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Updated: 16 min 15 sec ago

Multi-tasking with the Scotia

6 hours 43 min ago

MRV Scotia left Aberdeen on 3rd June 2018 to begin survey 0818S – the ‘Annual Nephrops Underwater TV Survey’ (UWTV) – covering Fladen (North Sea), the North and South Minches, the Clyde, and the Sound of Jura. TV operations went well during the first day until the sea state worsened so the survey was halted until early on the 5th.

When the weather improved, the survey continued at a good pace, in calm but overcast conditions, working to the far north of Fladen before heading south along the west side of Fladen until the 8th. Later on the 8th an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) was deployed in the west side of Fladen followed by two UWTV stations before heading west to catch the tide at the Pentland Firth. This left eight stations remaining for the return leg of the journey.  Areas to be surveyed during the Nephrops burrow abundance

Very early on the morning of the 10th the vessel began working in the North Minch. The first task was to recover a mooring off Tolsta Head and then deploy a replacement unit. This mooring was one of seven to be collected during this cruise as part of the COMPASS programme. The moorings have been in place for a number of months and record the sounds made by passing cetaceans.

After acoustically releasing the buoys the device was easily spotted in the calm conditions and then safely brought onto deck. The replacement device, which was previously prepared, was then released at the same site. Once completed the UWTV survey continued south, where squat lobsters, fish and rocks were more frequently observed than had been in Fladen. A second COMPASS mooring was recovered and replaced off the Shiant Islands followed by the third off Hyskier in the east of the South Minch.

Figure 2 COMPASS mooring locations for underwater TV (UWTV) survey 0818SThe UWTV survey continued south throughout the 11th working towards Stanton Banks, accompanied by the occasional pod of dolphins. Generally the visibility observed from the camera has been exceptionally good providing excellent data for the primary purpose of this cruise – to observe and count the number of complexes created by Nephrops. In addition many prawns have been seen on the seabed, along with haddock, sea pens, dogfish, hermit crabs, squat lobsters and the ubiquitous hagfish!



Further Information:

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Benthic Biotopes in Barra

Mon, 2018-06-11 11:30

Survey: 0818A

Duration: 8 – 14 June 2018


  • Seatronics drop frame (to be loaded 05.06.18) – SNH hire
  • Seatronics lights (to be loaded 05.06.18) – SNH hire
  • HD TV system + lights (5 plastic cages)
  • Armoured cable + spare + axle stands & bar
  • Day grab + table + 2 x sieve drawers

Background and Objectives:

Survey 0818A serves work carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland Science investigating the distribution and quality of benthic biotopes in inshore waters around Scotland. The resultant data are required to underpin the management of the new suite of Marine Protected Areas (MPA), to meet commitments prescribed by the Scottish MPA Monitoring Strategy, and to identify Priority Marine Features (PMFs) outside the Scottish MPAs network. The 0818A survey aims in particular to establish the current status of benthic habitats within the Sound of Barra Special Area of Conservation (SAC), adding upon survey work conducted during 0717A.

  1. To establish the current status of benthic habitat protected features within the Sound of Barra SAC, or contingency sites, using quantitative drop-camera sampling and grab methods.
  2. To collect seabed samples using the day grab for sediment size classification and for infaunal analysis. Collected infaunal samples will be stored in 4% formalin.

Benthic Survey:

0818A will conduct a benthic survey of the seabed at various sites within the Sound of Barra. This survey will utilise the Alba’s standard drop-camera system and umbilical winch deployed from the aft of the vessel. The camera system will be fitted with two line lasers to allow species densities to be estimated. A subset of the survey boxes shown (Fig. 1) will be surveyed during 0818A, time allowing. The camera frame will be landed at regular intervals during 10-40 min video tows to allow still photographs to be taken. Shorter five minute video tows will be collected from stations across the Sound of Barra SAC to fill remaining gaps in the seabed biotope map. Species type, density and substrate type (assessed visually) will be classified for each video transect post-survey.  Grab samples will be collected using a standard day grab and will be processed on deck using a 1mm sieve prior to their storage in formalin.Figure 1 Sound of Barra SAC sampling boxes 0818A

Contingency sites:Figure 2 Possible Contingency survey areas 0818A

Alternative survey sites in the event of poor weather at Barra Sound have been identified at a variety of locations all along the Scottish west coast, and can be chosen depending on weather conditions (Fig. 2), e.g around the Sound of Mull, Wester Ross, the Inner Sound and the Sound of Jura. Additional areas where ‘gap filling’ work could usefully improve the existing knowledge-base have also been identified to the east of Skye (which may also serve as contingency en route from Wester Ross).


Further Information:


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What does one ware when you go to Arrochar?

Fri, 2018-06-08 09:00

AVolunteers at Arrochar in May 2018t the end of the last week in May, we – with help from a HUGE number of others including staff and volunteers from The GRAB Trust, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority, Luss Estates, Marine Conservation Society, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Argyll and Bute Council, Zero Waste Scotland and the local community council – organised a big beach clean at Arrochar. Why specifically Arrochar?

Well, Arrochar’s position at the head of Loch Long means that during the winter months especially, large volumes of dead seaweed (sometimes called “wrack” or “ware”) accumulate on the foreshore. In the past this was viewed as a bonus for the area as the seaweed was removed and used on fields and gardens as fertiliser. This was a wide spread practice in Scotland, and some coastal villages have a “Ware Road” to this day.

However since the 1950s, plastic has started to become used daily around the globe and it is estimated that we make over 400 million tonnes each year. Of this, about 2 to 5% enters the sea, through bad management of our waste. The presence of this plastic waste in our seas means that the “ware” on Arrochar foreshore is

now completely mixed with pieces of plastic, from large items like buckets and shoes to almost invisibly small pieces, broken down from larger items such as plastic bags and bottles. This mix is now a problem to the local community, not a resource because it cannot be used as fertiliser any longer, and to date there is no known way of separating out the seaweed from the litter.

The beach clean is just the beginning of the fight to tackle this litter issue but by the end of 4 days, 185 tonnes of mixed seaweed/litter were mechanically lifted and taken to landfill and 142 volunteers hand- picked 244 bags of rubbish which were taken in 4 trucks to landfill.Arrochar May 2018 - Day 3 - Rubbish pile

So, on this World Oceans Day, it’s time think about what you can do to help. Where do you put your cotton wool buds? Do you take your litter home from the beach…? And if you want to get involved, why not volunteer for a beach clean? The Marine Conservation Society have got lots of suggestions for ways you can get involved and many Local Authorities also organise beach cleans.

Further Information 


A massive additional thanks to all of the volunteers from:

And Jackie Baillie MSP!

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Celebrating the Year of the Engineer – Meet Matt Kinghorn

Tue, 2018-06-05 10:00

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.

This month we’ve got something very special and a little different for you, courtesy of our net store engineering colleague and resident poet, Matt (on the right hand side of the photo).

Matt Kinghorn

The shutter door rolls up, the lads are ready,

Their minds are focused, their hands are steady.


Lockers swing open, they pull on their boiler suits,

They grab their knives and needles and lace up their safety boots.


A fishing net in tatters strung up between the winches,

The lads exchange a laugh, not a single one flinches.


Another day on their feet, pulling and bending,

While expert hands are quickly mending.


Pittodrie discussed and stories fondly shared,

As section by section the net is swiftly repaired.


The phone rings, a wire has parted on the boat,

The lads grab their tools, their sandwich and their coat.


The rain is relentless, the wind is strong,

But with surgical precision the splice doesn’t take long.


Back at the lab, the dredges are in a mess,

Soon though they are sorted without fuss or any stress.


The inbox pings, “I need a million moorings from a million coils of rope”,

The lads just rub their hands, they know they’re going to cope.


No break-ups, no affairs, no politics, no lies,

The shutter rolls down, they trade sincere goodbyes.


Four friends who happen to work together, nothing more,

On Victoria Road in the Marine Lab Net Store.

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Mackerel and Eggs on the Altaire

Tue, 2018-05-29 11:10

MFV Altaire departed Ullapool at 1400hrs on the 22nd May to begin survey 0118H.

Onboard during this exploratory mackerel egg survey we have an international scientific complement including scientists from: Scotland, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands.

Flowmeter calibration deployments were completed successfully in the Minch, west of Melvaig, and the Altaire is now proceeding to the first sample station on SW Rockall Bank. Sampling using the Gulf VII plankton sampler will then proceed in a westerly direction on the same latitude and with a spacing of one degree longitude.

Conditions are perfect with a 5 knot SW breeze.

Further Information:

Rockall and Mackerel – Survey 0118H Programme

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Rockall and Mackerel

Mon, 2018-05-28 10:00

Survey: 0118H MFV Altaire

Duration: 22 May – 6 June 2018

Fishing/Sampling Gear: Gulf VII plankton sampler


  • To carry out standalone mackerel egg survey, on the western shelf and slope in the area from 52o N to 59o N (see Figure 1).
  • Opportunistic trawling for adult mackerel samples; for exploratory ovary analysis.


After completing flow-meter calibrations the vessel will proceed through the Minch then west towards the southern end of Rockall Bank (see Figure 1 below). The first plankton station is at 55o 45N 15o45W and thereafter sampling will continue on a westerly heading on the same latitude and with a station spacing of one degree longitude until at least 24o45W.

Similar transects will be undertaken northwards and with a spacing of one degree latitude up to and including 62o45N; which will be the final transect. Depending on the progress made during the survey additional stations, located west of Iceland, will also be completed. This decision will be taken in conjunction with the Master of the vessel, during the survey.

Plankton stations will be sampled using the Gulf VII sampler with mounted CTD; which will record salinity and temperature during the tow. The plankton tows will require the vessel to deploy the sampler at a speed of four knots. The sampler will then be lowered at a steady rate (10 seconds/metre) from the plankton crane to a maximum depth of 100 m. The sampler will then be recovered at the same speed and rate.

Once aboard plankton samples will be washed from the sampler net, fixed in formalin, sorted, and subsequently scored for egg abundance. Trawl samples may be taken at the discretion of the scientist in charge.Map showing surveyFigure 1 0118H AltaireMap showing survey coverage for survey 0118H

Figure 1: Map showing survey coverage for survey 0118H. Provisional cruise track denoted as solid red line. The proposed sample locations are denoted by red dots on the cruise track.

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Pipelines, Camera, Action

Fri, 2018-05-25 10:00

Survey: 0718S

Duration: 18- 31 May 2018


  • Day grabs
  • TV drop frame with lasers
  • Aarmoured cable
  • Multibeam echosounder system
  • EK 60
  • Conductivity, Pressure & Depth (CTD) device
  • Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (VM-ADCP)
  • Fish cages
  • PT160 (trawl)


  1. To assess the hydrographic influences on the aggregation of fish around surface laid oil and gas pipelines.
  2. To assess the handling and performance of a benthic time lapse camera.


Before making passage to the pipeline stations, MRV Scotia will need to calibrate the EK60 and MBES in Scapa Flow.  The nature of the survey work will be heavily dependent on the prevailing weather conditions encountered.

The survey techniques are no different to previous surveys conducted by Marine Scotland Science (MSS) using Scotia albeit on a more localised scale.  The proposed survey is based on two parts:

  • The deployment and recovery of a time lapse camera for the duration of the survey; and
  • The collection of hydrographic and fisheries acoustic data over 12 or 24 hour periods from several pipeline stations.

Time Lapse Camera

The time lapse camera will be placed on the seabed at the beginning of the survey in the vicinity of the pipeline stations and surface marked with a buoy (Site 9 Figure 2). On completion of the survey the camera will be recovered.Figure 2 Site locations for 0718S

Multibeam Bathymetry

A sound velocity profile (SVP) will be collected 500 m outside of the survey location. On completion of the SVP, MRV Scotia will complete a multibeam swathe along the length of the targeted pipeline.  Survey speed will be 4 knots.  The output will be checked for any anomalous features that could interact with other survey equipment.  If features are identified, MRV Scotia will relocate in the immediate area and repeat the multibeam swathe along the pipeline until a suitable length of pipeline is identified.

Trawling and Fish Cages

Trawling using the PT160 may be required to catch fish needed to bait the fish cages. Cages will be deployed at the mid-point and the end-point of one transect.  They will remain in-situ until the EK60 survey is completed.  Trawling with the PT160 along, but clear of, the pipeline and end transect will be conducted after the recovery of the fish cages.

EK60, CTD, VM-ADCP, Multibeam Through Water Column and Seabed Video Footage

The collection of fisheries acoustic data will involve two parallel transects 5 km in length and 1 km apart running perpendicular to a pipeline (Figure 1). Showing a schematic diagram of the survey design for collecting fisheries acoustic data, VM-ADCP data and CTD data over a 24 hour period

Survey speeds during use of the EK60 will be a maximum of 8 knots while VM-ADCP and multibeam data will be collected at 5 knots. Each of the techniques will be collected independently due to potential interference between the different pieces of equipment.

CTD measurements will be made every three hours at the ends and centre point of a transect. Water samples will also be collected for chlorophyll, salinity and nutrients using the vessel’s non-toxic water supply and reversing bottles attached to the CTD.

Multibeam transects will be run along the pipeline to collect through water column data for assessing the dimensions of fish aggregations.

Video footage using a drop-frame camera will be collected from the top, middle and bottom stations for each transect. The multibeam data will be assessed to identify changes in the seabed substrate.  The substrates will be ground-truthed using a drop-frame camera.  The drop-frame will be deployed 500 m from the pipeline off the stern of the vessel using an armoured cable.  The drop-frame will be kept at 1.5 m above the seabed/pipeline and towed using the vessel’s bow thrusters at a speed of 1 knot or less (0.5 m per second) on a course perpendicular to the pipeline.  Video capability on the drop-frame will be vertically mounted.






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GDPR  – a change to data protection law

Thu, 2018-05-24 15:59

The General Data Protection Regulations comes into force on May 25, 2018, giving individuals more control over their personal data, and ensuring that organisations collect and process that information properly and securely. To find out more about GDPR, visit the Information Commissioner’s website.

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To find out more about how we handle your personal data, please read our updated privacy policy.

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Celebrating Science and Year of the Young Person with Dr Campbell Pert

Thu, 2018-05-24 10:00

Campbell PertAs we mentioned in one of our earlier blogs, 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.

This is Campbell, our key parasitologist. What’s one of them? Keep reading!

When he’s not at sea on a research vessel taking part in our busy schedule of surveys, or bobbing around Stonehaven on our catamaran, the Temora, taking water samples, he’s showing children his weird and whacky collection of beastie specimens!

What’s your career path been – how did you get here?
I have always been intrigued by fish and the aquatic environment as I grew up close to the river Spey in Moray and was at the riverside literally everyday either fishing or walking the dog and watching the wildlife. After leaving school I went to Aberdeen University and completed an honours degree in Aquaculture before joining Skretting in Invergordon in 1998 as a quality assurance lab technician (they manufacture fish feed for the trout and salmon aquaculture industries).

However, after 2 years looking at fish pellets, I decided I need a bigger challenge and spotted an advert in New Scientist for a job at the Fisheries Research Services (now Marine Scotland Science) as an assistant site manager for a research aquarium site at Aultbea on the west coast (now since closed). My main responsibility was to ensure the health and welfare of the fish kept there (salmon, 3 species of trout, char, cod, haddock, saithe, lemon sole and halibut to name but a few!) and to assist in the design and running of experiments by visiting scientists and students.

During this time I also met my now wife who worked in the field of sea lice, a marine ectoparasite of salmon and trout, and an area I was very much interested in. As my wife was nearing the end of her PhD it was clear there were no job opportunities for her on the west coast so I started looking for jobs in Aberdeen and was lucky when the Parasitologist role became available. Initially, much of the work was looking at the parasites of cod and haddock, thought to be the next big species in aquaculture, but I have been working heavily in the area of sea lice since 2005.

What made you decide to be involved in Outreach?
While carrying out my honours thesis I was lucky enough to get a placement at the lab with Dr Tim Bowden and Dr Ian Bricknell with input from the late, great Dr Tony Ellis. All these scientists took considerable time and effort to supervise and coach me in fish immunology, an area totally new to me, but one I enjoyed and resulted in a very good thesis mark. The Marine Lab also supported me in doing my PhD on a part-time basis, between 2003 and 2011 and as such, I feel it is almost the duty of any scientist to pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation and allow them to develop their own areas of interest and investigate the wonder that is the aquatic environment.

What do you enjoy most about doing Outreach?
For me personally it is showing the work that my colleagues and I do to young people, most of whom have no idea about the types of work carried out by scientists in Marine Scotland. Also, I enjoy fielding questions and allowing them the wonder of seeing what life exists in even small amounts of seawater, or the looks of delighted disgust when I bring along my selection of fish parasites for them to examine under microscopes!

Would you encourage others to get involved in Outreach too?
Very much so as Outreach is rewarding on so many levels as not only do young people enjoy seeing the work we do but nothing is as rewarding as doing outreach work and receiving thank you messages just for taking the time to show them what it is you actually do. Unfortunately, I am also becoming old enough that some young people I have presented my work to at Outreach events have actually been to university and are now here at the lab – it must have been something I said!

Further Information

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Offshore Energy and Marine Spatial Planning Book

Wed, 2018-05-23 10:00

The generation of offshore energy is a rapidly growing sector internationally. Its expansion means competing for space in an already busy seascape, and as it develops it will have many potential impacts on established patterns of sea use, rights of access, and social and cultural value systems.

Effective marine management not only needs to balance the often-competing demands of existing and emerging uses, but also maintain the underlying capacity of the marine environment that supports them. To help mediate conflict, balance multiple objectives and move towards more sustainable decision-making, marine spatial planning (MSP) has emerged as the main tool – and Marine Scotland’s expertise has shared internationally with a book by the major academic publisher, Routledge. The book brings together the ecological, economic, and social implications of spatial conflict and covering all energy-generation types (wind, wave, tidal, oil, and gas), it explores the direct and indirect impacts the growth of offshore energy generation has on both the marine environment and the existing uses of marine space.

As the national authority for both offshore renewable energy and marine planning, Marine Scotland created the first statutory National Marine Plan in March 2015 and plans for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy in Scottish waters have been developed to explore how offshore renewable energy sources can contribute to meeting Scotland’s target of generating the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand from renewable sources. When approached by the authors of the book, Marine Scotland scientists Andronikos Kafas and Ian Davies were happy to share their experiences and provide scientific support on the subject of marine and sectoral planning.

Chapters of the book explore the main issues associated with offshore energy, and Marine Scotland were specifically involved in the chapter on the displacement of existing activities and the negative impacts it can have on marine species and ecosystems.

Other chapters discuss how the growth of offshore energy generation presents new opportunities for collaboration and co-location with other sectors such as the co-location of wild-capture fisheries and wind farms. The book integrates these issues and opportunities, and demonstrates the importance of holistic marine spatial planning for optimising the location of offshore energy-generation sites.

It also highlights the importance of stakeholder engagement in these planning processes and the role of integrated governance, with illustrative case studies from the United States, United Kingdom, northern Europe, and the Mediterranean. It also discusses trade-off analysis and decision theory and provides a range of tools and best practices to inform future planning processes.

You can access the book preview online, and more information is available online.


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Sunbeam Surveys going Swimmingly

Mon, 2018-05-21 10:00

Scientists from Marine Scotland Science (MSS) have recently been operating on Fraserburgh pelagic trawler Sunbeam (FR 487) to survey salmon smolts at various points on the Scottish east coast. Operating in the Moray Firth, Firths of Forth and Tay, MSS used a specially designed net for sampling very close to the surface.

The net incorporates video recording capability and checks for Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags on fish, which are essentially barcodes that give reliable data on specific animal movement. The net can be operated either open-ended, with no fish retained, or with a small cod end, to retain fish for genetic assignment to regions and in some cases rivers of origin. The survey went well and in accordance with the full programme designed for survey 0718H.

Further Information:

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New Scientific Advisor for Government

Fri, 2018-05-18 10:55

Our scientific work is at the heart of what we do and to reflect this, we have made some changes to our Senior Management and created the new post of a Chief Scientific Advisor for Marine (CSAM).

OCSAM Prof Colin MoffatWe are delighted that our former Head of Science, Professor Colin Moffat, has taken up that new post and his section, the Office of the Chief Scientific Advisor Marine (OCSAM), will provide independent science advice to inform our work across all policy areas; to champion the use of evidence to inform policy development and delivery; to act as an advocate, inside and outside Government, for Scotland’s research base.

Professor Moffat will work closely with the other Chief Scientific Advisors within the Scottish Government, the Heads of Analysis and others in associated organisations such as:

  • Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH);
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA);
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC);
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA);
  • Natural Resources Wales (NRW); and
  • Northern Ireland Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

He will also look to develop active links within the research community in the UK, using the networks already established through the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS).
Speaking about the change Professor Moffat said: “I’m very excited about this role and look forward to engaging in a wide range of collaborative opportunities within the marine science community not only in Scotland, but around the rest of the UK and internationally. In addition, the other members of the OCSAM team will help us to ensure the continuing integrity of our evidence and data.

As previously announced on Twitter, the former Head of Science post is now Head of Marine Laboratories and Dr Ian Davies has taken up that role on an interim basis.

Further Information:

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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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