Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

August 9, 2016
by Ruth Allen

Funding available for offshore renewable environmental research and monitoring

As part of a €40 million grant awarded by the EU to the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), also known as Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Limited (AOWFL) under the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR), around €3 million has been committed for the sole purpose of environmental research and monitoring. A number of organisations, including Marine Scotland Science, will have an active role in steering the allocation of that funding, through EOWDC’s Scientific Research & Monitoring Panel (the Panel), to those areas most in need of further research, based on their collective expertise and knowledge.

Call for Proposals for Funding

The Panel have defined the environmental topic areas of most interest and AOWFL are interested in hearing from applicants who have proposals for environmental research and development projects to be funded as part of the Scientific Research and Monitoring Programme.  The application process, which will be in two stages, is now open to Expressions of Interest (EoI’s) and all interested parties should complete the online EoI form.  Further information for applicants is also provided under ‘documents for reading/completion’ on this webpage and should be read carefully prior to completing the EoI. Health and Safety Prequalification Questionnaires must be submitted by email to by the closing date. All required information must be supplied for a valid application.

The closing date for EoI’s is midnight 2nd September 2016 and successful parties will be notified and requested to provide a detailed proposal following close of the EoI round. Unsuccessful parties will also be notified.

Expert Panel Membership

The Scientific Research & Monitoring Panel members include: 

  • Dr Stuart Gibb of the University of the Highlands and Islands (Chair)
  • Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Marine Scotland Science (MSS)
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
  • Local Authorities (LA)
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
  • Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB)
  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC)
  • The Crown Estate (TCE)
  •  Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG),
  • Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Limited (AOWFL)
  • Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team (MS-LOT)

Further Information

August 8, 2016
by Ruth Allen

Marine Scotland Science Annual Review 2015/16

Professor Colin Moffat

Professor Colin Moffat

The latest Marine Scotland Science Annual Review 2015/16 has just been published which gives an insight in to the huge range of knowledge, skills, achievements and level of work undertaken by the scientists working within the Marine Scotland family.

As the Head of Science, Professor Colin Moffat, explains:

“High quality science and advice that has an impact is fundamental to Marine Scotland Science (MSS), whether it is supporting Scotland’s aquaculture production to the highest level in terms of volume and value, providing the economic analyses needed to implement the management measures for inshore Marine Protected Areas, providing world leading science on understanding how sea lice are distributed in the environment, leading to strategic sea lice control or implementing the new Conservation Regulations for salmon. All have direct impact.”

In addition, as well as providing specific advice to Scottish Government policy divisions and other national stakeholders, Marine Scotland Science expertise influences the development and implementation of international policy and regulations through participation in a wide range of working groups, networks and multinational organisations.

A few highlights from this report include:

  • 275 site inspections were conducted by The Fish Health Inspectorate
  • 720 days of training were provided for Science staff
  • 1,857 salmon and sea trout catch returns were processed
  • 14 Regulatory Impact Assessments of Marine Protected Area measures were undertaken
  • 8 Marine Protected Areas were surveyed
  • Advice on 1,630 oil and gas industry applications was given
  • Our research vessels spent 582 days at sea
  • Biological data were obtained for 250 fish and shellfish species
  • A total of more than 29,000 environmental samples have been taken from 6 sites around Scotland’s coasts since 1997

Over the coming months, the blog will feature more stories and information from our scientists, but the Annual Review is a fascinating snapshot in to the depth and breadth of work undertaken by our dedicated team.

Further Information

August 5, 2016
by Ruth Allen

In Deep at the UN – the verdict

Dr Francis Neat in New York

Dr Francis Neat in New York

At the end of July, we featured a blog about Marine Scotland scientist, Dr Francis Neat, and his upcoming visit to the United Nations to discuss deep-sea fishing regulations and conservation in the high seas. The intrepid traveller has now returned and tells us how it was for him:

“This week the UN General Assembly held a workshop on progress made on the implementation of several of its resolutions aimed at sustainably managing deep-sea fish stocks and conserving vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) in the high seas. I was there to act as a scientific advisor to the EU delegation.

The word ‘awesome’ is used all too often in today’s conversation, but if you have never been to New York, it can really only be described as awesome. It’s just off-the-scale of all other cities! The modestly high (39-storey) UN HQ building is down on 1st Avenue in the heart of midtown Manhattan. I met the three other EU delegates (two from the EC and a second scientific advisor from Spain) and we were issued with our security passes to enter the General Assembly. The format of the workshop was a series of presentations by member states, scientists, regional fisheries management organisations and non-governmental conservation organisations. Each presentation was followed by participation of delegates from all over the world.

Over the two days it became clear that much progress had been made. Ten years ago only around a third of the high seas had any competent regulatory authority, now that figure has increased to around two-thirds and seen the creation of new regional fisheries management organisations. Ten years ago there were very few areas set aside to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems. Now we know much more about these VMEs and there are vast protected areas in all oceans. Ten years ago any vessel with authority to fish could fish were it chose. Now bottom fishing is restricted to within the areas it has traditionally operated and thus the days of exploratory fishing and the risk of unwittingly damaging VMEs are over. Ten years ago there were virtually no analytical stock assessments of deep-sea species. These have now been developed for some areas and are even forming the basis of applying for MSC accreditation in the case of one New Zealand orange roughy fishery.

Inside the United Nations

Inside the United Nations

Although the conclusions were generally positive, there were some outstanding issues identified including compliance and the lack of scientific data for many areas. Deep-sea mining and exploration of oil and gas were highlighted as emerging activities with the potential for significant adverse impacts. Thus while much of the work has been done to ensure the high seas deep-sea is more sustainably managed and its remarkable biodiversity is protected, these issues can’t quite be put to bed just yet. It was a great experience to participate in the workshop and hear specific mention of how data Marine Scotland collect were used by the EU in formulating its policy. The advisory work we do with ICES was also referred to on several occasions. It was impressive to see how real progress toward sustainability can be made through the dialogue and action of scientists, policy makers and stakeholders from both industry and conservation. Most of all, however, it is the power of the UN to make this happen that is very inspiring.”

More Information

Dr Francis Neat’s biographical information

Previous blog post on the UN visit

August 4, 2016
by Ruth Allen

The East Coast Marine Mammal Acoustic Study continues

Sunset over Cruden Bay
Sunset over Cruden Bay

The east coast of Scotland is home to several species of marine mammals and the animals are regularly monitored to make sure  that the populations are healthy and also to improve our understanding of how and when they use different areas along the Scottish coast. The plans for marine developments along the east coast of Scotland, including the installation of wind farms and significant port re-construction, make it all the more important to continue studies of these populations. Collecting data, especially over time, will give us deeper understanding of how species like bottlenose dolphins and porpoise use the east coast waters, and allow us to determine whether developments have an impact on their behaviour so over a number of months, scientists in Marine Scotland have been involved in the East Coast Marine Mammal Acoustic Study (ECOMMAS) programme.

Rob and Paul survey the wreckage of two tangled dhan mooringsMore recently and following deployment of acoustic loggers at the end of April/early May, the ECOMMAS team were back at sea in July and early August to recover the cetacean detectors and sound recorders, and to redeploy another 30 units. This is high summer in the North Sea – but as anyone from the north east of Scotland knows, this doesn’t necessarily mean calm sunshine-filled days. Nevertheless, the cruise was conducted in generally good conditions, with no delays for foul weather and even some sunshine. This trip was far more successful than our last retrieval voyage in November 2015, when nine of the 30 moorings were missing. This time we managed to recover 27 out of 30, and replacement CPOD dolphin/porpoise click detectors and SM2M sound recorders were redeployed in the same locations.

Most of our equipment is moored using acoustic releases, or pop-ups. These allow us to leave the devices at the seabed for several months, but to release the equipment to float to the surface when they are triggered by a specific high-frequency sound signal, broadcast from the ship. At a few sites our gear is surface marked with a line from the equipment at the seabed to a dhan buoy (a floating flag pole) on the surface. At two sites off Cruden Bay we could see from the ship’s echosounder that there appeared to be equipment on the seabed at the location where we left it, but at one site the acoustic release was not responding, and at the other the dhan buoy was missing. So we decided that the fine weather was a good opportunity to use a small remote-controlled submarine (Remotely Operated Vehicle; ROV) to firstly see what was left at on the seabed, and secondly try and recover the mooring, including the valuable data.

Bill Ruck and Stu Salt from Moray First Marine joined us on board for two days, and brought with them Bill’s Outland 2000 ROV. Bill is a ROV expert, having worked in the oil industry for many years, and now runs his own company based here in north east Scotland. On the first ‘flight’, Bill quickly located our failed acoustic release at Cruden Bay 10 with CPOD still attached, and managed to attach a rope so we could bring the mooring to the surface. We found that the reason the acoustic release didn’t pop up was a failed battery – but more importantly we have recovered the data logger complete with several months data.

 Bill Ruck piloting his ROV to recover a lost mooringAt the Cruden Bay 15 location, where the mooring had been surface marked, a large and confused-looking echosounder target guided the ROV to a tangled mess on the seabed comprised of dhan pole and a mass of rope. Bill battled strong tidal currents to attach a line to a bight of rope, and we pulled the equipment to the surface, quickly discovering that not only was our April 2016 deployed mooring present, but also one that had been lost the previous autumn. The floating dhan buoys had somehow become tangled around themselves and sank. We salvaged the CPODs, both of which were encrusted with large numbers of sea anemones, barnacles and sea squirts. The ship’s crew, led by skipper Andy and mate Stanley, were exceptionally helpful in bringing the mess of equipment on board, and of course we could not have done this without Bill’s expert ROV piloting. Working with Bill and Stu we were able to recover three lost CPODs and additional ancillary equipment, which made for a productive and exciting end to the trip.

Ewan Edwards, Marine Scotland Science

Encrusting life on a pop-up buoy that had only been in the sea for three months

Encrusting life on a pop-up buoy that had only been in the sea for three months

Further Information

July 28, 2016
by Ruth Allen

In deep at the United Nations

Dr Francis NeatNext week, Marine Scotland scientist Dr Francis Neat (pictured right) will join the EU delegation to the UN in New York to discuss deep-sea fishing regulations and conservation in the high seas.

It’s a huge honour and as Francis explains “we rarely think too much about that part of the ocean that is beyond our national jurisdiction (more than 200 miles offshore), but the reality is that it is 50 % of the entire planet and we have every much a stake in it as any other country. The ‘high seas’ as this area is known belongs to everyone and no one, and as such is regulated under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Much of the high seas are deep seas and in the last decade, the UN has been debating problems with deep sea fishing and its impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs), such as seamounts and coral reefs. A series of UN resolutions were passed calling on states and regional fisheries management organisations to better manage their fisheries and protect VMEs. This has resulted in a transformation of how the high seas are now managed.

Marine Scotland Science (MSS) has been at the forefront of providing data and advice on these issues in the north-east Atlantic through the Working Group on Deepwater Ecology (WGDEC) of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea ICES). I first participated in WGDEC ten years ago and was elected chair in 2010. During my 3 year tenure as chair, several areas of the NE Atlantic were closed to protect VMEs, including an area identified during a Scotia survey. Around the same time the European Parliament (EP) was debating whether a ban on trawling below a certain depth should be introduced. This debate rumbled on with environmental organisations and the fishing industry often at loggerheads and an overall failure to agree on what such a depth limit should be. Last year MSS, together with Glasgow University, published a paper reporting results obtained from MRV Scotia surveys that provided crucial evidence for a trawling depth limit of between 600-800 m. This received considerable attention at the time, from publications such as the Economist,  and on June 30th 2016 the EP finally agreed to put forward an 800 m depth limit to trawling, with the intention that this will finally become law by the end of the year.

On August 1st and 2nd 2016 the UN meets again to discuss progress on the implementation of its resolutions. As a scientific expert in this area I was invited by the European Commission to join the EU delegation to the UN and participate in this meeting in New York. I was honoured to accept and will be on my way there next week. It’s a once in lifetime opportunity and very satisfying to think that the work we do at Marine Scotland is internationally respected and underpins scientific advice for issues of global importance.”

More Information

July 27, 2016
by Ruth Allen

MRV Scotia: Survey 1116S Programme

Duration: 5-25 August 2016


  • GOV Trawl (BT 137) with ground gear A & B


  1. To complete an internationally coordinated demersal trawling survey in the North Sea in ICES area IV and continue an IBTS tow duration experiment.
  2. To obtain temperature and salinity data from the surface and seabed at each trawling station using a SEABIRD 19+ CTD. 
  3. Collect additional biological data in connection with the EU Data Collection Framework (DCF).



The Scotia will set sail on the morning of Friday 5 August from Aberdeen. Scotia will then proceed to the first station northeast of Peterhead at the Buchan Deeps. 


There are 82 programmed rectangles to be surveyed and these are presented on the chart below (Figure 1).  

Following on from the successful tow duration experiment conducted in 2015, it has been decided to continue the experiment for 2016.  Within the entire international survey area where two trawls are currently undertaken, one will be of 30 minutes duration whilst the other would be of 15 minutes duration.  This will allow a dual set of abundance indices to be calculated for the assessed species and allow further analysis to determine if the reduction in bottom time has any significant effect on catchability for certain assessed species.  As a parameter of diversity, species richness will also be compared.   The reduction of stations as well as the tow duration experiment should allow additional stations (see Figure 2.) to be sampled in the area to the south and west of Shetland.  

In addition, Scotland is the tertiary country in eight rectangles and will only be required to undertake a tow if the primary and secondary country fail to do so (see Figure 1).  Contact will be maintained with the other survey participants prior to and during the survey and a decision will be made regarding these stations and additional stations once the survey is underway.  Trawling will be undertaken during the hours of daylight which will vary depending on the vessels latitude at any given time and the survey trawl will be used during the survey using short sweeps.  The SCANMAR system will be used to monitor the headline height, wing spread and door spread for each haul and bottom contact data from each trawl will also be collected using the NOAA bottom contact sensor which will be mounted in the centre of the ground-gear. 

CTD casts (conductivity/temperature/depth) will be taken at every trawl station which provide surface and bottom temperature and salinity information.  Reverser bottles affixed to the CTD wire will also be used to collect water samples that will be analysed back at the lab and will provide information on salinities, nitrates, silicates and phosphates.

Further Information

Figure 1 - 1116S Area for Scotland

Figure 1 - 1116S Area for Scotland


Figure 2: Proposed areas Denmark, Scotland, Germany, and Norway should focus their additional tows. Scotland areas in blue and with the letter S

Figure 2: Proposed areas Denmark, Scotland, Germany, and Norway should focus their additional tows. Scotland areas in blue and with the letter S


July 26, 2016
by Ruth Allen

Ocean modelling/marine ecology PhD studentship

SeagullPhD Studentship: Modelling climate change impacts on seabirds via ocean and forage fish dynamics

Britain’s seabirds have declined over the last three decades, and the species that have declined most are those dependent on small, nutrient-rich forage fish like sandeels. These fish occupy a critical point in marine food webs, vulnerable to both “top down” effects (e.g. fishing) and “bottom up” climate impacts via local ocean physics and plankton productivity. Concern over human impacts on sandeels and their predators have led to fishery closures and the creation of special Marine Protected Areas and Marine Conservation Zones, but where does climate change come into this story? Are current hotspots of sandeel and seabird productivity in British waters, the sites one would naturally focus on protecting, still going to be the hotspots fifty years from now? Are recent short-term trends a reliable guide to long-term future change?

This studentship will address these questions by linking together state-of-the-art dynamical simulations describing regional oceanography, plankton ecology, and sandeel life history, along with spatially explicit data on seabird numbers and trends. This project thus integrates many disciplines including physical oceanography, data science, marine ecology, and life-history theory.

Excellent mathematical and programming skills are required, and a background in either oceanography or ecology is preferred. The project will be co-supervised by:

  • Dr Neil Banas, an ocean modeller in the Dept of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow UK
  • Dr Ruedi Nager, a seabird ecologist in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health, and Comparative Medicine at University of Glasgow
  • Dr Peter Wright, a fish biologist and head of the Ecology and Conservation group at Marine Scotland Science, Aberdeen

The student will be registered jointly at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities–a rare, highly interdisciplinary opportunity–and participate in the MASTS (Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland) research network.

The position is open to all UK and EU applicants and comes with three years of full support, including fees and an annual living stipend of approximately £14,000, as well as support for conference travel and other expenses. Start date is flexible, with winter 2016-17 preferred.

Review of applications will begin 15 Sept 2016 and continue until the position is filled. To apply, send:

1) a complete CV

2) a 1-2 page personal statement explaining your specific interest in this position and the skills you bring to it

3) names and contact info for three references.

Please send applications and other inquiries to Dr Neil Banas,

July 25, 2016
by Ruth Allen
1 Comment

SCUBA-diving ‘scientists’ can help monitor global ocean temperature

Dive computers and YSI Castaway CTD

Dive computers and YSI Castaway CTD

Did you know that each time you scuba dive you are potentially collecting data which can help scientists better understand our seas and oceans?

The potential of scuba divers to provide vital information about the temperature of our oceans has been demonstrated for the first time using ‘citizen science’. A study published today in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports has shown that temperature profiles from scuba divers’ computers can be compiled to provide accurate records across the globe that add to our existing monitoring network in inshore areas. This offers additional data that could help us better understand our marine environment.

Dr Serena Wright (Cefas), lead author of the study, said: “Our results show that, with processing, dive computers can provide a useful and novel tool with which to augment existing monitoring systems all over the globe, but especially in under-sampled or highly changeable coastal environments.”

The work, led by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science in collaboration with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) , developed the diveintoscience website that collected more than 7,600 temperature records from sport divers to build up a record of global sea temperature in the first ‘citizen science’ project of its kind.

Dr Kieran Hyder (Cefas), who led the citizen science project, said: “To undertake a global science programme that could generate this information would be hugely expensive, but there are millions of sport and commercial dives every year. Making use of just a small fraction of those dives will greatly increase our knowledge of what is happening world-wide.”

Co-author Dr John Pinnegar (Cefas), lead advisor on climate change, said: “The coastal environment is an important region of our oceans and is vulnerable to pressures brought about by increasing human populations and climate change. The diveintoscience initiative can help generate the large datasets often required to support and improve management decisions.”

The temperature recordings were downloaded from decompression computers that are commonly worn by sport divers, but the accuracy of these records was unknown. Comparisons made by ‘diving’ computers alongside scientific instruments and with satellite measurements of water temperature in this study showed that diver computers can provide accurate records.

Co-author Dr Martin Sayer leads the Natural Environment Research Council’s National Facility for Scientific Diving (NFSD) based at (SAMS, near Oban and has conducted numerous studies on the performance of dive computers. He said: “What we are hoping is that the results from this study will encourage manufacturers and their customers to see the potential benefits of developing new dive computer models that not only support the diver but also produce high quality oceanographic data.”

Dr Hyder acknowledges that there is still some way to go before he achieves his ultimate vision of a global oceanographic resource that is developed and maintained through citizen science. He added: “This has been a very successful proof of concept. The next stage is to work with dive computer manufacturers, potential user groups, diving organisations and the divers themselves to improve the quality of the information and the user experience.”

He added: “The potential of scuba divers to contribute to ocean monitoring is huge and I believe that this study demonstrates only the tip of the iceberg. I would encourage all scuba divers to get involved.”

More Information

July 22, 2016
by Ruth Allen

Orca spotting in Lerwick

Orca and calf

Orca and calf

One of the many advantages of working in one of our coastal fishery offices is the opportunity to not only be surrounded by beautiful scenery and to live in wonderful coastal communities, but to see things that are a little unusual and, quite literally, breath taking.

Two of our – very excited – fishery offices from Lerwick had the opportunity to see some orcas (Orcinus orca) and their calves playing in the water near their office. One managed to get some photographs while the other managed to capture some video.

There is a known pod of older orcas on the west coast, but other orcas come in to Scottish waters as visitors from Iceland.

Further Information