Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

October 20, 2014
by Ruth Allen

New topic sheet published: EMBRC



Through its members the EMBRC will provide access to European coastal seas and the extensive range of marine organisms that it contains. In addition, with having both the expertise and necessary specialist facilities, it will become the major European provider of marine biological research infrastructure and related services, championing the future sustainable exploitation of marine biological resources.

October 17, 2014
by Paul Stainer

European Plans for the Ocean Energy Sector – October 2014

The European Commission has developed a two-step action plan to support the emerging ocean energy sector in Europe. In the first phase (2014 – 2016), an Ocean Energy Forum will be set up, which will bring together stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of the problems and to develop solutions. It will focus on building capacity and critical mass, and on fostering cooperation. The outcomes of the Forum will feed into a strategic roadmap, which will provide an agreed blueprint for action in order to help the ocean energy sector move towards industrialisation.

In the second phase (2017 – 2020) a European industrial initiative could be developed, based on the outcomes of the Ocean Energy Forum. European industrial initiatives are public-private partnerships that bring together industry, researchers, Member States and the Commission to set out and implement clear and shared objectives over a specific timeframe. They enhance the impact of innovative research and development and provide a platform for sharing investment risk.

The development of the Ocean Energy Forum is still at an early stage. However, it is proceeding against an ambitious agenda set by the Commission to develop 100GW of ocean energy by 2050. In support of this agenda, a comprehensive infrastructure fund will be put in place to tackle issues such as the provision of a strategic grid network.

More on the Ocean Energy Forum here

Article by Andronikos Kafas

October 13, 2014
by Ruth Allen

MRV Alba na Mara: Survey 1714A – Cruise Report

“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure”. Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

A good book on a long sea trip is often a good source of inspiration. Finding and identifying rare marine species hidden beneath the azure of the Sea of the Hebrides is not, as might be expected, an easy task, but for the last three weeks the Alba na Mara has been doing just that.

When the capricious weather has decided to be kind, and at times it seldom felt like it would, we used the ship’s underwater camera system to survey several sites across the Sea of the Hebrides.  Some of these sites were home to the tall sea-pen, Funiculina quadrangularis, and during the trip we were able to locate several areas that were previously unknown to science. Our other search for the UK’s largest and rarest bivalve mollusc, the fan mussel, Atrina fagilis, was guided by computer models developed jointly by Marine Scotland and Aberdeen University. Our journey has taken us to waters over 240m in depth and to seabed varying from deep mud to rocky cliffs. Our efforts look promising but the task of revealing the sea’s hidden treasures is always a difficult one.

Phil Boulcott, Scientist in Charge
Alba na Mara Cruise 1714A

October 13, 2014
by Ruth Allen

MRV Alba na Mara: Survey 1714A – Cruise Programme

Figure 1 - Map of the study area in the waters around the Isle of Skye
Figure 1 – Map of the study area in the waters around the Isle of Skye

26 September – 14 October 2014

Ports: Loading in Fraserburgh, 24 September 2014 and unloading in Greenock, 14 October 2014

Personnel: Five


  • Pyramid frame and underwater video camera kit.
  • Pyramid frame calibration mesh (2 x wire panels)
  • Large, dual bongo + counterweight + 200 µm net and cod ends
  • Large plastic fish tank (white) + grey fish tanks
  • Scanmar depth units (x2)



Benthic Survey of Burrowed Mud Habitats

1714A will survey the waters around the Marine Protected Area (MPA) sited at the island of Canna (Figure 1).  Video surveys of the seabed will be carried out during this work in addition to the collection of RoxAnn sediment data.  It is the primary objective of this cruise to survey monitoring sites previously surveyed in 2012 and 2013 that support Scotland’s Priority Marine Features.  Work from these surveys will be used to determine the effect of MPAs established in Scottish waters.  A secondary objective will be to survey additional sites in the area surrounding the Small Isles and another to the north of the Isle of Skye that could provide suitable substrate for the tall sea pen, Funiculina quadrangularis, and for the fan mussel, Atrina fragilis.  These data, in conjunction with data gathered from less suitable sites, will be used to refine habitat suitability models for these species.  Species type, species densities and substrate type will be recorded during the survey.  Further post survey analysis will be conducted on this data.

Figure 2 - Map of the study area in the waters surrounding the Small Isles.

Figure 2 - Map of the study area in the waters surrounding the Small Isles.

Larval Dispersal

1714A will sample plankton from the water around Canna.  The programme of work follows on from plankton surveys conducted in June 2012 (survey 1012A), and September 2013 (1213A). Sampling will be conducted using the large (1 m diameter) dual bongo net.

Further to this work, 1714A will also retrieve a spat collecting mooring from Canna which was deployed from the MV Spanish John II on the 29April 2014. Candidate A. fragilis spat found on the spat collectors will be measured, weighed and placed in holding tanks for further cultivation in the laboratory.

October 13, 2014
by Ruth Allen

MRV Alba na Mara: Survey 1914A – Groundtruthing Survey

Preferred survey area, marked with red box

Preferred survey area, marked with red box

Duration: 27 October – 2 November 2014

Ports: Loading at Greenock, 24 October 2014, Unloading at Greenock, 02 November 2014

Personnel: Four


  • Day grabs
  • TV drop frame including HD digital video, temperature probe, flux capacitor, lasers, polyurethane cable, swathe multibeam echosounder system and RoxAnn system.


  1.  To undertake groundtruthing survey work over electrical cables and hydrocarbon pipelines to assess their potential interaction with the local epifauna.

October 10, 2014
by Paul Stainer

8th International GIScience conference

In September, Marine Scotland Science staff attended the 2014 8th International Conference on Geographic Information Science (GIS),. The biennial conference, held in Vienna and hosted by the Austrian University of Technology brought together more than 600 international participants from academia, industry, and government organisations to discuss the state-of-the-art advances in the field of GIS.

This year’s programme provided a platform for geographers, computer scientists, and cartographers to meet with GIS practitioners such as ecologists, traffic specialists, linguists and social scientists. The 3-day long programme, combined with 1-day pre-conference workshops, included a number of different sessions in movement analysis, land use & land cover, mapping, spatial analysis and modelling, time geography, user generated data, volunteering GIS and public participation GIS.

Renowned Professors Edelsbrunner, Sieber, and Dykes were invited to deliver keynote talks on topology, citizen science and geo-visualisation respectively and in total, more than 100 presentations were given.

A brief overview of selected presentations from the conference and movement workshop is provided here.

Article by Andronikos kafas

October 9, 2014
by Ruth Allen

Rome Declaration presented at EurOCEAN 2014

Today, the Rome Declaration was presented at the EurOCEAN 2014 conference, an official event of the Italian EU Presidency.

Setting a vision for seas and ocean science to achieve an ecosystem approach to the management of Europe’s marine resources as a fundamental requirement for sustainable Blue Growth, the Rome Declaration sets out four high level goals and associated actions for delivering this vision.

The four goals comprise:

  • Valuing the Ocean
  • Capitalizing on European leadership
  • Advancing ocean knowledge; and
  • Breaking barriers.

‘It’s a vision that is about connecting science, policy and people’, stated Professor Ed Hill, Chair of the Rome Declaration Drafting Group, during the presentation of the Declaration. Some 340 European scientists, policymakers and other experts representing 143 organizations from 31 countries attended EurOCEAN 2014.

More Information:

October 8, 2014
by Ruth Allen

MRV Alba na Mara: Survey 1814A – Scallop Abundance

A map of the three survey areas in and around Lamlash Bay: 1) western area of Lamlash Bay 2) no take zone 3) outside reference area.  Four quadrat images are to be taken at each station (n=30).

A map of the three survey areas in and around Lamlash Bay: 1) western area of Lamlash Bay 2) no take zone 3) outside reference area. Four quadrat images are to be taken at each station (n=30).

Duration: 16-24 October 2014

Sampling Gear:

  • Pyramid frame
  • 2 x UW TV cables (one armoured)
  • Digital stills camera
  • AV support equipment


1. Collect time series data on scallop abundance in the Lamlash Bay area

In September 2008 part of Lamlash Bay, Arran, became a community marine reserve and is now a No Take Zone (NTZ), the purpose of which is to help protect and enhance biodiversity.  In addition to the enhanced biodiversity there is also an expectation that the No Take Zone will result in the scallop stocks being enhanced.  Two baseline surveys, conducted by Marine Scotland Science in June 2009 and November 2010, collected data on scallop abundance in and around the waters of the NTZ.  This survey will repeat the survey of the NTZ and two control areas (Figure 1) in order to assess whether changes have taken place in the structure of the benthic community in the intervening four years.

2. Conduct a bathymetric study of the area to the south of Arran MPA

The area to the south of Arran will be surveyed using multi-beam, bathymetric techniques.  Data from this survey will be processed at a later date and will be used to derive sediment maps.

October 8, 2014
by Ruth Allen

MRV Scotia: 1514S and 1614S – Mackerel surveys

Figure 1.  Provisional Survey track 15 & 1614S.

Figure 1. Provisional Survey track 15 & 1614S.

Loading: Aberdeen, 8 October 2014,  Departure: Aberdeen, 11 October 2014

Arrival and unloading: Aberdeen, 23 October 2014

Sampling Gear

  • Midwater trawl PT160 x 2
  • Edgetech broadband towed system
  • Seabird 911 CTD
  • Go-pro camera system with additional sensors (depth, temp, attitude etc)
  • Towed hydrophone array

Overall Objectives

  • To investigate the use of a broadband system as a means to determine mackerel size
  • To estimate mackerel density and abundance.
  • To study distribution of cetaceans and their relationship to mackerel shoals

Specific Objectives

  1.  Calibration of Broadband system.
  2. Obtain acoustic data from mackerel using the broadband system
  3. Obtain echosounder recordings of mackerel schools and map their distribution.
  4. Obtain biological samples of mackerel from schools by trawling
  5. Calibrate Sv and TS gains on the Simrad EK60
  6. Deploy a Go- Pro camera system with additional sensors into the mackerel schools to observe behaviour
  7. Observe marine mammal distribution and activity during daylight hours
  8. Obtain towed hydrophone recordings of mammal vocalisation during survey transects.


All gear will be loaded in Aberdeen on 8 October.  The vessel will depart Aberdeen on 11 October and make passage for Loch Erribol, where a calibration of all drop keel mounted acoustic transducers will take place. During calibration, an investigation of the acoustic output of the broadband system will be attempted using a standard target below the suspended towed body. In the event that there is insufficient depth for this exercise in the selected anchorage, and weather permits, this may be done in the open sea with the vessel drifting.

Scotia will make her way to the survey area after the calibration has been completed. The proposed survey area is shown in Figure 1. However, this is based on the expected position of the Scottish pelagic fleet which will be fishing for mackerel at this time. The survey will follow a pattern of parallel transects running east/west, at normal steaming speed (approximately 10.5 knots) until an area with suitable shoals is found. Work using the broadband system will then be concentrated in that area.

Acoustic data will be collected at four frequencies (18, 38, 120 and 200 kHz) on a 24 hour basis. While transecting, a towed hydrophone array will be deployed over the stern of the vessel and will be recovered prior to any fishing operations.

Fish shoals seen on the echosounder will be identified using a pelagic trawl (PT160).  Trawling operations will be carried out up to twice per day at anytime between 0900 and 2100. The vessels netsonde systems will be required to monitor catch density and position of shoals in the water column during trawling. The SH80 sonar will be used to collect acoustic data and direct fishing operations.

Biological sampling of all species caught will be carried out as per standard sampling protocol.

A vertical CTD dip will be carried out immediately following a pelagic trawl, this will require the vessel to use its DP system to remain on station.

Deployment into mackerel schools of the fishing rod mounted Go-Pro camera/sensor system will be done either in DP or with vessel drifting depending on the conditions. Where schools are shallow the GO-Pro system may be net mounted during tows.

The ships thermosalinograph will be run continuously to obtain sea surface temperature and salinity throughout the survey area.

Scotia will be unloaded of fishing and scientific gear on her return to Aberdeen on Thursday 23 October.

Related Information:

Where’s the Scotia? :

October 3, 2014
by Paul Stainer

Assessing environmental impacts of offshore wind farms: lessons learned and recommendations for the future

Marine Scotland Science have been involved in a recent publication reviewing the assessments carried out for offshore wind farms.  The article describes the lessons learned from recent experiences in the European offshore wind industry and makes recommendations for future monitoring and assessments in this internationally growing industry. It focusses mostly on assessments relating to marine mammals and seabirds and is freely available from

Article by Dr Kate Brookes