will depart Ullapool as soon as possible on 18 June, and proceed to the most proximal sea disposal site to start the work programme outlined in Objective 1. Each sea disposal site will be surveyed in turn, subject to weather forecast, moving through the sites listed in Objective 2. The scientific crew change, will occur on 25 June at a port TBC. The Alba na Mara will then continue with the remaining sites detailed in Objective 2. The survey of the C-M cable, as outlined in Objective 4, will be by drop-down TV survey and last a maximum of three days…

Once sites listed in Objective 2 and 4 have been surveyed, Alba na Mara will proceed to the unloading port detailed above.

Further Information:

The post What’s at our Disposal? The latest from the research vessel Alba na mara appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Salmon Smolt Surveying on the Sunbeam

Fri, 2018-05-11 10:45

Survey: 0718H – MFV Sunbeam FR487

Duration: 04-16 May 2018

Scientific gear:

  1. Smolt trawl, Thyboron type 15vf pelagic trawl doors (6m2), Dyneema sweep rig and Fenders (dia 300mm with 215kg buoyancy) attached 4 per side of the trawl.
  2. Video frame/box incorporating pit tag detector.
  3. Self-contained underwater camera systems.


  1. To undertake smolt trawl surveys in and just outside the Moray Firth, and off the Firths of Tay and Forth.


Sunbeam will sail on 4 May and undertake shakedown tows to practice shooting/hauling the smolt gear and video box. Once Scientist-in-Charge (SiC) and skipper are happy the gear is operating correctly the vessel will make passage, depending on the weather, to either the Moray Firth or Tay/Forth areas to commence the smolt survey.

Trawl gear:

The smolt trawl is designed to operate with its headline held at the surface and the footrope at approximately 12m deep. The headline and top sweeps of the net are supported using 50 x 200 mm floats (headline) and 8 x 1400 mm long fender floats (top sweep). The trawl doors are designed to fish just below the surface (max depth 50-60 m) and buoyant Dyneema rope used throughout the sweep rig. The video frame is attached to the trawl using netting with supporting bridles and made neutrally buoyant using a combination of 275 mm and 200 mm floats. A rigging specification is given in Guidance note 1, below.

Trawling plan:

The surveys will build on the successful survey work in the Moray Firth in 2017, and will further investigate the migration routes of salmon smolts from Moray Firth rivers across the Moray Firth and carry out the first surveys of smolts off the Firths of Tay and Forth. The net requires a minimum depth of about 40 m for operation and is deployed in an arc, or arcs, so that the ship wash misses the net. Short tows of two hours or less will be carried out with a cod end in place and smolts retained for genetic assignment to rivers and/or regions of origin. The by-catch will be recorded by species. This year, a larger mesh inner net will be deployed within the cod end to keep larger fish separate from the smolts, so that they will be in better condition. The captured video and pit tag recordings will be used to identify where fish and pit tagged fish were caught on the tows. It is also likely that the net will also be deployed open ended at times, instead of using a cod end, potentially for longer tows, but not providing samples for genetic assignment. A combination of tows with and without the cod end in place may allow survey work to be carried out for up to 16 hours a day. All necessary licenses for the work will be in place. Indicative locations of tows are given in Guidance Note 2 (below).

Guidance Note 1. Smolt Trawl Rig Details

Trawl (4 panel constructed from PA netting):

  • Mesh size (Full mesh in mm):
    • Wings – 800
    • Front/side panel sections – 800
    • Lower cover/belly sections – 800
    • Reducing 400-200-120-80-60 and end taper 40
    • Straight extension – 40
  • Frame lines and net opening:
    • Headline length – 70.2m
    • Side line length – 15.9m
    • Footrope length – 59.8m
    • Wing stretch length (nominal) – 62m
    • Trawl tapered body stretched length (nominal) – 69.6m
    • Straight extension stretched length – 8m
    • Fishing circle – 224m
    • Nominal net mouth opening at fishing circle (assumes meshes roped (hung) at 50% of full mesh size) – 844.8m2.

Sweep rig and otterboards:

  • Sweeps – 150m x 28mm dia. Dyneema
  • Backstrops – 15m x 28mm dia Dyneema
  • Headline/footrope extensions – 3m x 13mm long-link chain
  • Otterboards – Thyborøn type 15vf pelagic otterboards:
    • Surface area – 6m2
    • Weight (each otterboard) – 1000kg + 200kg additional (8 x 25kg)

Flotation (headline):

  • 50 x 200mm floats (each float 2.47kg buoyancy)
  • 1 x Polyform (A2) H= 510mm Dia.= 300mm Buoyancy = 35kg
  • Fenders (Blue Line JF2255):
    • 1 per side at quarters – L = 1400mm Ø = 300mm buoyancy = 215kg

3 per side at wingends (attached to chain extensions) – L = 1400mm Ø = 300mm buoyancy = 215kg 

Guidance Note 2. Indicative Locations of Tows

 0718H Sunbeam Guidance Note 2

Further Information:


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Predicting Suitable Habitat

Thu, 2018-05-10 10:30

Survey: 0618A – MRV Alba n Mara

Duration: 5-14 May 2018


  • Hybrid drop/lander frame and calibration mesh;
  • HD TV system and lights (five plastic cages);
  • Armoured cable, spare, axle stands and bar;
  • Stereo TV system; and
  • Day grab, table and two sieve drawers.

Background and Objectives:

This survey will conduct a benthic survey of southern, west-coast waters within Scotland’s jurisdiction. The primary objective is to survey identified sites that have the potential to support benthic components of Scotland’s Priority Marine Features (PMFs). Data from this survey will be used to populate species distribution models (SDMs). These SDMs will be used to increase our knowledge of PMFs located outside the Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) network and to produce area wide maps of predicted habitat suitability. Under the MarPAMM project, data collected from this survey will also contribute to larger interregional models of species distribution.

Specific objectives are as follows:

  1. To conduct UWTV video assessments of PMFs abundance within southern, west-coast waters; and
  2. To conduct a grab survey within areas identified as suitable for Arctica islandica.

Benthic survey:

The survey will consist of a series of short (~10 min) UWTV video tows (shown on Figure 1 below). To achieve this, the survey will utilise the newly built modular camera frame (combined drop and lander frame – 2460 × 1900 × 1940 mm, L × W × H) deployed from the aft of the vessel. Where the ground is hard, this frame will be deployed in the more compact drop frame configuration. Species type, species densities and substrate type (assessed visually) will be classified for each video transect post-survey.Figure 1 0618A 2018 General Survey Areas

Grab samples may also be taken in areas where the bivalve, Arctica islandica, has been indicated to be present. Here, sediment samples will also be taken and frozen for particle size analysis. No formalin storage will be necessary during this procedure.

Further Information:

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Significant Celebrations for Scottish Freshwater Organisations

Wed, 2018-05-09 10:00

2018 is looking to be quite a significant year for two organisations at the core of freshwater research in Scotland. Marine Scotland Science’s Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory (FFL) at Faskally in Pitlochry, has just celebrated its 70th anniversary and the Scottish Freshwater Group (SFG) has just turned 50.

Freshwater fisheries research has been a Government responsibility in Scotland from 1882 when the Fishery Board for Scotland was set up. The origin of the Faskally Laboratory is rather more recent. In April 1948 the Brown Trout Research Scheme (BTRS) started at Pitlochry, two years before the new Loch Faskally was created when the Pitlochry Hydro-electric dam was completed.

Picture 1 SFG founding member Bill Munro with fellow BTRS colleaguesThe two organisations have connections that began in the early 1960’s and continue to this day. The SFG held their first meeting in October 1968, some 20 years after the founding of the Brown Trout Research Scheme. The SFG was the brainchild of Peter Maitland (Nature Conservancy, now Scottish Natural Heritage), Bill Munro (Brown Trout Research Laboratory, now FFL) and Ian Waddington (Clyde River Purification Boards, now the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ) looking for a national forum for those working on fresh waters in Scotland. It was chaired by Mr Kenneth Pyefinch, who was also the first officer-in-charge at the Brown Trout Research Scheme, and one of the talks given at that same meeting was by Dr Harry Egglishaw who worked at the laboratory until 1987.

Wind forward to the present and the SFG conducted its 100th meeting, held at Stirling University, just last month, which once again demonstrated the rapport between the two organisations. The current Head of FFL Dr John Armstrong was one of the presenters representing Marine Scotland Science (MSS) and gave a talk on the “Application of long-term monitoring for the contemporary management and conservation of Atlantic salmon”.

MSS were delighted to contribute further giving an informative overview of some of the work and research undertaken by both FFL and the Renewables and Energy Programme with posters from:

  • Dr Karen Millidine looking at “Understanding and assessing the effects of river regulation on Atlantic salmon fry”;
  • Ross Gardiner on “Salmon smolt trawl work in connection with marine renewables developments”;
  • Dr Emily Bridcut on the“Impacts of onshore wind farm developments on fish populations in Scotland”; and
  • Ross Glover on the “Detailed long-term study of a Scottish Atlantic salmon population across multiple life-stages suggests no discernible benefit of conservation stocking”.

Further contribution saw inspiring talks from:

  • Dr Iain Malcolm on the “Development of a national juvenile salmon density model for Scotland to underpin fisheries management and assessment”; and
  • Dr Faye Jackson looking at the “Development of a national river temperature model to inform the management of Scotland’s Atlantic salmon rivers under climate change”.

Dr John Armstrong said: Picture 2 Original wooden huts used for the BTRS in 1948“The Brown Trout Research Scheme was tasked with conducting investigations into the factors that affected the growth of brown trout in Scottish waters, for improving stocks. We were renamed the Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory in April 1957 as our remit was extended particularly to encompass management of Atlantic salmon. During our full tenure we have provided wide-ranging research which provides the (now) Scottish Government with the facts required to make and amend policy on Scotland’s freshwater and migratory fish and the fisheries that they support. We are very proud of our legacy and look forward to continuing our important work for the next seventy years and beyond.”

Further Information:

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Celebrating the Year of the Engineer – Meet Tam Cairns of the Northern Lighthouse Board

Tue, 2018-05-08 10:00

Tam CairnsAs we mentioned in our blog in January, 2018 is the Year of the Engineer as well as the Year of the Young Person. Over the course of the year, we’ll be introducing you to some of our incredibly talented engineers, as well as showing your some of their work. But for this month, we’re delighted to welcome Tam Cairns to our blog. Tam is the Delivery and Planning Manager for the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), based at the organisation’s headquarters in Edinburgh. The NLB is the General Lighthouse Authority responsible for the superintendence and management of all lights, buoys and beacons within the area around Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Tam is married with four children and has eight – soon to be nine – grandchildren!

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

I left school at 16 with pretty mediocre Standard Grades and started an indentured apprenticeship with the National Coal Board (NCB) as a Colliery Fitter. Over the next 15 years I worked at Lady Victoria, Bilston Glen and Bilsthorpe Collieries completing my apprenticeship and achieving a variety of supervisory roles. For the following three years I worked as a maintenance fitter with Scottish Power at Cockenzie and Methil Power Stations.

In 1991 I joined NLB as Mechanical Artificer, a job title normally associated with naval fraternity. After five years I was given a significant promotion and appointed Mechanical Incorporated Engineer, a role I’ve fulfilled in various guises over the past 18 years. In every position I’ve held with NLB, I’ve always been involved in further education, at either City & Guild, Scotvec, OU or University level. I was promoted to my present position in June 2017.

As Operations, Delivery and Planning Manager, I’m responsible for making sure our maintenance and projects’ work focusses on providing efficient and available Aids to Navigation (AtoN’s). I need to make sure we’re maintaining or exceeding the very high levels of availability demanded of us. For category 1, 2 and 3 AtoN’s, these are 99.8%, 99.9% and 99.7% respectively, worked out over a three year average.

I also manage our involvement in new technologies and training, ensuring we’re well provisioned in terms of the capability of our staff to meet Notice to Mariners (NTM’s) which are formally issued in relation to our project works.

I have responsibility for up to 50 full and part-time employees who cover a range of electrical, mechanical and radio skills at various levels. They include technicians, technician engineers and specialised engineers covering work such as DGPS, AIS and Monitoring Systems. Our part-time staff are all remotely based, providing localised inspections and first line maintenance in the case of faults. We also contribute to NLB’s Renewals and Projects work on automation, refurbishments and upgrades at installations.

What’s your proudest achievement so far?

My proudest achievement in terms of my career was being appointed to my present position. My proudest achievement academically was obtaining my 2nd Degree, a BEng in Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Napier University over five years of day release. I was especially pleased to be awarded the class medal for my course. But the biggest part of my graduation day was sharing it with my youngest daughter Kirsty, who was also graduating at Napier with a Degree in Nursing.

What would you say to any aspiring young engineers?

For anyone thinking about a career in engineering, I’d say if you believe you’re not clever enough or can’t afford to go to university in pursuit of the graduate engineer route, don’t give up. Try and get an apprenticeship and take every advantage of further education opportunities. I’m proof that you can get the rewards you seek in engineering. And I might be biased but in my opinion the best all round engineers and managers are those who have followed the vocational path, while working.

And one fun fact about you?

It was quite difficult trying to think of a fun fact about myself! I asked my wife who replied: ”Yes, you can be… funny”. But I still couldn’t come up with specifics. Instead, I thought I would recall a couple of what I thought were funny situations but which probably taught me a few lessons!

As a serving member of the Territorial Army (TA), REME 1 Bn, Corporal Class 1 VM, my unit were on exercise in Germany. I was patrolling our area perimeter when I was approached by a large group of Germans. I raised my weapon and asked for the password. No reply but a lot of chatter. Then I heard a voice behind shouting, “Sir. Cairns has stopped a pile of Germans”.

Suddenly a Warrant Officer, WO1 Whyte, came running across apologising profusely to the German officers. Unbeknown to me they’d been allowed to use our cookhouse and had been let in by another route! I then gained the nickname Tom & Jerry.

On this occasion I was working at Skerryvore lighthouse, the tallest off shore lighthouse in the UK. As the subordinate fitter, I couldn’t believe it when the senior in charge didn’t have a 2lb hand hammer. Considering the nature of some of the work, which involved chiselling granite to fit brackets, I suggested we ask the engineering staff on our ship the Pharos if they could help. I was too embarrassed to say we hadn’t got a “proper hammer”, so told the helicopter pilot we’d broken the hammer shaft and could he ask the engineering staff if they had a spare they could give us. Before the pilot departed Skerryvore I went over to him. He stuck his hand out of the window and presented me, not with a hammer but with a new hammer shaft! Then he left. As you can imagine, the subordinate me had to spend the next two weeks chiselling granite with a joiner’s claw hammer.

The lessons I’d take from those two “funnies” is to use your initiative and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And never be embarrassed in making a mistake.

“After all, the man who never made a mistake, did nothing.”

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Recover, Download, Re-deploy, Repeat

Fri, 2018-05-04 15:00

Survey: 0618S – MRV Scotia

Duration: 2-12 May 2018


Sea-Bird CTDs, ADCPs and current meter instrumentation, water filtering equipment, mooring equipment, chemistry sampling and analysis equipment.


  1. Perform hydrographic sampling along the AlterEco monitoring section in the northern North Sea, which will be sampled on all MSS oceanographic surveys in 2018.
  2. Perform hydrographic sampling along the JONSIS long term monitoring section in the northern North Sea.
  3. Recover, download and re-deploy an ADCP mooring deployed in a trawl-proof frame on the JONSIS section (the “AlterEco mooring”, AECO).
  4. Recover and download the data from one ADCP mooring deployed on Faroe-Shetland Channel Faroe – Cape Wrath (FCW/NWZ) section, in the vicinity of the Wyville-Thomson Ridge (NWZE).
  5. Recover, download and re-deploy one ADCP mooring at a position on Fair Isle – Munken (FIM/NWS) section
  6. Take surface water samples at a suitable location in the Faroe Shetland Channel for bacterial analysis and experimentation (HWU).
  7. Perform hydrographic sampling along the long term monitoring Faroe-Shetland Channel Nolso – Flugga (NOL/NWE) section.
  8. Recover, download and re-deploy two ADCP moorings at positions on Faroe-Shetland Channel Nolso – Flugga section.
  9. Take water samples for long term storage on Fair Isle – Munken or Nolso – Flugga section stations.
  10. Perform hydrographic sampling along the long term monitoring Faroe-Shetland Channel Fair Isle – Munken (FIM/NWS) section.
  11. Run the thermosalinograph throughout the survey.
  12. Perform hydrographic sampling in the vicinity of a number of ADCP moorings in order to calibrate moored equipment: CTD dips at selected locations with equipment (SB56 NanoCAT and/or SB57 MicroCAT) attached to carousel.
  13. If sheltering in a suitable location around Shetland due to bad weather, conduct VMADCP/CTD work in Shetland (e.g. Yell Sound) and short-term mooring deployment and recovery.
  14. If weather/time permits, perform fine scale VMADCP/CTD survey work on the JONSIS line (around 59° 16.96′ N, 001° 15.26′ W).
  15. If weather/time permits, perform VMADCP/CTD survey work in the Moray Firth and/or Aberdeen Bay.


On sailing from Aberdeen Scotia will make passage to the start (western end) of the AlterEco monitoring section to carry out sampling with the CTD and carousel water sampler along the section.  On completion, Scotia will head to the JONSIS section to carry out sampling with the CTD and carousel water sampler.  Either prior to that work or during it, an ADCP mooring deployed on JONSIS in an AL200 trawl-proof frame (AECO) will be recovered, downloaded and re-deployed.

Passage will then be made towards the NWZE mooring location near the Wyville-Thomson Ridge to recover and download an ADCP mooring, performing a calibration dip at a suitable location once the instruments have been recovered. Subsequent to the recovery of mooring NWZE, Scotia will recover an ADCP mooring on the Fair Isle – Munken (FIM) section (NWSE).  Data will be downloaded and the mooring will then be re-deployed.  Surface water will be collected at a suitable station nearby for bacterial work by the HWU visitor.

Scotia will then make her way to the eastern start location for the Nolso – Flugga (NOL) section and, depending on timings, either recover one ADCP mooring (NWEZ) along the way or start collecting long term monitoring samples and taking CTD profiles from the start of the section. At two relevant locations along NOL (NWEZ, NWEA), mooring recovery and re-deployments will be carried out, with calibration CTD dips for instruments recovered from some of the moorings.  After the NOL section, Scotia will head to the western (Faroe) side of the FIM section to carry out standard CTD and water sampling along that line.

Once that work is completed and if time allows, Scotia will carry out additional work (listed among the survey objectives) along the JONSIS line, in the Moray Firth and/or Aberdeen Bay, prior to her return to Aberdeen.  If the weather requires sheltering in Shetland and any point during the survey, we will aim to collect additional CTD and VMADCP data in suitable locations (e.g. Yell Sound) and, if time and conditions allow, deploy and recover short-term (> 13 h) current meter moorings (Seaguard current meters).Scotland to Iceland map 0618S

Mooring Positions (Recovery):

  • AECO – 59° 16.96′ N 001° 15.26′ W
  • NWZE – 59° 54.56’ N   006° 10.14’ W
  • NWEA – 61° 38.01’N 004° 32.60’W
  • NWEZ – 61° 09.32′ N  002° 17.39′ W
  • NWSE – 60° 16.34′ N  004° 20.67′ W

Mooring Positions (Deployment):

  • AECO – 59° 17.00′ N 001° 15.00′ W on JONSIS
  • NWEA – 61° 38.00 N 004° 33.00 W on NOL
  • NWEZ – 61° 9.30 N 002° 17.52 W on NOL
  • NWSE – 60° 16.29′ N 004° 20.78′ W on FIM

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 plankton crane will be used for the deployment of ADCP moorings in trawl-proof frames (AL200 and AL500).  Single-string ADCP mooring deployments will be done from the trawl deck.

Three container laboratories will be required (one wet chemical analysis laboratory, one for water filtering and a dry container for communications with sampling equipment). Chlorophyll samples will be stored frozen in the freezer in the Fish House.

Further Information:

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It’s all about …. Scotland’s environment

Thu, 2018-05-03 10:00

Scotland’s Environment website has a wealth of information and data to help you explore and learn more about our environment. If you’ve not had a chance to visit the website and blog recently, here’s a taste of what’s been happening in January to April.

Happy reading!

Read the latest round-up

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Rock-all and Trawl with Genesis

Tue, 2018-05-01 11:22

Survey: 0818H – MFV Genesis BF505

Duration: 25 April -10 May 2018

Fishing Gear: Anglerfish Trawl BT 195


  1. To undertake a nationally co-ordinated demersal trawling survey of Anglerfish (Lophius piscatorius and Lophius budegassa) at Rockall Bank (ICES area VIb and Northwestern Shelf (ICES area VIa) inside the 1000m isobaths.
  2. To additionally record and map distributions of Megrim (Lepidorhombus wiffiagonis), Four-Spot Megrim (Lepidorhombus boscii) Cod (Gadus morhua), Blue Skate (Dipturus cf. flossada) and Flapper Skate (Dipturus cf. intermedia).
  3. To collect biological data on Anglerfish species, Cod, Megrim, Four-Spot Megrim, Blue Skate and Flapper Skate.


This trawl survey follows a set of protocols drawn up by an industry science survey planning group made up of Marine Scotland scientists and fishing representatives. These protocols share much in common with the sampling regimes described in Marine Scotland standing instructions for demersal trawl surveys.

The survey track and sampling locations will be delivered to the skipper prior to departure.Figure 1 0818H Monk Survey Positions


One haul of 60 minutes duration will be made at each sampling station; trawling operations will occur in waters up to a maximum of 1000 m. A bottom contact sensor will be mounted on the footrope.

Further Information:

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Getting in some training with the Coastguard

Tue, 2018-05-01 10:00

WinchmanEarlier in April, we received a request from Shetland Coastguard to help with their training for the Coastguard Rescue Helicopter – and the crew of MPV Jura were only too happy to do so!

This isn’t the first time we have helped the Coastguard and it usually just involves the Coastguard helicopter performing exercises around and with the vessel, which enables them to train and develop their skills for when a real situation arises. A typical exercise involves the helicopter landing a crewman on the aft deck of the vessel, sometimes with a recovery stretcher, then performing manoeuvres in close proximity to the ship. This is also a very worthwhile exercise for ship’s crew as it provides experience and exposure of what will happen in the event of an emergency, such as a medical evacuation of a person from the ship by helicopter, or if and of the protection vessels was participating in a multi-agency rescue operation.

Before operations can start, both the helicopter pilot and the ships Commanding Officer will speak by radio and agree if conditions are appropriate. Once agreed, the duty officer notifies the ship’s crew and confirms there is no work being carried out on deck during the training exercise. The ship’s crew will also ensure that the decks are clear of any loose objects, prepare emergency equipment and ensure that they have the correct equipment in place, including helmets, gloves, hearing protection and high visibility jackets.

On this occasion, it was requested that MPV Jura maintained a steady speed of about 9 knots on a constant heading while the helicopter performed hover manoeuvres approximately 15 to 20 metres above the aft deck as well as on the port and starboard sides of the vessel. Following this, the helicopter pilot called to indicate they would like to send a winchman down to land on the aft deck and then recover him.

For this part of the exercise, it is imperative that the MPV Jura crew are on high standby as an error of judgement could result in a serious incident to the winchman which would require a genuine emergency response. With a south easterly wind of around 18 knots,  the helicopter pilot requested a heading of 220’ and took up a position on the port quarter so that the winchman would be landed through the wind. This was done with great skill and the winchman arrived safely on the aft deck. Once on board, a stretcher was sent down from the helicopter for the winchman to prepare before both winchman and stretcher were recovered from the ship back to the helicopter.

Following recovery, the exercise continued with further manoeuvres around MPV Jura before calling the Bridge to inform us that the exercise was complete, that it had been very worthwhile training exercise for their crew and to thank the Master and our crew for their help during it.

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Celebrating Compliance and Year of the Young Person – John Bruce

Thu, 2018-04-26 10:00

2018 is both the Year of the Engineer and the Year of the Young Person and this blog is about one of our many colleagues who are inspiring the next generation with their Outreach work.

Meet John Bruce one of our Business Managers at Marine Scotland Compliance. Read on to find out more.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m John Bruce, one of 5 Business Managers with Marine Scotland, Compliance. I manage 16 staff in the 5 district offices that comprise Area 2 in the north of Scotland. These are Ullapool, Lochinver, Kinlochbervie, Scrabster and Kirkwall. My job is really about making sure officers at the coast have the tools they require to ensure compliance of the vast array of EU, UK and Scottish legislation that covers the marine environment and that they do this in a consistent manner along with their counterparts in the other 13 offices dotted around the Scottish coast.

What’s your career path been – how did you get here?
I grew up in the fishing community in the Fit o‘ the Toon in Arbroath. All my father’s side of the family were fishers and I’ve been involved in the industry since I could walk. Everything from cleaning the boat out on a Friday for pocket money, to mending wooden boxes (yes I am that old) and delivering ice from the back of a flatbed lorry at weekends. I first went to sea properly at 13, spending 5 days pair trawling in the Forties. My dad thought it would put me off a career in fishing. However I loved it. Most holidays from there on in were spent fishing. Everyone told me not to do it but it’s in the blood and I was well, excuse the pun, hooked. Despite this I could, however, see the sharp decline in the industry in front of my eyes so once I finished school, and with the advice of my peers ringing in my ears, I very reluctantly started University in Dundee studying, ironically, Business Management. I absolutely hated it. So at 17, I applied to an advert in the Fishing News for a Fishery Officer but given one of the criteria was that you had to be 18, I didn’t give it much hope. Much to my amazement I was given an interview and then offered a job but could only start when turned 18.

That led to my first posting as Fishery Officer in Lochinver in early 1991 and later that year I transferred to Campbeltown. I had an extremely enjoyable 4 years there before being transferred to Peterhead in a major coastal restructure in 1995. I stayed there as a Fishery Officer until 2000 where I took up promotion to Senior Fishery Officer in Kirkwall, which is still my favourite posting. In 2004 I was transferred to Ullapool and in 2005 I was promoted to Enforcement Manager which meant I took on management responsibility for Lochinver and Kinlochbervie. Then in 2008 as part of the preparation to the transition to Marine Scotland I became a Business Manager with responsibility then for Portree, Stornoway, Ullapool, Lochinver and Kinlochbervie.

What made you decide to be involved in Outreach?
Having been involved in the fishing industry all my life, I obviously have a passion for it and I’ve always been willing to talk to anyone about it who asks. The public have a huge appetite for knowledge about the industry and are always asking questions. Ask any officer who has stood on a pier when a busload of tourists arrives! I was first approached by a local school who knew what I did and wanted me to give a talk on fishing to all age groups. It seemed to go down very well with the young people and probably even more so with the teachers who asked me where to apply. From there I became aware of STEM programme and became an Ambassador which led to me really discovering how much interest there is in the industry and since then I have delivered talks, demonstrations and even been involved science fairs at schools all over the highlands.

What do you enjoy most about doing Outreach?
At every event the enthusiasm from young people, parents and teachers just pours out. Everyone wants to know, learn and become better informed about the marine environment and how to look after it and manage the resources it provides more responsibly. I love the passion that those who I speak to then display once they have learned and had their questions asked. Hopefully this triggers a lightbulb moment for them and they will want to become involved in the Marine Industry and also hopefully it makes them think about the environment and then the next generation will look after it better than perhaps previous generations have.

Would you encourage others to get involved in Outreach too?
Definitely. It’s a great way to get across a positive message of what Marine Scotland does to the general public. On a personal level I find the level of engagement with all ages really rewarding and for those of us who live in remote communities it provides that community with great access to something that they would possibly only be available to them if they travelled a few hundred miles to a hub such as Inverness.

Further Information

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