Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

December 19, 2014
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

New publications from Marine Scotland Science provide new information needed for marine planning and licensing

Two new publications in the series “Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science” are released this week providing new spatial data adding to the evidence base for the development of marine planning in Scottish waters. The first, published today by scientists from the Marine Planning and Environmental Advice Programme at MSS presents new maps of sensitive areas for fisheries. These show areas of sea used by key commercial fish species during vulnerable stages of their life cycle, in this case, aggregations of fish in their first year of life (known as 0-group fish).

The maps were produced using a modelling approach “Species Distribution Modelling” which uses information about the habitat and records of young fish from survey data to show areas of our seas where young fish have been aggregating. The approach used is summarised in the diagram below.

The report provides an update and builds on previous “Nursery Area” maps that have been used for more than a decade, to ensure that appropriate protection is afforded these areas from disturbance. The outputs will be used to inform planning and licensing of marine developments and be made available for oil spill response. Work is also currently underway to try to improve spawning area maps for some key species.

Read the reports:

Species Distribution Model

Species Distribution Model


The different steps in the Species Distribution Models (SDMs).

1) The values of the environmental variables in the presence and absence points are extracted.

2) An algorithm which calculate the probability of presence as a combination of different environmental layers is computed.

3) The algorithm is applied back on the GIS layers to draw a map with probability of presence.

December 19, 2014
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

New publications from Marine Scotland Science provide new information needed for marine planning and licensing

The second of two reports, published today, reports on the activity of inshore fishing boats over a 5 year period. This is the outcome of a major Marine Scotland project: “ScotMap – Mapping fishing activity in Scotland’s inshore waters”

Fishing vessels over 15m long are fitted with Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) providing us with information on where they fish. Smaller vessels, which tend to fish more inshore waters have not been tracked in such a way and there has been little information on areas of Scotland’s seas that are important to this part of the Scottish fishing fleet.

To improve knowledge of the distribution and value of fisheries in inshore waters Marine Scotland carried out a fisheries mapping study known as ScotMap. Data, relating to fishing activity for the period 2007 to 2011, were collected during face-to-face interviews with over 1000 individual vessel owners and operators.  Fishermen were asked about their fishing practices, and to identify the areas in which they fished, and quantify these in terms of importance and value. Data were aggregated and analysed to provide information on the value (monetary and relative importance) and usage (number of fishing vessels and crew) of the seas around Scotland.

This report provides a complete overview of the project, methodology, outputs and findings. The mapped outputs from ScotMap were published online in 2013 and can be downloaded from the ScotMap web page.

The data set that has been created is unique in Europe and is already being used to inform marine planning, offshore renewable energy licensing and Marine Protected Area management about the activities of the inshore fisheries sector.

Enquiries: Matt Gubbins

November 28, 2014
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Scotia: Survey 2214A – Cruise Programme

Duration: 28 November – 05 December 2014

Loading: Fraserburgh, 26 November 2014

Sailing: Fraserburgh, 28 November 2014

Unloading: Leith, 5 December 2014

Sampling gear:

  • BT 158 with 50 mm cod-end
  • 2 m beam trawl with 50 mm cod-end
  • Day grab and table
  • Catamaran and manta neuston net


  1. To undertake flatfish and sediment sampling in St Andrews Bay, Outer Firth of Forth and Forth estuary in support of the Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme (OSPAR and MSFD).
  2. To undertake sample preparation for subsequent eco-toxicological analyses.
  3. To collect sediment samples from the Forth estuary on behalf of SEPA and for the Quasimeme proficiency testing scheme.
  4. To undertake survey of sea-surface litter in surface waters of the Scottish east coast.
  5. Adventitious sampling of fish and shellfish for microplastics.
  6. To survey the fish assemblage of the Forth estuary on behalf of SEPA.


Fishing and scientific gear will be loaded in Fraserburgh prior to Alba na Mara sailing on 28 November.  Flounder and five sediment stations will be sampled in St Andrews Bay, dab and five sediment stations in the outer Firth of Forth and flounder sampled in the Forth estuary.  The neuston manta trawl will be deployed during passage from Fraserburgh to the Forth estuary.  This net is to be towed at five knots, or less, for 30-90 minutes in order to collect and sample microplastics floating on the sea surface.

Further sediments will be collected from the lower Forth estuary for SEPA and bulk sediment collected for the Quasimeme proficiency testing scheme.  Two SEPA staff will join the vessel and investigate the fish assemblage of the Forth estuary on the penultimate day of the survey.  This will require the vessel to make a suitable port call for the evening of 3 December.

On completion of this survey, passage will be made to Leith from where all scientific gear and samples will be transferred to MSS (Aberdeen)/SEPA as required.

Survey 2214A Forth Estuary





November 28, 2014
by Ruth Allen

Marine Scotland launches data publication portal

Marine Scotland holds a vast amount of data on the marine and freshwater environment in Scotland and today sees the launch of a dedicated portal- - to allow users to search published data and reports.  As well as making it easier to locate data and reports published by Marine Scotland,  the portal also provides citation information on these datasets through the use of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs).

It does not replace but compliments Marine Scotland’s existing website where you can continue to find information on all aspects of Marine Scotland’s work.

Marine Scotland are working to make our data accessible, discoverable, (re)usable and citable through the portal, which also provides additional functionality that make our data more useful.  For example, datasets are grouped and tagged making it easier to find data on similar topics.  The portal also embeds social media making it easy to share and discuss our data using these tools, as well as more technical functionality like machine readable data retrieval (JSON/RDF).

Why use DOIs?

A DOI is a permanent and unique identifier – a bit like an ISBN on a book. By assigning a DOI to a dataset we make that dataset much easier to find and cite.  While websites and their addresses may change, a DOI does not, meaning that when a dataset is cited using a DOI it is always discoverable in the future.

What happens next?

Initially, the focus has been on bringing the existing Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science reports online through the portal, but more content will be continually added, both reports and downloadable datasets.

Part of the portal will also be used as part of Marine Scotland’s function as the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN) Fisheries Data Archive Centre for Scotland, making information available on fisheries surveys and other research and monitoring data collected by Marine Scotland. has been developed using open source tools.  The platform allows information to be harvested from the code used to build the site. This means information about Marine Scorland’s datasets can be effectively shared much more widely, with other parts of government, open data portals, and anyone interested in using this information. will provide a single point of access to Marine Scotland’s published data, and allows everyone to explore, download, share and cite those data.

November 26, 2014
by Ruth Allen

Update on Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan

The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area has been identified as one with significant renewable energy resources, as well as being of exceptional environmental quality. It also an important resource to both national and local economies. There is a need to examine how future marine energy developments can be taken forward in this area in a manner that avoids conflicts with other users of the seas and which ensures that the marine environment is protected. This will be achieved by the preparation and implementation of regional marine plans. However, the process of developing regional marine plans is still in its early stages and marine spatial planning at a regional level is being piloted in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters.

To ensure that progress is made while the marine planning process is concluded, a Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) Framework has been created, which sets out a process for the development of future plans. This work, which will have three stages, is being undertaken by a working group consisting of representatives from Marine Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council

November 17, 2014
by Ruth Allen

MRV Scotia: Survey 1914S – Cruise Programme

Duration: 7 – 22 December 2014

Loading: Aberdeen, 4 December 2014

Unloading: Aberdeen, 22 December 2014

Fishing Gear: Sea-Bird CTD/Carousel, sledge with OPC and CTD, day grab, Hammon grab


  1.  Perform routine hydrographic sampling at stations along the long term monitoring JONSIS section in the northern North Sea.
  2. Perform routine hydrographic sampling at stations along the long term monitoring Faroe-Shetland Channel sections: Fair Isle-Munken and Nolso-Flugga.
  3. Conduct combined plankton/hydrographic observations by deploying the sledge with OPC/CTD at previous Aries stations in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel.
  4. Take nutrient, chlorophyll, TA/DIC samples along standard lines.
  5. Make CDOM fluorometry measurements for hydrocarbons along the monitoring lines and take up to 20 HC samples of calibration.
  6. Take water samples for bacterial analysis by Heriot Watt University at locations along the long term monitoring sections.
  7. Take microplastics samples at standard stations including full depth profile along the long term monitoring sections.
  8. Take grab samples at selected stations along the Nolso-Flugga line using the day grab and test the Hammon grab.
  9. If sheltering in a suitable location (around Shetland, Orkney, Pentland Firth) due to bad weather conduct VMADCP survey.
  10. In case that there is time conduct sampling along the following sections (in order of priority):
  •  Fair-Isle-Munken FASTNET stations (“J-line”);
  • Faroe-Cape Wrath Z (FCW, possibly with extension);
  • Shelf edge lines 1-4 in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel.
Figure 1: The three main monitoring lines Jonsis, FIM and NOL (including FCW line).

Figure 1: The three main monitoring lines Jonsis, FIM and NOL (including FCW line).

General Procedure

After departing Aberdeen and completing appropriate drills, the vessel will proceed to the eastern end of the JONSIS line and complete hydrographic stations in a westerly direction (Table 1, Figure 1).

The vessel will then proceed to the Faroe-Shetland Channel. Depending on weather conditions we will commence hydrographic sampling and OPC measurements at selected stations along the Fair Isle-Munken survey line.

On completion of the Fair Isle-Munken line the vessel will proceed to conduct hydrographic sampling and OPC measurements at selected stations on the Nolso Flugga survey line.  Towed deployments of the OPC sampler will be carried out only at selected stations along the two lines in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel.  In addition grab samples will be taken at selected stations along the Nolso Flugga line. Additional sampling (HC, microplastics, etc.) will occur along the standard stations.

In case we are sheltering in a suitable location (around Shetland, Orkney, Pentland Firth) we will use the opportunity to conduct VMADCP surveys.

After completing the above three main priority monitoring lines, we will sample along other sections listed as options above.