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Engaging the Fishing Industry in Marine Environmental Survey and Monitoring – Part 3

Fri, 2019-10-11 12:14

Marine Scotland (MS) has been leading this European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) funded project which is aimed at involving fishing vessels in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) monitoring. This is a joint project between MS and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The project is managed by Seascope Fisheries Research Ltd, with Charlotte Johnston of Crangon Ltd providing monitoring survey expertise. Kyla Orr from Marine Ecological Consulting is supporting stakeholder engagement on the project.

The 2019 survey season is now complete as part of the EMFF project that is engaging fishers in marine environmental monitoring. Four surveys have been completed this year using drop-down video camera to document marine life on the seabed. The areas surveyed were: the Inner Sound and Wester Ross, Orkney, Shetland and Islay and Jura. These surveys build on the work completed in 2017 and 2018, surveying the seabed habitats in and around MPAs. We are pleased to announce the publication of our latest newsletter which contains details of all the work we have done so far this year. To read the Summer 2019 newsletter, please follow this link.

Further Information:

 

The post Engaging the Fishing Industry in Marine Environmental Survey and Monitoring – Part 3 appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Vacancy: Marine Licensing Casework Manager, closing date 30 October 2019

Fri, 2019-10-11 10:00

We are currently seeking applications for a Marine Licensing Casework Manager within Marine Scotland 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 successful post holder will be responsible for processing applications for consents and licences, assisting in the team’s compliance and enforcement activity and ensuring that procedures are followed. The role provides high quality service to Scottish Ministers, applicants and stakeholders, in a dynamic, fast paced environment.

The job holder will ensure that applications for marine licences (under the Marine Acts) and Section 36 consents (under the Electricity Act 1989) are dealt with correctly and within agreed timescales, and provide guidance to licensing casework officers. The job holder may also be required to advise, in line within-house guidelines, policy and legislative requirements, in relation to Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA), Marine Protected Area (MPAs) assessments and Environmental Impact Assessment.

Qualifications Required:
  • Degree in chemistry, biology, oceanography, environmental sciences, planning, engineering, law (environmental or planning), or similar, relevant specific experience.
  • Other qualifications equivalent to these may also be acceptable, if you are in any doubt please contact to discuss.

Please note: If you fail to demonstrate how you meet the minimum qualifications as stated above, your application will be automatically sifted out.

Essential Criteria:
  1. Experience of reviewing environmental or technical information, providing advice and recommendations and making informed decisions to tight deadlines.
  2. Experience of permitting processes and/or legislative frameworks.
  3. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills with the ability to demonstrate credibility with internal and external stakeholders, and show experience of working in a cross team environment.
  4. A proven record of strong planning and organisational skills, with the ability to work on your own initiative, manage a diverse workload and to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and expectations.
Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find 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 Mike Bland who can be reached at michael.bland@gov.scot or on 0131 244 2993.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact Resourcing Team on 0131 244 8217 or via EMAIL recruitment@gov.scot.

Further information for this job:

The post Vacancy: Marine Licensing Casework Manager, closing date 30 October 2019 appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Vacancies: Two Seaman 1A, closing date 29 October 2019

Wed, 2019-10-09 10:00

We are currently seeking applications for a Seaman 1A within Marine Scotland which is based in Victoria Quay. 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.

There are currently 2 permanent vacancies available for the post of Seaman 1A based on board our vessels. The posts are primarily based on our Research Vessels MRV Alba Na Mara and MRV Scotia, although it is expected that the successful candidate will also be prepared to work on the protection vessels if required. MRV Alba Na Mara and MRV Scotia are 27 metres and 69 metres in length respectively. Research cruises vary in length, but generally are no more than 22 days.

The Marine Protection Vessels are Minna, Jura and Hirta. Minna is 47 metres in length and both Jura and Hirta are 84 metres in length. These vessels carry out patrols which normally last 21 days.

All vessels work double manning allowing for trip on/trip off rostering.

Qualifications Required:
  • Able Seaman and/or Efficient Deck Hand Certificate
  • Navigational Watch Rating Certificate
  • All relevant STCW certification including Proficiency in Designated Security Duties
  • Valid ENG 1 (Unrestricted)
Essential Criteria:
  1. Fishing industry experience including net mending.
  2. Confidence in all aspects of deck maintenance and awareness of the safe working practices required.
  3. Fast rescue craft and/or RIB handling experience.
  4. Experience of operating davits, winches and cranes.

 

Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find 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 Mari-Anne Valli who can be reached at Mari-Anne.Valli@gov.scot or 0131 244 6073.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact Emma Crawford on 0131 244 5656 or via email recruitment@gov.scot.

 

Further information for this job:

The post Vacancies: Two Seaman 1A, closing date 29 October 2019 appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Science Colleagues get ‘Girls into Physics’

Tue, 2019-10-08 12:48

Today on Ada Lovelace Day we hear from one of our colleagues, Louise Campbell (shown middle in picture above), about her involvement with ‘Girls into Physics’ events and why she is keen to dispel the myth of how difficult and hard physics is. Read on for Louise’s story and for more information about events taking place.

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The ‘Girls into Physics event’ is part of a series of events, supported by the Institute of Physics (IOP). The first event was a ‘one off’ half day event in Edinburgh in 2009. The event was so popular that it was changed to a full day and repeated in the same location in 2010. Since then the number of events has grown steadily and this year there are events in: Lockerbie, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Dunfermline and Inverness. At each of the events the girls get a talk unconscious biasing. They are then divided into groups of 15 and go round a series of workshops. At each workshop they spend 30 minutes doing a hands on activity. The day is all about showing the girls the potential opportunities that continuing to study Physics gives them. It also gives them the opportunity to work in groups with girls they have never met before.

The reason why I am keen to contribute to events like this is because I think it is really important to show young students (not only girls) the different career paths you can take if you continue studying science such as physics. I especially think that girls avoid studying subjects that are thought to be ‘hard and difficult’ even though they enjoy them and are good at them.

I was very determined that I was not going to study physics at University, because everyone kept telling me how difficult and hard physics was…so I believed them. In the end (…long story) I ended up studying physics at University and LOVED it. Yes it was hard work, but in a good and challenging way. I think it is important to encourage and inspire other young people (especially girls) that it is ok to keep studying subjects that you actually enjoy and find interesting, even though they are earmarked/branded as difficult. You will without a doubt do better/more likely to stick with it, if you actually find it interesting and enjoy it.

With a physics degree you can do so much! You can apply it to so many different areas and physics is literally everywhere around us. One area which is dominated by physics is our oceans. A big part of oceanography includes studying the physical aspects of the ocean such as: ocean currents, tides, waves, circulation and so on.

During the event we discussed hydrodynamic modelling and particle tracking. This can be useful when tracking both biological species, such as sea lice, and chemical substances in the event of, for example, an oil spill. We asked the students to guess where they think particles would end up if they were released from Aberdeen harbour as a kind of ‘pin the tail’ game (shown in picture to the right). A simulation done with our in house model showing the trajectory of the particles over the course of a yearlong simulation was then shown. This was well received and got the students to consider how far anything that is placed in the water can travel in a relatively short time frame.

I hope that by attending and contributing to events like ‘Girls into Physics’, we can demonstrate the importance of physics and give insight into one area where physics plays a massive role. If I can encourage/inspire anyone to pursue/continue to study physics, I will be very happy and content!

The post Science Colleagues get ‘Girls into Physics’ appeared first on Marine Scotland.

King Scallop Surveys in the Clyde

Mon, 2019-10-07 10:00

MRV Alba na Mara
Survey:
1719A Programme

Duration: 4 – 18 October 2019

Objectives:
  1. Carry out a dredge survey of king scallops in the Clyde.
  2. Age, measure and assess shell damage for all king scallops caught.
  3. Collect information on by-catch of other commercial fish and shellfish species.
  4. Identify and quantify all starfish species in all dredge tows.
  5. Collect data on king scallop ring measurements.
  6. Collect king scallop meat weight and biological data.
  7. Record and retain marine litter obtained during the dredging process.
  8. Collect frozen whole scallops for heavy metal testing as part of the OSPAR assessment of hazardous substances in the marine environment.
  9. Collect tissue samples for possible genetic testing.
  10. Carry out camera trials if conditions and time allow.

 

Procedure:

Survey will depart from Troon on 4 October with the aim of conducting a dredge survey of king scallops in the Clyde region. This is a preliminary survey to collect catch rate data in an area that has not been recently surveyed for king scallops. The survey will also collect biological information on this species.

 

Once vessel drills have been undertaken, the vessel will steam to the first station, the order of which will be which will decided by the SIC in consultation with the skipper. Scallop dredge hauls will be conducted at stations shown in Figure 1. These positions have been agreed in collaboration with fisherman, industry representatives and external stakeholders.

 

Hauls will be of 30 minutes duration. From each haul all king 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.

 

A sub sample of king scallops will be selected for ring measurements to enable growth studies. A separate sub sample will be dissected to collect biological data which will include examination of the gonad to try and ascertain spawning period. Scallops (10 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 standard operating procedure 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 to collect footage of the fishing gear while in operation.

 

If time allows; additional stations may be added out with the Clyde. Areas of particular focus would be to the south of Islay and the area to the east side of the North Channel.

Figure 1. Station positions for scallop survey 1719A

Figure 1. Station positions for scallop survey 1719A

Further Information:

The post King Scallop Surveys in the Clyde appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Vacancy: Offshore Energy Environmental Advice Group Leader, closing date 24 October 2019

Fri, 2019-10-04 10:00

We are currently seeking applications for an Offshore Energy Environmental Advice Group Leader within the 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 post-holder will lead the Offshore Energy Environmental Advice Group (OEEAG) at Marine Scotland Science (MSS), taking responsibility for ensuring the provision of advice by MSS relating to chemical permitting under the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment & Decommissioning (OPRED), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They will ensure the provision by OEEAG of advice to BEIS in relation to the potential effects of proposed marine oil and gas activities on marine fish and fisheries and other key receptors. The post-holder will also lead relevant research activity by OEEAG, and seek to take advantage of opportunities to secure additional external funding for research and other activities.

The post-holder will engage with key stakeholders including policy, regulators, industry and academia to identify collaborative project or funding opportunities. These should focus on allowing MSS and others to address key knowledge gaps relating to the potential environmental impacts of oil and gas or marine renewables marine infrastructure, including potential consequences resulting from their decommissioning. This includes interactions with other users of the marine environment e.g. fisheries, etc.

Qualifications Required:

For jobs in Band B & C you must hold a science degree.

Other qualifications equivalent to these may also be acceptable, if you are in any doubt please contact to discuss.

Please note: If you fail to demonstrate how you meet the minimum qualifications as stated above, your application will be automatically sifted out.

Essential Criteria:
  1. An authoritative understanding of the environmental impact assessment process and of providing advice on potential environmental impacts resulting from the commissioning or decommissioning of substantial marine projects (e.g. oil and gas, marine renewables, infrastructure projects).
  2. A proven track record of successfully managing and delivering relevant science research projects to time and to budget.
  3. Excellent written and oral communication skills, with the ability to explain scientific concepts to varied audiences, in order to develop partnerships or secure funding.
  4. The ability to work independently with good organisational skills.
Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find 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 Peter Hayes on 0131 244 2904 or by email Peter.Hayes@gov.scot.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact Recruitment@gov.scot.

Further information for this job:

The post Vacancy: Offshore Energy Environmental Advice Group Leader, closing date 24 October 2019 appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Joint Warrior Training Activity: 5th-17th October 2019

Wed, 2019-10-02 10:00

Exercise Joint Warrior (JW), organised by the Ministry of Defence, a major programme of exercises involving land forces, warships, submarines and aircraft from all the NATO partners, across the UK. The next exercise, Joint Warrior 192, will take place between 5 and 17 October 2019 in the airspace, offshore and coastal waters to the west of Scotland (submarine, warship activity and mine warfare).

 

Further information on the exercise, including the Environmental Statement can be found below.

 

Further Information

 

The post Joint Warrior Training Activity: 5th-17th October 2019 appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Scotia Set for Deepwater Sampling

Sat, 2019-09-28 08:30

MRV Scotia
Survey: 1419S Programme

Duration: 28 September – 11 October 2019

Objectives:
  • Map the composition, distribution and abundance of continental slope species on the deepwater slope west of the Hebrides from Donegal to the Flannans (55–59oN) and Rosemary Bank (Figure 1).
  • Collect samples (genetics and otoliths) of key species for population studies.
  • Continue use of groundgear bag on selected stations to further evaluate BT184 catchability of deepwater fish species at different depths as well as providing valuable benthic assemblage data.
  • Collect a near-seabed water sample from each standard fixed station for analysis of environmental DNA content back at the laboratory.
  • Collect temperature/salinity at depth during all hauls using a data storage sensor attached to the trawl headline.
  • Collect sponge samples from Rosemary Seamount for analysis of assemblage composition, baseline levels of hydrocarbons and chlorinated biphenols and for molecular studies.
  • Collect specimens of fish and invertebrates for the National Museum of Scotland.
  • Undertake any other sampling requests such as MSFD marine litter recording and samples of microplastics from surface waters.
Procedures:

The survey will depart from Ullapool and, conditions permitting, proceed south through the Minch to the first trawling station on the shelf slope within statistical rectangle 41E9.

Trawling will mainly be at fixed stations at depths of: 500, 1000, 1500, 1800 and 2000 m on each transect where possible. Additional trawls may be undertaken at intermediate depths within selected transects. Trawl duration will typically be one hour and the locations of trawling stations will be provided to the vessel at the commencement of the survey. Daily meetings with take place between the fishing master, captain and the Scientist in Charge (SIC) to discuss and refine the survey plan as the survey progresses.

While it may be on occasions necessary to trawl at night, it is expected that trawling will mainly be conducted within the hours of daylight. Short deployments of either an MIK net or Manta Trawl will be undertaken directly after the last trawl on an opportunistic basis. The rest of the night will be spent in passage to the sampling area for the following day.

On selected tows a ground gear bagnet will be attached to the BT184 for benthic sampling. The Agassiz 2 m benthic trawl will be deployed for short (2-5 minute) hauls in certain areas.

From all tows the entire catch will be sorted, weighed and length-frequency data collected for all fish species encountered. Invertebrate by-catch will also be recorded. Additional biological sampling will be carried out on selected species.

If time permits following completion of survey stations on the shelf slope and at Rosemary Seamount, Scotia will transit to squares 48E4 and 49E4 and trawl on fixed stations (not illustrated) previously undertaken in 2014 in depths of between 300-1100 m.

Figure 1: 1419S Shelf slope with approximate position of survey trawl transects (black bands).

 

Further Information:

The post Scotia Set for Deepwater Sampling appeared first on Marine Scotland.

A Splash of Colour at the Marine Lab

Fri, 2019-09-27 14:30

If you go down to Torry today you’re sure to find not one but four big surprises …

Marine Scotland Science (MSS) has partnered with local group VictoriArt Road to host one of four giant murals on an external wall at the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen.

As part of a regeneration project Dundee based artist Isla Valentine Wade has been commissioned to decorate the large, blank wall which will form part of an art walk through the historic Torry district.

VictoriArt Road hopes to inspire and involve local people and improve physical and mental health. The aim of the project is to contribute to the regeneration of Victoria Road and Torry by using “creative urban interventions as a vehicle for social and spatial change”.

Tim McDonnell, Head of MSS, commented: “I was approached by the VictoriArt Road group and was only too delighted to assist with this project. The Marine Laboratory benefits from over 100 years of shared history with Torry and Nigg Bay – this project helps to strengthen our links to the local community and residents – and will no doubt form a colourful landmark for many years to come’.

The mural health walk, starting at Victoria Road bridge and finishing at Nigg Bay Golf Club, was launched late last month.

Further Information:

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Skate Research: Survey in the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA

Thu, 2019-09-19 10:00

MRV Alba na Mara
Survey: 1619A Programme

Duration: 24-30 September 2019

Background and Objectives:

Survey 1619A will conduct a benthic survey of juvenile common skate within and around the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (hereafter referred to as MPA). The primary objective of survey 1619A is to assess the presence of juvenile common skate within the MPA and the type of habitat juveniles are associated with. This survey is, therefore, necessary to estimate the efficiency of the management measure at protecting this Priority Marine Feature (PMF) during the entirety of its life-cycle.

The study will utilise two sampling methods: demersal tows and baited-camera to assess the presence of Juvenile skate. Habitat will be characterised using a combination of hydro-acoustic recordings (RoxAnn) for seabed classification and sediment grab samples.

Data from these surveys is needed for the monitoring and development of the Scottish MPA network and will inform the development of species distribution models to study differences in habitat requirements between adults and juveniles. Skate sampled in the trawl will be measured and tagged and a genetic sample will be collected (for further analyses of population structure) before being released.

A second objective of this survey is to develop and calibrate a non-invasive method to assess PMF presence and abundance using eDNA. DNA will be extracted from water samples collected at set depths with reverser bottles and from sediment samples from the grabs mentioned above. Samples will be used post-survey to analyse the presence and amount of DNA corresponding to common skate. If successful, this approach may be used at a larger scale to gain knowledge of species distribution.

Specific Survey Objectives:
  1. Assess the presence of juvenile skate using two different sampling methods.
  2. Record substrate features at the point of sampling.
  3. Collect DNA from water and sediment samples to develop and calibrate a non-invasive detection method.
  4. Collect genetic material and tag individuals to investigate issues relating to stock structure and population processes.
Embarkation:

Scientists will join the vessel on 23 September around 12:00 (BST). Weather permitting Alba na Mara will depart the following morning, heading for the first survey site.

Survey Work:

The survey will be split into three distinct activities – demersal trawling, baited camera work, and water/sediment sampling – which will be performed at each station (except demersal trawling in restricted areas).

Figure 1. 2019 survey sites within and outside of the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area

Demersal Fishing Survey

The demersal survey (10-15 minute tows) will assess the abundance, length-frequency-distribution, and weight-at-length of common skate at four fixed sites (3-5 tows per site) just outside of the MPA (Figure 1- Trawl boxes). Scanmar units will be fitted to the wings and head line of the BT158 trawl to ensure the net is fishing correctly. All common skates will be measured and a fin clip will be collected for further genetic analyses. Each individual will be screened for the presence of tags, if no tag is present the fish will be tagged (PIT tags) before being returned.

Baited Cameras

In addition to demersal survey sites (Figure 1- Trawl boxes), baited underwater video camera frames will be deployed in the MPA (Figure 1 Camera boxes) during daylight hours. These will be left in the water for approximately 1.5 hours before being retrieved. Footage will be downloaded to external media at the end of each working day. Presence of common skate, life-stage (juvenile/adult) and substrate type (assessed visually) will be classified post-survey.

Substrate Classification

To further aid the classification of the substrate at each sampling site, 1619A will also acquire RoxAnn records of the surveyed area and a Day grab will be deployed. Sediment samples will be collected from each grab and stored in the freezer. These will be analysed on return to the laboratory to determine particle size distribution in the sediment at each sample location.

eDNA Samples

Sediment and water samples will be collected to investigate feasibility of detection of flapper skate using environmental DNA shed in marine environment. Sediment samples will be collected using day grab and subsamples with be taken using sterile 50 ml falcon tubes. Water samples will be collected using reverser bottles within 5 m and at 10 m from the seabed. Collected water will be filtered through 0.8 micron filters using sterile 50 ml syringe. Sediment and filter samples will be stored at -20℃.

Operations:

Survey operations will take place between the hours of 07:00 and 19:00 (all times BST). Stations will be surveyed depending on the prevailing weather conditions i.e. if wind strengths or wave heights are adverse, a precautionary approach will be adopted and those with adequate shelter from the weather will be selected. Alternatively, in poorer weather the trawl survey may be prioritised over other activities.

The vessel will leave the study area on 29 September to allow sufficient time to travel to Troon. Unloading will occur in Troon on Monday 30 September. Scientists will disembark at this time.

Further Information:

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Rockall Haddock Survey

Mon, 2019-09-16 10:00

MRV Scotia
Survey: 1319S Programme – Rockall Haddock Survey

Duration: 14-26 September 2019

Fishing Gear:

GOV (Grand Overture Verticale) Trawl (BT 137) with ground gear D

Other Gear:

CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth)  – Seabird 19+
Van Veen Grab

Objectives:
  • Undertake a bottom trawl survey of haddock on Rockall Bank to a depth of 350 m.
  • Deploy a CTD at selected trawl stations to collect temperature and salinity profiles.
  • Collect sediment samples at selected stations.
  • Record marine litter at each trawl station for MSFD (Marine Strategy Framework Directive).
Procedure:

The primary objective of this survey is to assess the state of the haddock stock on the Rockall Plateau. The Rockall haddock survey utilises a semi-random stratified survey design comprising four depth-separated sampling strata. Sampling intensity within each of the four strata reflects the fish density observed in each of these during previous surveys.

Trawling will be carried out during the hours of daylight at randomly selected locations within the 350 m contour. Forty primary tow positions have been generated and their allocation within each depth stratum is displayed in Figure 1.

The number of primary stations within each depth strata is as follows: five stations at 0-150 m, 21 stations at 150-200 m, 10 stations at 200-250 m and four stations at 250-350 m. Scotia will undertake a trawl haul within five miles of each station position where possible or, failing that, choose an alternative.

The minimum spacing between trawl locations is set at 7nm. A further 22 secondary stations across the various strata have been generated to provide a source of additional stations and/or alternatives should any primary station prove unfishable.

Where time allows additional hauls will be conducted outside the existing strata (R1-R4) in depths between 350-500 m. This is a periodic check that is undertaken to test the current depth boundary at 350 m (see Figure 1).

One haul of 30 minutes duration will be made at each sampling station. Daily start times will vary depending on available daylight. The SCANMAR system will be used to monitor the headline height, wing spread and door spread for each haul. Bottom contact data from each trawl will also be collected using the NOAA bottom contact sensor which will be mounted on a bar in the centre of the ground-gear.

In addition to the routine sampling, biological data will be collected for target species in line with the EU data regulation.

All fish will be processed in accordance with the protocols as described in the Manual of the IBTS (International Bottom Trawl Survey) North Eastern Atlantic Surveys. Series of ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) Survey Protocols SISP 15. 92 pp. http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.3519.

During trawl downtime at night, Scotia will take sediment samples using a Van Veen Grab. The sampling positions for the grabs will be confirmed on a day to day basis and will be influenced by vessel location at the end of each trawling period.

Regular planning meetings with the fishing master and captain will take place during the survey and will be scheduled at a time that is mutually convenient to all those concerned.

Figure 1: Survey map showing stations generated for 1319S. Red stratum (R1) = 0-150 m depth, green stratum (R2) = 150-200 m, blue stratum (R3) = 200-250 m and light-blue stratum (R4) = 250-350 m. Boxes/polygons represent restricted or closed areas. Closed circles = primary haul positions, open circles = secondary haul positions. Potential station positions >350 m depth are denoted as black open circles.

Further Information:

 

The post Rockall Haddock Survey appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Half-way there! Monitoring the West Shetland Shelf

Mon, 2019-09-09 09:00
MRV Scotia

Survey: 1219S

(Times given are in Coordinated Universal Time (abbreviated to UTC), 24-hour format throughout.)

With a full complement of staff aboard, including 19 officers and crew and a team of 11 scientists from Marine Scotland Science (MSS), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the National Museum of Scotland, MRV Scotia departed Aberdeen on the morning of 26th August and made way for the West Shetland Shelf (WSS) Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (MPA) (Fig. 1). The 1219S WSS offshore monitoring survey had begun with high expectations after the discovery made during the last visit.

Figure 1: The West Shetland Shelf (WSS) Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (MPA), areas (boxes A – G) identified for sampling and location of the wet-test site.

 

Upon leaving port, a vessel familiarisation tour was conducted for those scientific staff who were new to the boat, or who hadn’t sailed in the preceding six months. An abandon ship drill was also carried out.  A ‘wet-test’ of sampling equipment was carried out between 12:30 and 15:30 on the 26th August, 25 km north of Fraserburgh (Fig. 1). This included a test of:

  1. The drop frame camera system that is being used to capture video footage and still photographs of the seabed and the marine life it supports and is fitted with an ultra-short baseline transponder (USBL) to record its location underwater with high accuracy (Fig. 2).
  2. JNCC’s new DEFRA funded Hamon grab (on its maiden voyage), which is being used to take sediment samples for characterisation of the epi- and infaunal communities and sediment type (Fig. 3).


Figure 2: Drop-camera system used on survey (left); drop-camera operations on board (top middle); digital still image of seabed (bottom middle); example output from the processed USBL data showing the position of the drop-frame and ship (top right); drop camera retrieval (bottom right).

 

 

Figure 3. JNCC’s new Hamon grab (above); grab sample processed (top right); sample processing station manned by JNCC scientists (bottom right)

Once testing was completed, transiting resumed and we arrived at survey box B in the WSS MPA (Fig 1) at 03:00 hours on the 27th August. A sound velocity profile (SVP) cast was taken (SVPs are used to calibrate the multibeam echosounder (MBES) system on board) and an MBES survey of box B began and continued until first light on the 27th. Boxes B and D are the primary targets for MBES sampling due to the coarser sediment in these areas, you can read JNCC’s blog post about MBES on 1219S here. At first light (06:00) – to allow sight of any creel marker buoys that present a snagging risk to towed gear – the drop-camera survey of stations within box B commenced and continued until 10:00 after which the MBES survey of box B resumed and continued until midnight on the 27th August.

We then transited to survey box A and undertook drop-camera sampling until 10:30 on the 28th, at which point Hamon grab sampling began and continued until midnight. Many thanks are due to MRV Scotia’s engineering crew for their work in adapting the Hamon grab; a retaining bar was installed to keep the lifting wire on the pulley as this had been slipping out while retrieving the grab. Sampling of box A was completed on the 29th August (drop-camera: 00:00 – 09:30, Hamon grab: 09:30 – 12:45).

We then set our sights on box F, arriving at 14:00 and grab sampled until 17:30 when high winds and rough seas prevented equipment from being deployed and retrieved safely. This period of downtime lasted approximately 15 hours, with grab sampling in box F resuming at 09:00 on the 30th August until midnight when grab sampling of this area was completed.

Drop-camera sampling of box F began and continued until completed at 09:00 on 31st August. Transit back to box B was made and the MBES survey here resumed at 12:30 until completed at 23:15. Note the different shape of box B presented here to that given in the survey programme: it was necessary to adapt the shape due to the presence of creels in the south of the survey box.

Drop-camera sampling of box B continued from 23:15 (31st August) to 03:30 on the 1st September when the weather worsened making the drop-camera unworkable. Transit to box D was made and MBES surveying commenced at 06:45, continuing to 10:00, when sea state affected the quality of the acoustic data to an unacceptable extent and all scientific operations ceased. The MBES survey of box D resumed at 14:00 and lasted until 21:30 on the 31st, when sea state had improved sufficiently. With conditions continuing to improve, transit back to box B to complete drop-camera and grab sampling was made, with all sampling in box B completed by 14:00 on the 2nd September.

Good progress is being made with three boxes fully completed and two others started. Despite the weather forecast, the team is optimistic the survey objectives will be achieved.

The catering staff are keeping spirits high with excellent fayre, while both the officers and deck team are making sure we are on-target, safe and entertained.

Further Information:

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Juvenile Fish Habitat

Tue, 2019-09-03 13:00

MRV Alba na Mara

Survey: 1519A Programme

Duration: 2-21 September 2019

Gear:

  • 2 x Jackson Rockhopper Trawl BT158 with 10 mm Cod end + Spare
  • Scanmar net sensors – trawl width, height, and depth (x2 units)
  • 2 fleets of fish traps
  • Fish/prawn sorting table
  • SBRUV – baited camera frames – (QTY 2)
  • 2 x Day grab, grab table

Background and Objectives:
1519A will conduct a benthic survey of juvenile gadoids within the Firth of Clyde. The primary objective of 1519A is to identify whether the availability, quality and distribution of habitat acts as a constraint on the number of juvenile fish that can grow and be recruited into the adult population. This study focusses on three gadoid species with differing habitat preferences; Atlantic cod, whiting and haddock, all of which the year-class strength appears to be established around the period of settlement to the demersal habit. The study will utilise three sampling methods: demersal tows, fish traps, and baited-camera census techniques. Data from these surveys will inform the development of species distribution models at a regional and stock scale and will also be used to compare the selectivity of the three sampling methods. Otolith based survivorship analyses will also be carried out post-survey to examine selection on settlement time and size-specific mortality. Genetic tissue will be stored and used post-survey to examine stock structure, primarily in cod. Habitat will be characterised using a combination of hydro-acoustic recordings (RoxAnn) for seabed classification and sediment grab samples.

Specific survey objectives are as follows:

  1. To collect data on juvenile gadoid abundance using three different sampling methods.
  2. To record substrate features at the point of sampling.
  3. To collect sufficient otolith samples suitable for survival analysis studies.
  4. To collect sufficient genetic material to investigate issues relating to stock structure.

Embarkation:
Scientists will join the vessel on the morning of 2 September. Weather permitting, Alba na Mara will depart on the same day, heading for the first survey site. IMPORTANT NOTE: It is essential that the wet lab freezer is completely empty before embarkation.

Survey Work:
The survey will be split into four distinct activities – demersal trawling, fish trap work, baited camera work, and a survey of the substrate – which will be performed at each station.

1. Demersal Fishing Survey
The demersal survey (30 minute tows) will assess the abundance, length-frequency-distribution, and weight-at-length of juvenile gadoids at 14 fixed stations within the Firth of Clyde (Figure 1- Trawl_Trap_Cam). Otoliths of five individuals per 1 cm size class will be retained for analysis at a later date. Occurrences of invertebrates and other fish species will be recorded and measured.

Scanmar units will be fitted to the wings and head line of the BT158 trawl to ensure the net is fishing correctly.

2. Fish Trap Survey
A fish trap survey at all demersal survey sites (Figure 1- Trawl_Trap_Cam) and within the NC MPA (Figure 1- Trap_Cam) within the Firth of Clyde will be carried out during 1519A. Traps (up to two fleets of four traps) will be deployed in the first half of the day and collected in the afternoon after a soak time of approximately six hours. Species composition and length frequency distributions of fish caught will be determined. All samples will be weighed and, where appropriate (cod, whiting, haddock), frozen. Occurrences of invertebrates and other fish species will be recorded and measured.

3. SBRUV baited cameras
In addition to demersal and fish trap survey sites (Figure 1- Trawl_Trap_Cam and Trap_Cam), stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video Camera (SBRUV) frames will be deployed in the No Take Zone (Figure 1 Cam) during daylight hours (2-3 units will be available). These will be left in the water for approximately 1.5 hrs before being retrieved. The deployment of baited cameras will happen at the same time as that of the fish traps and at distances sufficient to avoid any interaction with either the fleet ground gear or the other baited system (recommended minimum is 500 m). Footage will be downloaded to external media at the end of each working day. Species type, relative species densities (MaxN) and substrate type (assessed visually) will be classified post-survey.

4. Substrate Classification
To further aid the classification of the substrate at each sampling site, 1519A will also acquire RoxAnn records of the surveyed area and a Day grab will be deployed. Sediment samples will be collected from each grab and stored in the freezer. These will be analysed on return to the laboratory to determine particle size distribution in the sediment at each sample location.

Operations:
Survey operations will take place between the hours of 07:00 and 19:00 (all times BST). Stations will be surveyed depending on the prevailing weather conditions i.e. if wind strengths or wave heights are adverse, a precautionary approach will be adopted and those with adequate shelter from the weather will be selected. Alternatively, in poorer weather the trawl survey may be prioritised over other activities.

A half landing will be provisionally booked for a suitable port on 11 September to comply with working hours and to allow planned changes to the scientific crew.

Alba Na Mara will leave the study area in the morning of 20 September to allow sufficient time for the vessel to transit to Oban. Unloading will occur in Oban on Saturday 21 September. Scientists will disembark at this time.

Figure 1. 1519A: 2019 survey sites within the Firth of Clyde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating Merchant Navy Day

Tue, 2019-09-03 09:00

Today is Merchant Navy Day.

For those of you who may not be aware, since 2000 Merchant Navy Day has honoured the brave men and women who kept our ‘island nation’ afloat during both World Wars, and celebrated our dependence on modern day merchant seafarers who are responsible for 95% of the UK’s imports, including half the food we eat, plenty of the fuel we burn and many other products and goods.

This year we wanted to bring you a blog from one of our marine colleagues, First Officer Safety Alexis Lee. In May this year, Alexis took over as Officer in Charge for a three-week trip on one of our Marine Protection Vessels, the MPV Minna.

It’s fair to say it was an interesting three weeks….

___________________________________

I found out  early in spring that in May, I was going to be asked to step up to be Officer in Charge of the MPV Minna in May – effectively, being put on temporary promotion for three weeks and acting as Commanding Officer, or Captain, for the three- week trip.

Having worked continuously towards this goal for the past 10 years of my life, taking countless exams and spending many, many months at sea I jumped at the opportunity. MPV Minna’s Commanding Officer, Captain Andrew Sutton would be travelling to Africa to volunteer on board African Mercy, a hospital ship operating all around the continent of Africa. And that would leave me in charge of the MPV Minna.

So what does it actually mean when you are Captain? Well it means I am ultimately in charge of every operation that takes place on board the vessel. From galley to engine room to navigating on the bridge- ‘the buck stops with me.’ As captain you are available 24 hours a day on board and must be ready to deal with any eventuality. Something I would quickly appreciate within 12 hours of sailing from Glasgow.

At 0400 on my first morning at sea, I received a call from the first officer executive to inform me that Belfast Coastguard had just called the vessel via VHF radio to ask for assistance. A fishing vessel and a tanker had just collided approximately 8 miles from our position and we were the closest vessel to the incident. Extra engines were put on line and emergency preparations were commenced. We began making our way at best speed. Thankfully arriving on scene we could see the fishing vessel was still afloat with no reported injuries on board- but with some significant damage. The damage suffered by the tanker was minimal. We were thanked by the coastguard and stood down after carrying out a damage assessment of the tanker. The fishing vessel was escorted back to port by the RNLI. It was certainly not a morning I will ever forget. And we made the BBC website!

The remainder of the trip was still to present quite a few challenges. However the support I received from the officers and crew on board was unquestionable. In addition to that I am very lucky to have some great colleagues from around the fleet and ashore, including other commanding officers, who gave me some fantastic advice.
As I type this, I am now back on the MPV Minna and back to my substantive rank. My Commanding Officer is safely back from Africa and life on board has returned to normal.  I’ve had chance to look back at that first trip and reflect on my experience.

A lot has been written in the media recently on the subject of imposter syndrome- I can certainly empathise with a lot of it. Despite knowing that I was ready to take this opportunity – quite literally having it written in black and white on my master mariner’s licence, there was still that nagging fear that maybe I wasn’t good enough or ready enough to take this on. It think it is very important to acknowledge these fears, but ultimately at sea you have stamp on them and get on with the job.

As well as that I was the first female officer in charge in the history of Marine Scotland Compliance. That was very much at the forefront of my mind throughout the trip and it comes with its own pressure. Rightly or wrongly, I felt an added responsibly to do the best possible job I could. And now 6 weeks later I am very happy to say that I feel I did that. And if I am lucky enough to be asked to do it again I would not hesitate.

Alexis Lee

Further Information

 

 

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Prey Species across Smith Bank

Fri, 2019-08-30 14:49
MRV Alba na Mara

Survey: 1419A Programme

Duration: 27-30 August 2019

Locations:
  • Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited (BOWL);
  • Moray East Offshore Windfarm (MEOW);
  • Moray West Offshore Windfarm (MWOW).
Objectives Primary Objectives:
  1. Study the distribution of prey species (fish schools and zooplankton patches) across Smith Bank in relation to data available from BOWL post-construction digital aerial surveys and University of Aberdeen (UoA) Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) surveys of top predators.
  2. Compare the distribution of schooling sandeels in summer with data on their presence in the sediment from the BOWL/MEOW winter sandeel monitoring.
  3. Recover two Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) devices deployed in the BOWL area.
Secondary Objective:

Collect hydrographic data to further validate the Scottish Shelf Model (SSM) and incorporate its outputs into assessment of drivers of predator distribution.

Procedure

Alba na Mara will conduct an acoustic survey at an average speed of 8 knots along key transects between wind farm turbine rows (see Figure 2), to capture data on mid-water feeding sandeels using all available frequencies from the EK60 echo sounder.  Concurrent seabird and cetacean visual surveys will collect predator data during the transects.

Pelagic sampling for sandeels using the PT154 will normally be conducted early on in the day. Sandeel dredge tows or Day grabs will be deployed as a back-up if required.  Fishing haul positions will be chosen along the survey transects but not necessarily in the same orientation.

Plankton sampling will be conducted using the dual “bongo” net, fitted with mesh sizes of 200 and 68 µm. Collected samples will be preserved in each of: 70% alcohol, 4% formaldehyde and frozen in vital stain neutral red.

Sampling positions have been selected to cover the southern part of the BOWL area based on the survey transect lines. Three of the selected positions will be prioritised and the two remaining ones will be done if time allows. Figure 3 shows all plankton sampling positions.

The two ADCP devices will be retrieved during the survey when possible, Figure 4 shows the locations of these devices.

This survey continues the work undertaken during Alba na Mara survey 0919A.

Survey Activities During Turbine Piling Activities

The Alba na Mara will survey around any turbine piling activities should these start at the MEOW site. Alba na Mara will collect biological samples at a predetermined safe distance from piling activities. Daily contact with the MEOW operation team will ensure that the Alba can sample soon after piling events begin.

Conductivity Temperature Depth (CTD) and water sampling (seabed and mid-water) will be simultaneously undertaken at each plankton station, with data collected for the Scottish Shelf Model. See Figure 3 for locations.

Figure 2: Proposed transects for fisheries acoustic surveys (grey dots represent wind turbine locations, both built and planned).

Figure 3: Hydrographic and plankton sampling positions (grey dots represent wind turbine locations, both built and planned, cyan dots represent sampling locations from 0919A).

1419A Figure 4 ADCP locations. These will be collected during 1419A

 

Further Information:

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We’ll be back! Our Return to the West Shetland Shelf

Fri, 2019-08-30 08:00

MRV Scotia

Survey: 1219S Programme

Duration: 26 August – 11 September 2019

Introduction

The survey plan outlines the monitoring survey requirements for West Shetland Shelf (WSS) Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). WSS has been identified for monitoring survey effort following discussion between Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Marine Scotland Science (MSS), taking into account the 2019/20 JNCC MPA monitoring survey prioritisation process, (McBreen & O’Connor, 2018), the Scottish MPA Monitoring Strategy (Scottish Government, 2017) prioritisation principles and logistical considerations.

In addition to WSS, Pobie Bank Reef (PBR) Special Area of Conservation (SACs) is also considered as a contingency site but will only be visited in the case that it is not possible to survey WSS.

MPAs and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are designed to meet conservation objectives under the Marine (Scotland) Act (2010) and EC Habitats Directive (1992) respectively. These sites will contribute to an ecologically coherent network of MPAs across the north-east Atlantic, as agreed under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the north-east Atlantic, or Oslo-Paris Convention (OSPAR) and other international commitments to which the UK is signatory.

Main Objectives West Shetland Shelf:

Seven survey boxes have been positioned inside and adjacent to WSS MPA (Figure 1). For each box the priority is to:

  1. Acquire full coverage multibeam.
  2. Collect drop-camera video and stills from 25 stations (station position will be determined based on processed multibeam).
  3. Collect and process a single Hamon grab sample from a subset of the 25 stations (only stations deemed suitable for grab sampling will be revisited with the Hamon grab).
  4. Increase replication at drop-camera transects (four additional camera transects) and grab samples (two additional grabs) at a subset of one drop camera stations and three grab stations.
Pobie Bank Reef (Contingency Survey Site):
  1. Acquire multibeam.
  2. Collect drop-camera video and stills from selected stations.
  3. Collect and process a single Hamon grab sample from selected stations.
Secondary Objectives:
  1. Collect additional drop-camera video and stills and/or Hamon grab samples to ground-truth the multibeam data.
  2. Collect Hamon grab samples for the purpose of DNA analysis.
  3. Collect Van Veen grab samples at a subset of Hamon grab stations for the purposes of a gear comparison study.
General

The survey will be undertaken from the MRV Scotia with 16 days at sea. Two 12-hour shifts will be used to cover each 24 hour period. The night shift (00:00-12:00) will primarily be used for drop-camera sampling and the day shift (12:00-00:00) will primarily be used for grab sampling and multibeam acquisition. However, both shifts will be capable of using the multibeam and grabbing gear if necessary.

Due to the large area and depth range of WSS (4,083 km2 and 70-150 m, respectively) the site will be monitored using a nested box approach, to make the best use of the survey time available, and to increase the power to detect change within each survey box. The seven boxes are labeled A-G (A being the highest priority and G lowest priority) and have been positioned inside and outside WSS, each box has dimensions of 5 x 10 km (see figure 1).

Following main survey objectives for WSS, each box will initially be sampled to acquire 100% multibeam (bathymetry and backscatter). Bathymetry and backscatter data will be processed while at sea and the outputs used to target sampling stations.

Sampling Stations

All sampling stations will be visited to acquire 150 m (~15 minute) drop-camera tows. At a subset of one station per survey box drop-camera tow replication will be increased.

At these increased replication stations, the vessel will move 10 m perpendicular to the direction of the first transect, and complete a shorter 50 m (five minute) tow and repeat this process until there are five approximately parallel transects (i.e. as parallel as is possible bearing in mind logistical constraints in terms of maintaining desired direction of travel along the five parallel transects due to potential changes in conditions (e.g. tidal direction and prevailing weather)).

These increased replication drop-frame camera stations will consist of five transects of 50 m length (the video from the single 150 m transect will be truncated post survey) placed within a 50 m radius bullring surrounding the station.

Video collected at each station will be assessed for suitability for grab sampling. A subset of stations which are deemed suitable will be revisited to collect a single Hamon grab sample. A further subset of three stations per survey box will be increased replication stations. At these stations a total of three replicate Hamon grab samples will be collected. Hamon grab samples must have a volume of 5 L or more to be considered valid for monitoring. Up to three attempts will be made to acquire a valid sample for each grab replicate.

A sub sample for particle size analysis will be taken from each grab sample, and the remaining sample will be processed using 1 mm sieves and fixed in formalin solution.

Pobie Bank Reef SAC is a contingency site. If this site is surveyed a similar sequence of multibeam acquisition, drop-camera transects, and Hamon grab samples will be followed.

At both sites additional grab and camera stations may be planned to address the secondary objectives.

Further Information:

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Scotia’s Hunt for Organic Carbon

Wed, 2019-08-21 14:22

I am a second-year PhD student at the University of St Andrews and was recently very fortunate to be one of the research scientists aboard the Scotia 1019S survey that took us across Scotland’s seas at the end of July. Following an unpredictable summer, we weren’t sure of what to expect weather-wise at sea. However, we needn’t have worried, we were treated to clear blue skies and calm seas for most of the 10 days!

The researchers on board all had the common goal of improving our understanding of how organic carbon is cycled and stored within the marine environment and this was done via sampling the seabed and water column.

My PhD research is focussed on understanding the spatial distribution of organic carbon within seabed sediments on the Scottish Continental Shelf. It is understood that the seabed is a long-term store of organic carbon (that originated from the atmosphere as carbon dioxide), however there are gaps in our knowledge of more specifically where this carbon is found. Understanding the oceans’ role in storing carbon is important when considering this environment in terms of climate mitigation strategies.

I had two main aims for this data collection opportunity aboard Scotia. The first was to sample the seabed over as large a spatial range as possible. My project aims to generate a spatial inventory of organic carbon on Scotland’s Continental Shelf to build a picture of where carbon hotspots might exist.

As I am interested in the surface seabed, I used a Day Grab, which is lowered to the seafloor and triggered, to collect a large ‘scoop’ of sediment. Over the course of the cruise, I was able to collect over 130 grab samples from different locations on the shelf which I will analyse in the lab. This dataset will form a key part of my research to map the spatial distribution of organic carbon on the shelf.

The second objective was to test a novel mapping method using multibeam backscatter data (acoustic data) to predict where organic carbon is stored. The seabed is a challenging environment to sample because we can’t ‘see’ it unless we employ some form of technology. Multibeam echosounders are used to map seabed substrates because of the relationships between how sediments reflect sound. If we can use sound to identify muddy sediments, we might be able to predict that these areas will also be enriched in organic carbon. To test this theory, I ground-truthed a multibeam dataset from the Moray Firth on the east coast of Scotland by collecting multiple surface grabs. I also collected larger, and deeper seabed samples using a box core in different sediment types to understand relationships between sediment type and organic carbon with depth. In the lab, I will analyse this sediment to characterise its physical properties and organic carbon content. This information will be used to understand the links between sediment type, acoustic backscatter data and organic carbon.

Mapping carbon hotspots in seabed sediments is the first stage in building a marine carbon inventory and acknowledging seabed sediments in their role as long-term carbon stores and natural capital assets.

By Corallie Hunt

Further Information:

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Nephrops on the East Coast – An Update

Tue, 2019-08-20 14:35

MRV Alba na Mara Programme

Survey 1319A

Duration: 8-24 August 2019

The annual Alba na Mara East Coast Nephrops Underwater TV survey returns once again.  A very busy week has been spent in the Firth of Forth working under challenging conditions at times, but despite 40kt easterly gales plenty of headway was made with the planned stations.  Poor water visibility, which was down to a mix of tide, commercial fishing operations, marine traffic stirring up the sea bed as well as increased fresh river water input from recent heavy rain, meant additional stations were undertaken where necessary.

Fishing operations were undertaken within each sediment type of the Forth.  A range of biological and morphometric data was collected from each Nephrop caught.

The next week will be spent in the Moray Firth where the survey will continue to obtain estimates of the distribution and abundance of Nephrops burrows using towed underwater camera systems.

Further Information:

 

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Coring the Scotia on-board the Scotia

Fri, 2019-08-16 10:00

Charting a course to the Scanner SAC

It is 0300 in the morning and the MRV Scotia is steaming to the eastern section of the Fladen ground, in the central North Sea. We have received the go-ahead to run a short survey over the giant Scanner and Scotia pockmark complexes. These large conical shaped depressions found occasionally in the North Sea and on the seabed around western Scotland form through the release of gas produced within organic rich sediments or deeper hydrocarbon stores. They represent an important pathway for the cycling of carbon from the seabed to the ocean – sometimes known as ‘blue carbon’. These particular pockmarks are some of the largest within Europe and have been sporadically studied, since being discovered in 1983. But are they still actively releasing gas? This region has been designated by the European Commission as a Special Area of Conservation due to these gas seepage structures, of unknown age, and the presence of rare Methane Derived Authigenic Carbonate (MDAC). Very few marine sites are recognised at this level on the basis of their geological significance.

The ship carefully cruises over the Scanner pockmark at half speed, five knots. Within one of the containers on the hangar deck that serves as our lab, we observe the precise shape of the seabed.  The screen shows live data from the ship’s single-beam echosounder – acoustic reflections from the seabed and within the water column. Typically these include fish, clouds of plankton, turbulence from the ships thrusters, and bubble plumes. The Scanner pockmark looms into view, its profile clearly visible as a pronounced depression on the seabed – but there is no trace of any unusual acoustic signals within the water column, no sign of any gas. As the ship maintains its course north towards Scotia pockmark, over the flat ground of the North Sea, tension grows as I eagerly hope for any signs of activity. The data on the screen moves painfully slowly – each second seemingly longer than the last. Then the depths begin to increase. One hundred and fifty metres, one hundred and fifty one, one hundred and fifty two – this must be Scotia. And there, projecting like an ‘acoustic pillar’ on the seabed, is the clear signature that can only be associated with gas erupting from the seabed. A 50-m high, flame-shaped cone on the echogram, like nothing else we had seen on the cruise, originating from the pockmark. “That’s it. It has to be. It’s gas. It’s still active!” I exclaim. “Are you seeing this?!”, Tom Bradwell, my supervisor, says as he comes smiling into the lab – having just watched the same footage from the bridge. We take a few more phone pictures of the plume and do some celebratory backslapping before the hard work begins.

Image from the ER60 echosounder showing the plume of gas from Scotia

We have been given permission to sample the seabed within the Scotia pockmark, onboard the MRV Scotia, providing we do not disturb any of the rare MDACs. First we lower the CTD on a cable to measure the physical properties of the seawater five metres above the pockmark and collect a sample – to be later analysed for methane content. Then we carefully lower a multi-corer rig with a HD video camera and lights attached. The beaming light slowly descends into the darkness of the sea. Its eerie glow like the lights of captain Nemo’s Nautilus in 20,000 leagues under the sea. Once safely recovered, we excitedly look at the footage. The video shows no MDAC within this locality, and no clear signs of bubbles, but there seem to be unusually strong bottom currents as sediment particles flow hypnotically across the screen. With no signs of precious MDAC, the gravity corer is prepared and dropped in exactly the same location – using the ship’s precise dynamic positioning thrusters to full effect. The gravity corer, a 3-m long metal pipe with a lead weight, weighing over a tonne, collects a sediment core from the deepest part of Scotia pockmark. As it is brought back on deck, I immediately remove the core liner to see what has been collected. The muddy sediment is dense, sticky and yet doesn’t really smell; I would have expected a gas-rich core to smell sulphurous or eggy. We cap the core, measure its length and store it away. The Scotia does a second pass with the echosounder, this time perpendicular to the previous track. The results again show a clear gas flare billowing from the centre of the pockmark. There is no doubt that the Scotia pockmark is actively venting gas! It remains to be seen what the sediment core will show.

The lights of the multi-corer being lowered into the sea

Before the cruise, we knew that these giant pockmarks existed, we had their exact coordinates – and yet tonight’s discovery of active venting feels like a real discovery – real exploratory science. I’m sure that this late-night experience will stay with me, echoing throughout my PhD research and perhaps beyond. It’s this deep sense of exploration and adventure miles out at sea that is pushing me further into my academic research in the search for answers. What is the history and formation mechanism of the giant Scotia pockmark and others like it? How much gas does it produce and what is its fate? And how does it impact life on the seafloor? Answering these questions will shed light on the complex carbon cycling process currently ongoing from seafloor to ocean and atmosphere. Until then, I would like to thank the crew of the MRV Scotia, my colleagues on the ‘Blue Carbon 2019’ cruise and Marine Scotland for making such an endeavour possible.

by Allan Audsley

Further Information:

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Vacancy: Mechanical Engineer, closing date 16 September

Wed, 2019-08-14 10:00

We are currently seeking applications for a Mechanical Engineer within the Directorate for Marine Scotland 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 Engineering Group would like to employ a B1 Mechanical Engineer in a business critical service area of Marine Scotland Science. This will allow us to continue to deliver the group’s objectives and the support provided to MSS in areas of work including:

  • Management of Marine Protected Area conservation objectives;
  • Fulfil our EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive requirements for Descriptors 1 and 6;
  • Renewables installation and interaction with the marine environment;
  • Commercial fish stock assessments; and
  • Consequences of oil and gas infrastructure decommissioning.
Qualifications Required:

Candidates must hold a Mechanical Engineering qualification or equivalent.

Other qualifications equivalent to these may also be acceptable, if you are in any doubt please contact to discuss.

Please note: If you fail to demonstrate how you meet the minimum qualifications as stated above, your application will be automatically sifted out.

Essential Criteria:
  1. Proven, practical, time-served workshop experience in Mechanical Engineering
  2. Candidates should have proven experience in working effectively within a team of mechanical engineers, with the capacity to work independently in the workshop if required
  3. Demonstrate familiarity with all aspects of a Mechanical Engineering facility, including use of machine tools, welding, fabrication and basic materials technology.
  4. Effective communication at all levels
Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find 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 Neil Collie who can be reached at neil.collie@gov.scot or 0131 244 3669 or Brian Ritchie at brian.ritchie@gov.scot or 0131 244 2866.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact the Resourcing Team on 0131 244 5739 or via recruitment@gov.scot.

Further information for this job:

Person Specification and Further Information for Applicants

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