Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

June 30, 2016
by Ruth Allen

Marine Analytical Unit monthly update – June 2016

This month’s update from the Marine Analytical Unit has been published, featuring an article reporting on the Fish Price Index.

Related Links

June 22, 2016
by Ruth Allen

Calculating shellfish stock figures

SMFS cover 0716

A new Scottish Marine & Freshwater Science report has been published looking at indicators of changes for Scottish shellfish stocks.

Shellfish are important to Scottish fisheries - a total of 61 544 tonnes of shellfish with a value of £150 million were landed by Scottish vessels in 2014. However, for many shellfish stocks, the limited biological data and lack of appropriate monitoring make assessing stock challenging.

The data limitation is due to insufficient methods for the ageing of crustaceans. For sedentary shellfish stocks, exploited by localised fisheries, data at the appropriate spatial scale is often not available and measured (or derived) regularly, indicators are able to show changes in the state of the population or stock, and fishing mortality to support a data-limited stock assessment.

In this report, we review the use of indicators calculated from a number of sources:

  • commercial fishery data
  • fishery-independent survey data
  • available biological data

and we look at their use in the assessment, advisory process and management of data limited stocks, both fish and shellfish, worldwide.

Further Information

June 20, 2016
by Ruth Allen

Biggest ever assessment of Atlantic deep-sea ecosystems gets underway

Atlas logo

Marine Scotland scientists have been involved a number of collaborative deep sea projects over the years but we’re delighted to be involved in the new ATLAS Project - a research and innovation action funded under the EU’s new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020. The launch of ATLAS marks the beginning of an exciting series of expeditions involving at least 25 research cruises and hundreds of scientists from 10 European countries, the USA and Canada, working collaboratively to explore the depths of the Atlantic Ocean over the next four years.

ATLAS Project Coordinator Professor J. Murray Roberts, from Heriot-Watt University, said: “The north Atlantic was the birthplace of deep-sea biology and the cradle of oceanography. It’s the place we should know best, but it’s only over the last 20 years that we’ve uncovered just how varied and vulnerable the Atlantic’s deep-sea habitats really are.”

ATLAS will strive to improve our understanding of the complexity of deep-sea ecosystems and to predict future shifts and vulnerabilities of these ecosystems and their associated species, including those that are new to science. To do this requires a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and an integrated approach to tackling the problem. Alongside traditional approaches, ATLAS scientists will explore modern molecular techniques, such as environmental DNA (eDNA) sequencing, to search water and sediment samples for known and undiscovered deep-sea species.

As well as carrying out pioneering research and discovery, a major goal of ATLAS is to develop a scientific knowledge base that can inform the development of appropriate international policies to ensure deep-sea Atlantic resources are managed effectively. This will contribute to the European Commission’s long-term “Blue Growth” strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. Seas and oceans are drivers for the European economy and have great potential for innovation and growth. The “blue” economy represents roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates a gross added value of almost €500 billion a year for Europe.

ATLAS also intends to carry out outreach activities to raise awareness of the importance and vulnerability of the Atlantic ecosystem and the impact humans are having on the ocean environment. This will contribute to a major international effort for “Ocean Literacy” to make all European citizens aware of the importance of the oceans on everyday life on Earth and what actions they can take to help protect them. Activities will include the development of deep sea education material, a travelling road show and a new interactive exhibition on the ocean at Dynamic Earth, a science centre in Edinburgh which receives over 220,000 visitors per year.

Further Information


June 16, 2016
by Ruth Allen

Trialling methods for tracking marine mammals


Harbour Seal

As part of the process for developing wave and tidal renewable energy generation in Scottish Waters,  a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has to be completed, evaluating the potential interactions between marine renewables and  marine wildlife as a matter of priority. Despite significant progress in the industry over recent years, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about the risk that tidal turbines in particular pose to marine mammals.

To improve our understanding of how animals perceive and respond to devices, the Scottish Government funded a research project to test and deploy methods for tracking the fine scale underwater movements of marine mammals in the vicinity of operating marine tidal energy devices. The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), based at the University of St Andrews carried out this research over an 18 month period starting in summer 2014.

This research was the first phase of a wider project to track marine mammals around tidal turbines, and had the primary aim of developing and testing the capabilities of a suite of technologies used for detecting collisions or localised avoidance/displacement behaviour of marine mammals within an operational tidal array. This project produced an integrated Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM), Active Acoustic Monitoring (AAM), and underwater video system to track animals in 3D with a high spatial and temporal resolution.

Key outcomes of the research include:

  •  A review of appropriate platforms for deploying monitoring equipment close to the tidal turbines
  • A developed PAM system that is reliable and capable of detecting and tracking harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin clicks in 3D
  • A technique to track marine mammals in 3D in a tidally energetic environments using dual sonars
  • An efficient algorithm to classify marine mammals in sonar data
  • An AAM system that can successfully detect and track seals in tidally energetic environments
  • A fixed seabed mounted platform with AAM and PAM systems that was successfully deployed and detected marine mammals over a period of several weeks.The next phase of this project will be the deployment of the hardware and software around the first commercial tidal project in Scottish waters. This will provide a tailored system for understanding the behaviour of marine mammals around operating tidal turbines and will enable data to be collected that will refine estimates of collision risk.

Further Information

June 14, 2016
by Ruth Allen

Scotland exceeds 2020 climate targets

Greenhouse Gas Emmissions

Scotland has exceeded the level of our 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% six years early, Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham confirmed today.

The latest climate change statistics show Scotland’s emissions, for reporting against targets, have fallen by 12.5% year on year to 41.9 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2014. This is a reduction of 45.8% from the 1990 baseline.

The figures published today also show that Scotland continues to outperform the rest of the UK as a whole, with a 39.5% drop in Scottish source emissions between 1990 and 2014 compared to the UK’s 33% reduction over the same period. Scotland is also one of the leading countries in Western Europe for reducing emissions.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform said:

“Scotland is making outstanding progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These statistics show that we not only met the annual 2014 emissions reduction target but also exceeded the level of our world-leading 2020 target for a 42% reduction, six years ahead of schedule.

“The reduction in residential emissions in 2014 may have been due to people turning down their heating. This underlines that small individual actions, if repeated on a large scale, can have a big impact in tackling climate change

“This is an especially important time for climate change, in light of the international agreement reached in Paris last December and it is great news that Scotland continues to show ambition and demonstrate the progress that can be made.

“We will continue to rise to the challenge and the First Minister has already confirmed that the Scottish Government plans to establish a new and more testing 2020 target. We are not complacent and we will continue to take action and encourage others to do their bit to tackle climate change.”

Ms Cunningham was speaking on a visit to the Harlaw Hydro community renewable energy project.

Chair of Harlaw Hydro, Martin Petty, said:

“Harlaw Hydro is a cooperative set up for the benefit of the community. It was created in order to build and operate a hydro-electric scheme using the water from Harlaw Reservoir. When the reservoir is full the scheme, which was initiated by, funded by and managed by the community, generates enough green energy to power up to 150 houses. Climate change affects us all, and I am pleased that we are able to make a contribution to Scotland’s efforts to tackle it.”

More Information

June 9, 2016
by Ruth Allen

New method for estimating the risk of collision between harbour seals and tidal turbines

New method for estimating the risk of collision coverAs the offshore marine renewables industry grows, the way that marine mammals interact with these are of particular importance. This is especially true of tidal devices and one particular concern is the risk of collision between these animals and rotating turbine blades below the sea surface.

A new report has been published, commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland, which describes a new method for estimating the risk of collision between harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and tidal turbines. It’s part of a wider package of studies intended to improve understanding of potential interactions between marine mammals and marine renewable devices.

The methods developed in this report bring together several different pieces of scientific data:

  • The analysis of site-specific seal movement data
  • A hypothetical tidal turbine array layout in the Pentland Firth
  • Seal tracking studies in 2011
  • Seal population survey data for harbour seals in the Pentland Firth and Orkney area

Marine Scotland, as part of its Demonstration Strategy for tidal energy, is funding a further project to design sophisticated combinations of underwater instruments (sonar devices, acoustic monitors, cameras, etc) to observe the interactions between tidal turbines and a range of animals, including harbour seals, diving seabirds and fish.

More Information

June 8, 2016
by Lyndsay Cruickshank
1 Comment

It’s time to Celebrate the Sea

Today is World Ocean’s Day!  A day recognized by the United Nations as a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future.  This year, individuals and organizations across the planet are celebrating under the theme “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet” and are promoting prevention of plastic ocean pollution with an array of events and opportunities for everyone to get involved with; such as Selfie for the Sea, The Better Bag Challenge and Wave for Change.Hirta on the deep blue sea. Crown copyright.

A selection of research studies within this year’s theme of “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet” has been made available, with free to access on ScienceDirect, and one of our colleagues at Marine Scotland, Meadhbh Moriarty, was lucky enough to have her paper (which looks at litter occurrence, composition, distribution and source and describes work Meadhbh carried out while at the Marine Institute, Galway) selected: Spatial and temporal analysis of litter in the Celtic Sea from Groundfish Survey data: Lessons for monitoring – well done Meadhbh, what a fantastic achievement!

Further information on marine litter, oceanography and marine ecosystems can be found below:

June 3, 2016
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

Listening for Marine Mammals

Mooring deployment

The East Coast Marine Mammal Acoustic Study (ECOMMAS) array continued collecting data in 2016. On the 28th of April Alba na Mara sailed from Fraserburgh to deploy moorings at 10 station locations along the Scottish East Coast. The trip lasted 10 days and all the moorings were deployed successfully.

The marine mammal listening array extends from Latheron in the upper Moray Firth to St Abbs in Berwickshire. Each station contains three moorings positioned at 5, 10 and 15 km from the shore. Attached to each of these moorings are the marine mammal listening devices which make in-situ recordings of marine mammal presence/absence. One device in each cluster of three moorings also makes broadband acoustic recordings which can be used to identify dolphin species, and also provide information on background noise levels.

The ECOMMAS array has been deployed off the east coast yearly since 2013. East Coast Array StationsThe results of this work will allow Marine Scotland Science to get a clearer picture of what the distribution of the dolphin and porpoise  populations look like, to help us understand whether major construction projects have any effect on this.

These moorings will be retrieved and re-deployed once more in late July 2016, and then finally recovered in November, to provide a total of seven months of  marine mammal monitoring.

For more information have a look at our topic sheet.

Robert Watret
GIS Analyst




May 31, 2016
by Ruth Allen

What happens when you meet your marine neighbour

MarCRF Logo

Last week, marine researchers from Aberdeen took part in a “Meet Your Marine Neighbour” networking event at the Town and County Hall in Aberdeen City Centre. Researchers from many fields took part, from aquaculture to oceanography, pharmaceuticals to law, and included people from academia, industry, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government.

The event was sponsored by the Marine Collaboration Research Forum (MarCRF) an initiative between the University of Aberdeen and Marine Scotland Science to promote collaborative research between the two institutes.

For more information on the event, please contact Jacqueline Tweddle,