Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

August 28, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Study on the scientific basis for regulating deep-sea fishing by depth published

A new study paper entitled “A scientific basis for regulating deep-sea fishing by depth” has been published. The study, which draws upon deepwater trawl survey data collected mainly by Marine Scotland Science over the past 15 years, was undertaken by Glasgow University and Marine Scotland Science.

The European Parliament has been debating how to manage its deepwater fisheries in a more sustainable way.

One proposal has been to prohibit bottom trawling at depths greater than 600 m. To date, however, there has been little evidence to support this.  The results of this new study, that is based on scientific trawl survey data, show that at depths between 600-800m the commercial value per standardised trawl falls while the number of species impacted and the proportion of catch that is discarded (notably deep-sea sharks) increases. Trawling deeper than 600 m is thus less rewarding and results in increasing impact on the environment. Thus there is now a stronger scientific case for limiting bottom trawling to depths shallower than 600-800m.

Marine Scotland is currently carrying out further analysis on the impact of various depth-related restrictions which, along with the findings of this report, will help us build on our policy position.

More Information


August 26, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Vacancy: IT Development Manager (Closes 21st September)

Applications are invited for an IT Development Manager within Marine Scotland Science Division, IT unit based the Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen.

Within the Science IT Unit there is a small team responsible for ensuring the development and maintenance of IT systems necessary to support and assist colleagues in wider marine management functions for Marine Scotland Science, Marine Scotland Performance Aquaculture and Recreational Fisheries, and Marine Scotland Planning and Policy divisions.  The Information Technology Unit supports a diverse group of users and this is an exciting opportunity to join the team as a key project team member contributing to all of the stages of the IT application development lifecycle process

Read more and apply…

More Information

August 20, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Scotia: Survey 1215S Programme

Duration: 5-16 September 2015

Fishing Gear: BT 184 Deepwater trawl with 16“ ground-gear and Morgere 1700 kg doors (monkfish)

Other Gear: Groundgear Bosom bag for BT184


  • To map the composition, distribution and abundance of continental slope species including invertebrates on the deepwater slope west of the Hebrides and Rosemary Bank to depths of 2000 m;
  • To collect temperature at depth during all deepwater hauls using a data storage sensor attached to the trawl headline;
  • To collect samples (genetics and otoliths) for key species for population studies and undertake any other sampling requests, e.g. MSFD litter recording;
  • Continued use of groundgear bag on selected stations to further evaluate gear catchability of deepwater fish species at different depths as well as providing valuable benthic data.


The deepwater slope survey will depart from Ullapool on the morning of 5 September and proceed south through the Minch to the first trawling station on the shelf slope between 500-2000 m within statistical rectangle 41D9.  The primary objective is to map the composition, distribution and abundance of fish species on the deepwater slope west of the Hebrides (Figure 1, southern two tow positions are provisional).  Trawling will mainly be at fixed stations at depths of 500, 750, 1000, 1500, 1800 and 2000 m, although 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.

In addition daily meetings with take place between the fishing master, captain and the SIC to discuss and refine the survey plan as the survey progresses.  No CTD deployments will be made, rather a DST (data storage tag) will be deployed onto the trawl headline for the duration of the survey and will provide bottom temperature data for all of the trawls undertaken during the survey.  Trawling will be conducted within the hours of daylight.  It may on occasion be necessary to trawl at night although it is accepted that this will be the exception rather than the norm and night time will mainly be spent in passage from one sampling area to the next.  From all tows the entire catch will be sorted, weighed and length-frequency data collected for all fish species encountered.  Benthic invertebrate by-catch will also be recorded.  On selected tows a ground gear bag will be attached for benthos sampling.  Additional biological sampling to be carried out on selected species.

Figure 1: 1215S – Shelf slope with approximate position of survey trawl transects.Scotia 1215S Figure 1 - Shelf slope with approx position of survey trawl transects



August 19, 2015
by Ruth Allen

New Guidance note on dealing with species below Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS)

Marine Scotland, in conjunction with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and Food Standards Scotland, have published a guidance note that explains the requirements concerning the catching, landing, storage, marketing and transportation of catches of species subject to the landing obligation which are below the Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS).

This Guidance Note will be of immediate interest to fishing vessels, ports and harbours, fish markets, processors, enforcement authorities and other businesses that handle and manage Category 3 animal by-products (ABP). The guidance note can be accessed at:

Further Information

August 18, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Scotia: survey 1115S Programme

Rockall Haddock Survey

Duration: 23 August – 3 September 2015

Fishing Gear:
GOV Trawl (BT 137) with ground gear D

Other Gear:
CTD – Seabird 19+
Day and Van Veen grabs


  • To undertake the bottom trawl survey of haddock on Rockall Bank to a depth of 350 m;
  • To deploy a CTD at selected trawl stations to collect temperature and salinity profiles;
  • To collect samples (genetics and otoliths) for selected species for population studies;
  • To collect sediment samples at selected stations;
  • To record marine litter at each station for MSFD.


The primary objective of this part of the survey is to assess the state of the haddock stock on the Rockall Plateau.  The Rockall haddock surveys employs a semi random stratified survey design comprising four sampling strata separated according to depth.  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 stations within each depth strata is as follows: four stations at 0-150 m, 20 stations at 150-200 m, 11 stations at 200-250 m and five stations at 250-350 m.  Where time allows additional hauls will be conducted outside our strata (at depth below 350 m).  The positions of these will be influenced by trawls undertaken in the April 2015 Rockall monkfish survey where haddock were found.  A further 22 secondary stations across the various strata have been generated to provide alternatives should any primary station prove unfishable.

One haul of 30 minutes duration will be made at each sampling station.  Daily start times for survey stations will be at approximately 0600 hours and continue until approximately 2000 hours.  The Scanmar system will be used to monitor wing spread, door spread and distance covered during each haul.  A bottom contact sensor will be mounted on the footrope to record the distance of the trawl off the seabed.  Catches will be worked up according to the protocols for International Bottom Trawl Surveys.  A CTD will be deployed at selected trawl stations.

At night sediment samples will be collected using Day or Van Veen grabs.  The samples positions will be decided on a day to day basis and will be influenced by vessel location at the end of each trawling period.Scotia Cruise 1115S Figure 1- Survey map with stations of Rockall bank

Figure 1: Survey map with stations of Rockall bank. Red stratum = 0-150 m depth, green stratum = 150-200 m, blue stratum = 200-250 m and light-blue stratum = 250-350 m. Boxes/polygons represent restricted or closed areas.  Closed circles = primary haul positions, open circles = secondary haul positions.

August 17, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Journal article on “Evaluating the effectiveness of a seasonal spawning area closure” published

A study into measures introduced over a decade ago to protect spawning cod in the Firth of Clyde by researchers from the University of Glasgow and Marine Scotland Science has found no evidence that it had led to local recovery of cod numbers by 2010. The study, published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, compared data on the number of adult fish regularly found in the Clyde and compared it to data on the two other sub-populations of cod off the west coast of Scotland. The annual closure of the spawning ground was introduced in March 2001 to allow cod to reproduce without being caught by trawlers, while still allowing the targeting of scampi and scallops, in the greater part of the area. By the time of closure cod numbers were already very low in the west of Scotland stock.

Before the closure there was a clear seasonal peak in fishing effort, with high catch rates, corresponding to the spawning time of cod in this area but this was stopped by the closure. As such the spawning closure was justified on the basis that it did reduce targeted fishing effort on spawning cod, and prevented displaced fishing effort from an Irish Sea closure. Nevertheless, total mortality on cod remained high.  While we don’t know the full reasons preventing the Clyde cod recovery, the study concludes that such closures are generally more successful when implemented before stocks have declined to low levels, and the Scottish Government welcomes this research which will help to inform our next steps in tackling this challenge.

Further Information


August 14, 2015
by Paul Stainer

Mapping the seabed of the north of Scotland

High resolution seabed bathymetry is now freely available for a section of the north coast of Scotland between the Kyle of Tongue and west of Thurso. Marine Scotland Science surveyed the area in 2014 using a multibeam echosounder. The bathymetric data is of particular interest to the wave energy industry and for the development of a floating wind energy test centre.

The bathymetry is complemented by a suite of photographs and video over the survey area which were collected using a drop-frame camera towed behind the research vessel. Analysis of these images has enabled determination of substrate and biotope from which we will be able to build a habitat map of the survey area. Habitats and species of conservation concern have also been identified.

The dominant habitat type throughout the survey area was rippled fine sand. The fauna was generally sparse, but shells resembling the priority marine feature. Arctica islandica were widely distributed in the deeper stations (> 70m). Sand waves made up of coarser substrates are widely distributed in the survey area. Rocky reef habitats composed of boulders and cobbles were found predominantly in shallower water (<45m).

Biotopes identified within the Farr Point survey area Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 819.

The bathymetric and photographic data can be downloaded on our website, Marine Scotland Interactive.

August 13, 2015
by Ruth Allen



To celebrate the benefits of walking to work, people across Scotland are being asked to share a photo of their walking journey. Whatever you see, we want you to share it. The people who capture the best ‪#‎WalkTaeWork‬ photos will win a brand new Fitbit Charge HR!

Capture an image from your walk to work, post it on the Greener Together Facebook page or your own Twitter or Instagram and use #WalkTaeWork to share it with the world!

Check out the blog post too for more details:

August 11, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Tracking the ocean

Ocean drifters

Ocean drifters

Seven ocean drifters have been released off the West of Shetland as part of the latest Marine Scotland Science research to track ocean currents.

Understanding ocean currents is essential in planning for any emergency situation in our seas, while the data can also help scientists measure environmental trends such as climate change.

The drifters, which were released in May, are equipped with satellite trackers which provide hourly positions and allow scientists to study ocean currents in great detail. Although the study is in its early stages, interesting patterns of how water flows around the Northern Isles are already being observed.

The drifters were previously used in the 2013 collaborative Brahan project which has been used to develop new observational modelling tools and improve numerical models that will help clean up oil spills.

Ocean drifters have been used by scientists for more than a century with examples of earlier technology, including glass bottles and plastic markers, still being found on Scotland’s shores.

For example, a plastic ocean drifter that was found on a beach in Edinburgh in May this year was discovered to have been released in 1969 as part of a detailed study into the circulation of the Firth of Forth. This particular tracker, which had travelled a total distance of 23km, is the 1473rd marker from this study to be returned and the first since 1989.

Speaking ahead of a visit to Shetland, Environment Minister Aileen McLeod said:

“Marine Scotland continually uses drifters to study ocean currents in Scottish seas and coastal areas. Over the years these drifters have undertaken extraordinary journeys and we’re beginning to understand more about how currents work.

“With developments in technology, these drifters now play an important role in discovering the secrets of the seas and helping us to understand our environment and the effects of climate change.”

Dr Bee Berx from Marine Scotland Science said:

“The satellite tracked drifters are showing us in great detail the transport pathways of our coastal currents. Our next challenge is to interpret these results, to improve our understanding of circulation in the region and to incorporate this new knowledge in our advice.”