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Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Marine Scotland Photos - Wed, 2022-09-21 14:17

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Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Marine Scotland Photos - Wed, 2022-09-21 14:17

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Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Marine Scotland Photos - Wed, 2022-09-21 14:17

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Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Marine Scotland Photos - Wed, 2022-09-21 14:17

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Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Hopeman beach, near Elgin, Scotland. Picture by L.M. Cruickshank. Crown Copyright

Responsible wildlife watching around seals

Marine Scotland Blog - Tue, 2022-08-30 11:58

Scotland is well known for our diverse flora and fauna, both on land and in the sea. Some of the most iconic species seen around our coasts are seals. Scotland is home to a population of approximately 121,000 grey seals and 27,000 harbour (common) seals.

Haul out sites are where seals come out of the water to rest, moult, breed, and to have pups. Seals that are hauled out may be particularly sensitive to approach by humans whether from the land, sea or air and therefore caution is required in such circumstances.

Grey seal cow and pup. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Grey seal cow and pup. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Section 117 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 provides Scottish Ministers with the power to designate seal haul out sites. Following work between Marine Scotland and the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews a number of sites were identified. A map of all 195 locations can be found here.

Under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 it is an offence to intentionally, or recklessly harass a seal at a designated haul out site. Marine Scotland has produced guidance which includes examples of actions that might constitute harassment and information on behaving responsibly around seal haul outs.

Karen Hall, NatureScot Marine Ecology Advisor comments:

“We all love to watch wildlife, but we also need to protect it. We’re asking people to stay well clear of the seal haul out sites. At this time of year, harbour seals are just finishing their moult and grey seals will shortly begin pupping, so it’s a sensitive time for both species. Watching from a distance minimises disturbance and can give great views of natural behaviour.”

Seal behaviour

Seals rest on land to conserve energy, or for females to nurse their young. This is also time when the seals can regulate their temperature while they moult, either due to pups growing in their adult fur, or the annual moult of adults. Regulating temperature in water and swimming all expends energy. When forced to enter the water to avoid a perceived threat, seals are stressed and use additional energy. It is also a danger to new pups that may be injured or killed by adults in large groups that rush into the water.

Colony of harbour seals in Millport Bay - Picture courtesy of Jack Lucas. Crown Copyright

Colony of harbour seals in Millport Bay – Picture courtesy of Jack Lucas. Crown Copyright

There are some body language cues that can let you know if you are at risk of disturbing seals. They have a three-stage response to perceived threats:

  1. heads-up – the seals raise their heads and watch your location and approach. If you see this behaviour, you should back away and/or change your method and speed of approach.
  2. movement – the seals will start to shift around and appear agitated. If they were laying on their sides they may move to their stomachs to allow them to retreat. If you notice this behaviour you need to back off from the seals so you do not cause the third stage of the response.
  3. stampede – the seals will quickly retreat from land to the water to escape. This puts the seals at risk of injury as well as any pups that are amongst them.

The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code (SMWWC) provides recommendations and advice on responsible wildlife watching. Some helpful tips include:

  • look up the site you intend visiting for any local wildlife management information and follow their guidance
  • be aware of the local pupping seasons – avoid visiting breeding sites during these periods
  • keep your distance and keep dogs away as they can cause a stampede response
  • do not try to touch or feed seals, they can move surprisingly fast and as cute as they may appear they are predators and are known to bite
  • never separate pups from mothers as this leads to stress for both and risks abandonment by the mother
  • leave lone pups alone – the mother may only be foraging for food
  • signs that a pup may have been abandoned can be found on the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) website
  • don’t crowd or encircle seals and do not stand between them and an escape route to the water
  • keep the noise down and avoid sudden movements

The world is going through so much right now and mental health is so important. Going for a walk on the beach gives you that dose of fresh air and daily exercise. Remember to do so safely for the animals that know those beaches as safe places.

Female Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)_©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Female Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)_©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Frequently asked questions What is a designated seal haul out site?

A designated haul out site is any place, which Scottish Ministers designate as such by Order, after consulting with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). These are identified as areas of consistent high density (hotspots) for harbour and grey seals.

What are the 195 sites designated for?

Of a total of 149 haul out sites:

  • 62 are used mainly by harbour seals
  • 20 are used mainly by grey seals
  • 67 are shared by both these species

Additional sites are grey seal breeding colonies, used by this species specifically during their pupping season. All of these sites provide protection all year round.

Are there any times of year that are particularly sensitive?

Harbour seals usually give birth in early summer (June – July) and spend time ashore in August for their annual moult.

Grey seals give birth in the autumn (September – December) and stay on land for several weeks. Adults and pups leave in the spring once they have finished their moult and the pups have been weaned.

What constitutes harassment?

Details on intentional and reckless harassment can be found in the Marine Scotland document Guidance on the offence of harassment at seal haul out sites.

What should I do if a group of seals reacts to me watching them?

This is an early sign that the seals could be scared from their resting place. If you notice either steps one or two detailed above in the seal behaviour section, you should back away and review your approach.

What should I do if I see a seal that doesn’t look healthy?

You can contact Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) or BDMLR if you are concerned for the welfare of a seal.

What should I do if I suspect someone of committing an offence by harassing seals?

If you are concerned that you have seen someone commit a wildlife offence please contact Marine Scotland Compliance on 0131 244 2286 or via our website.  Alternatively you can contact Police Scotland on 101 or using their website.

What about other wildlife?

NatureScot’s guide to best practice for watching marine wildlife provides advice on wildlife watching on land and at sea.

What do I do if I find a dead seal?

If you come across a seal carcass, you should contact the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) via phone/text 07979 245893 or email reports@strandings.org

When you report a dead stranding, please try to provide the following information:

  • date found
  • location (grid reference if possible)
  • photographs of the carcase
  • species or description (see species guide)
  • overall length (estimation)
  • condition of the animal
  • your contact details
Further information

Main picture: harbour seal and pup. Picture provided by Jack Lucas/Crown copyright.

The post Responsible wildlife watching around seals appeared first on Marine Scotland.

MPV Hirta leaving Aberdeen harbour

Marine Scotland Photos - Mon, 2022-08-29 16:21

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MPV Hirta leaving Aberdeen harbour

MPV Hirta leaving Aberdeen harbour

Joint monitoring of Scottish Marine Protected Areas

Marine Scotland Blog - Fri, 2022-08-19 14:32

An annual monitoring trip of Scottish waters took place recently with our science colleagues collaborating with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) on our Marine Research Vessel (MRV) Scotia. This time focussing on the West Shetland Shelf Marine Protected Area (MPA).

The West Shetland Shelf area was designated in 2014 by Scottish Ministers to protect and support the diverse range of wildlife living in the sand and gravel habitats there including: marine worms, marine molluscs and colourful sponges. At 4,083 km2 it is approximately the same size as the Cairngorms National Park and ranges between 70 – 150 m in depth.

Monitoring trips like this allow us to assess the state of our MPAs giving us information about the number and type of species present, as well as their range and distribution. This helps us better understand changes in the marine environment over time to inform future management measures.

How we monitor the seabed

Custom built in our Marine Laboratory the drop frame structure contains an underwater camera system and a number of other subsea gadgets (Figure 2) to provide measurements along each survey area of the water such as: salinity (saltiness), depth, temperature and positioning data.

 USBL transponder

Figure 2: Drop frame with equipment labelled as follows: A: altimeter, B: CTD profiler, C: HD video camera, D: lights, E: digital still camera, F: scaling lasers, G: flash, H: umbilical cable, I: USBL transponder.

The altimeter measures the distance of the drop frame above the seabed, allowing for environmental factors to be cross-referenced with corresponding imagery. These measurements are transmitted back up the umbilical cable and recorded in real time.

An ultra-short baseline (USBL) transponder communicates with a receiver on the ship’s keel (underside) to provide high-accuracy in-water positioning data so we know where each image has been taken on the seabed.

The environmental and positional data are then time-matched with each other and the imagery data to provide comprehensive metadata for each image, so we know the environmental conditions at the position where each seabed photograph was captured (as shown in Figure 3).

 Image A shows sandy sediment with a sea mouse worm in the lower left corner and tusk shells, which are marine molluscs. Image B shows coarse sediments with sponges (including the yellow hedgehog sponge), bryozoans and bivalve mollusc shells.

Figure 3: Image A shows sandy sediment with a sea mouse worm in the lower left corner and tusk shells, which are marine molluscs. Image B shows coarse sediments with sponges (including the yellow hedgehog sponge), bryozoans and bivalve mollusc shells.

Informed decision making

The data from this and other surveys helps the Scottish Government report to parliament on our progress towards the development of an MPA network. This includes an assessment of the extent to which MPAs are achieving their conservation objectives.

Moreover, we are committed to ensuring the marine environment is: clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse, and managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people under the Bute House Agreement.

Further information

The post Joint monitoring of Scottish Marine Protected Areas appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Close up waves at Aberdeen beach

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 16:18

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Close up waves at Aberdeen beach

Close up waves at Aberdeen beach

Aberdeen beach

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 16:18

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Aberdeen beach

Gentle waves at Aberdeen beach

High tide at Aberdeen beach

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 16:18

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High tide at Aberdeen beach

Waves at a high tide at Aberdeen beach

Nairn view in the evening

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 15:51

Marine Scotland Image Bank posted a photo:

Nairn view in the evening

Evening view of Nairn beach

Panorama of Nairn beach

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 15:21

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Panorama of Nairn beach

Panorama of Nairn beach. Beach with sand ripples

Forres beach

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 15:21

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Forres beach

Beach at Forres

Nairn beach

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 15:21

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Nairn beach

View of dunes and sea on Nairn beach

Nairn beach dunes

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 15:21

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Nairn beach dunes

View of dunes on Nairn beach

Close up of the grass in dunes at Nairn beach

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 15:21

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Close up of  the grass in dunes at Nairn beach

Close up of the grass in dunes at Nairn beach

Nairn beach with blue sky

Marine Scotland Photos - Thu, 2022-08-18 15:21

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Nairn beach with blue sky

View of dunes sea on Nairn beach

Strong public support for offshore wind

Marine Scotland Blog - Mon, 2022-08-08 13:34

The vast majority of people in Scotland believe offshore wind has a vital role to play in Scotland’s future, according to a recent study.

Of those surveyed as part of the study, 92% thought the renewable sector is important to Scotland in terms of its social value, with 89% believing the sector is important in terms of its economic value.

Jointly commissioned by the Marine Scotland Directorate of the Scottish Government and NatureScot, the study was undertaken to understand public views of offshore wind farm developments in Scotland.

The world’s largest floating offshore wind leasing round, ScotWind, is forecast to deliver investment of around £25 billion across the Scottish supply chain in the coming years, creating thousands of green jobs, transforming local economies as well as the national economy, and accelerating Scotland’s journey to net zero.

Net Zero & Energy Secretary Michael Matheson visited Aberdeen Bay to tour the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre and meet with Swedish power company Vattenfall, who will partner one of 17 ScotWind projects.

Net Zero & Energy Secretary Michael Matheson

Net Zero & Energy Secretary Michael Matheson

Mr Matheson said:

“Scotland has the resources, the people and the ambition to become a renewables powerhouse. ScotWind puts us at the forefront of the global development of offshore wind and represents a massive step forward in our net zero transformation.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity which has to be realised, has to be maximised and has to deliver the environmental and economic benefits for all the people of Scotland.

“This study shows that the vast majority of people in Scotland, including our coastal communities who live closest to offshore wind farms, understand and value the diverse benefits that offshore renewable energy presents.

“Already one of the cheapest forms of energy, it is clear that offshore wind has a vital role to play in delivering on our climate obligations, ensuring our energy security and ensuring a fair and just transition to net zero.”

 

Francesca Osowska, Cheif Executive of Nature Scot

Francesca Osowska, Chief Executive of Nature Scot

NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said:

“Offshore wind energy will play a major role in Scotland’s pathway to net zero. This important study confirms that most coastal communities and visitors are positive about the sector as we embark on this critical transition.

“This research will help us plan future developments and guide our advice on the ScotWind proposals, as we work to support the growth in offshore wind generation while safeguarding nature and minimising landscape impacts.”

Public perceptions of offshore wind farm developments in Scotland

The Public Perceptions of Offshore Wind Farm Developments in Scotland study is available on the Scottish Government website. It explored factors that affect perceptions and experiences, whether these changed at different stages of a development (planning, construction and operational), and whether offshore wind farms influenced decisions relating to leisure and tourism in coastal areas.

The results are an important contribution to the evidence-base on the social impacts of offshore wind farms; highlighting positive opportunities and helping mitigate negative impacts.

The project was taken forward as part of the Scottish Marine Energy Research (ScotMER) programme, identifies and addresses high priority evidence gaps that add risk and uncertainty in the planning and consenting of offshore renewable developments. This ensures the best available science is used when considering the planning and consenting of developments that contribute to our low carbon future, while also protecting Scotland’s unique marine environment and people.

 

More than 2,000 people were surveyed as part of the study.

Only 4% of those surveyed living near offshore windfarms think windfarms have a negative impact on their quality of life, and around a third of these lived experience individuals said offshore wind farms detract from the traditional image of the coast.

Both national and coastal respondents were broadly unconcerned about visiting or holidaying in areas where there are offshore wind farms, with four in five (81%) saying that if they could see an offshore wind farm while on holiday it would make no difference to their choice of destination.

Broader research, including from the Scottish Household Survey indicates that the people of Scotland increasingly see climate change as an immediate and urgent problem, and are prepared to take action and change behaviours at an individual level to benefit the environment

Cabinet Secretary visiting Net Zero Off-shore wind Aberdeen

Cabinet Secretary visiting Net Zero Off Shore Wind Aberdeen

The post Strong public support for offshore wind appeared first on Marine Scotland.

MPV Minna at sea

Marine Scotland Photos - Wed, 2022-08-03 09:48

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MPV Minna at sea

Aerial views of the MPV Minna at sea

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