North East SMR

Location and physical characteristics

Coastline length (km) 307
Sea area (km2) 3,153
Deepest point (m) 224
Shallowest point (m) coastline
Average depth (m) 63
Tidal range (m) 2.6 – 4.0
Salinity 34.44 – 34.82
Sea surface temperature (°C):    7.1 – 14.3

The North East SMR is located in the northern North Sea and has a rather uniform coastline (Figure 1). The long-term monitoring site at Stonehaven shows annual variation and periodic large, short-term reductions in salinity at the surface. Overall the freshwater input is low in this region except for the rivers Dee, Don and North Esk. Tidal currents are mainly directed parallel to the coast and the residual flow is southward along the coast. The wave climate in this region is influenced by conditions in the North Sea, which can lead to long fetch because of the wind direction. The relatively straight coastline provides few natural places of shelter from these waves.

Sand is the main seabed sediment in the North East SMR, with gravelly-sand in the northern part. Off the Aberdeenshire coast Pleistocene deposits vary from soft red-brown, grey-brown and pink-grey muds, to compact grey clays with scattered pebbles, which probably represent glacial tills. The soft muds at the top of the sequence were deposited during the decay phase of the last ice sheet in the region.

Devonian (Old Red Sandstone) and Permo-Triassic (New Red Sandstone) rocks extend offshore along the coastal margin of the Moray Firth south, covering most of the Dalradian rocks seen onshore, except in the section between Aberdeen and Stonehaven. These strata comprise sandstones, conglomerates, mudstones and cherts deposited in continental, often fluvial environments.


The North East SMR contains the largest white fish market in Scotland at Peterhead and the main port for the North Sea oil and gas industry, Aberdeen. A total (demersal, pelagic and shellfish) of 170,227 tonnes was landed into Peterhead and other small ports covered by the Peterhead Marine Scotland Fisheries Office in 2018. These ports have provided services to both the fishing and oil and gas industries for many years, the fishing industry having a longer history than oil and gas which started to develop in the 1970s.

The Productive Assessment has been undertaken, with a focus on 2014 – 2018, on a sectoral basis. For a number of Sectors, including aquaculture, oil and gas, and aggregates, there was no activity within the North East SMR during the period 2014 – 2018.

However, for many sectors, there were changes over the period 2041 – 2018 (Figure 2).