Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

July 3, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Scotia: survey 0715S update

The MRV Scotia sailed east from Aberdeen on the 3rd June to begin the Annual Nephrops TV Survey. Work commenced at the Fladen grounds, however after only completing half the planned stations the weather turned poor and the outlook even worse so the vessel made its way for the Minches. In considerably better conditions, stations down the west side of the North Minch were completed. The survey carried on just to the east of Harris and the Uists and then off Barra Head before turning east and heading for Coll, Tiree and Jura. Work continued in the Clyde in perfect weather, without incident and with only a few modifications to some stations due to the close proximity of commercial trawlers.

After two days working in the area MRV Scotia then sailed to the Sound of Jura where a number of sites were surveyed along with a trawl. Following a long steam, the vessel then returned to the South Minch and began to work up the east side, around Canna, Eigg, Rhum and off Mallaig, before working up the west side of Skye in to Dunvegan and Loch Snizort. Surprisingly clear of creels, these areas were completed before heading round into the east side of Skye and Raasay, where a trawl was also carried out. To allow work to continue through the hours of darkness in areas traditionally fished with creels, the vessel scouted out the next few sites before daylight faded, and with no buoys present the TV sledge was safely deployed and recovered throughout the night. The survey then worked west towards Stornoway clearing stations in open water before having the half landing in Stornoway on the 15th June. However on the morning of the 15th whilst finishing the last three stations, a fault developed in the cable which required the cable to be replaced.  This was undertaken once tied up in port. The last ten stations in the North Minch were surveyed on the 16th before heading east and back to Fladen to continue the survey, covering the stations that had not been visited in the first part of the survey due to the poor weather.

With favourable weather through to the end of the survey the remaining stations at Fladen and Devils Hole were also completed as set out in the cruise programme.

Figure 1 Survey areas for Scotia 0715S

July 2, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Scotia: Survey 0715S Programme

Nephrops Survey

Duration: 3-22 June 2015


  • 2 x ScotiaBT175 80mm prawn trawls
  • 2 x Day grabs and 1 x sieving table
  • Towed UWTV sledge
  • 2 x 600m umbilical towing cables and associated TV equipment (including back up).


  1. To obtain estimates of the abundance and distribution of Nephrops burrow complexes at Fladen, in the North Minch, theSouth Minch, the Firth of Clyde, in the Sound of Jura and at Devil’s Hole.  If time and weather permits, stations at the Noup may also be surveyed;
  2. To use the TV footage to record the occurrence of other benthic fauna as well as evidence of commercial trawl activity;
  3. To collect sediment samples at each station;
  4. To carry out trawling for Nephrops, based on one haul in each sediment stratum in each of the main survey areas, to obtain samples of Nephrops for size composition analysis;
  5. To collect samples of Nephrops from the trawls for comparison of reproductive condition and morphometrics in each of the different survey areas (functional units);
  6. To record and retain marine litter obtained from trawling as part of the MSFD.

The main areas in which the survey will take place have been surveyed on annual basis for a number of years and are shown in Figure 1.  A combination of two approaches will be used to derive the survey positions: a stratified random approach and fixed stations.  The majority of stations will be generated by employing the traditional stratified random technique based on sediment distribution in all areas except the North Minch, where stations will be randomly generated within the boundaries of commercial Nephrops fishing effort, obtained from the Vessel Monitoring System.  Alternatively at the Devils Hole and within some of the other survey areas there are a number of fixed stations.  The location of all TV stations will be provided ahead of the cruise.

Weather permitting, it is planned that the vessel will first carry out a training session in deploying the sledge en route to the Fladen grounds. Initially approximately 450 m of the TV cable will be paid out with a large buoy (supplied by MSS) attached to the end of the cable to be lowered into the water.  This will add back tension to the cable on recovery.  The sledge will then be attached to the umbilical, and as a training session, the sledge will be shot and recovered.  When this procedure is completed to the satisfaction of all involved, the vessel will then progress on to the first of the Nephrops burrow TV stations at the SW edge of the Fladen ground.  Once the work at Fladen has been completed, the vessel will then steam around to the west coast and survey stations in the North andSouth Minches.

It is anticipated that the vessel will work south along the western side of the minches towards theClyde, surveying TV sites and carrying out trawls as required.  The timing of the half landing will depend on how well the work has progressed and berth availability at Campbeltown, but it is anticipated that theClydewill be surveyed before the half landing; although this can be reviewed nearer the time and adjustments made accordingly.  There are no fixed commitments to when the half landing takes place and there will be no exchange of MSS staff when tied up in port.

Following the half landing the survey will continue in the Sound of Jura, followed by the remaining South andNorth Minchstations whilst working north. If time and weather permits, a small number of stations at the Noup may be attempted before heading east.  Any additional stations in Fladen (if required), or those not covered on the first leg of the survey, will be completed before heading to the final survey area at the Devils Hole.

When on station, sledge deployments and TV observations will be carried out 24 hours a day.  There will be three teams of two staff, each working eight hour shifts and all will be involved in deploying and recovering the TV equipment, recording data and liaising with the ship’s compliment.  There will be a requirement for staff to work outwith their shift period, which will include reviewing video footage, assisting in working up trawl catches and data entry.  All work will be carried out in accordance with WTR regulations.  The names of staff on each shift, watch leaders and the shift patterns will be provided to the ship prior to sailing.

At each TV station a video camera mounted on to the sledge will be towed along the seabed for approximately 10 minutes at approximately 1 knot and in to the tide – the ship’s dynamic positioning will be required for this.  Observed Nephrops burrows, individual Nephrops and other benthic fauna will be recorded onto DVD for analysis.  The depth and distance travelled by the sledge, as well as camera height from the sea bed, will be recorded automatically.  Where practical sediment samples will be taken using the mini van Veen grab mounted on the sledge.  However it may be necessary to use the Day Grab on occasion, if the mini van Veen fails.  All sediment samples will be frozen.

Trawl caught samples of Nephrops will be collected and information on size composition, maturity and morphometrics will be recorded.  Up to five trawls may be made in Fladen with a maximum of three tows in each of the other survey areas.  Trawls will be carried out over different sediment types as defined by BGS.  Trawls will be no longer than one hour long and carried out at either dawn or dusk.  Any litter collected in the trawl will be recorded as set out in the SOP and placed in bags to be disposed of on return to port.  There will be a requirement for the trawl to be cleaned by ‘streaming’ it behind the vessel for 15 minutes between the main fishing areas, as well as a final, more prolonged clean at the end of the survey.

Figure 1 Survey areas for Scotia 0715S

July 1, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Interim Population Consequences of Disturbance (PCOD) Framework published

A team of scientists from across the University of St Andrews has developed a new desktop tool for assessing the impact of noise from human disturbance, such as offshore wind development on marine mammal populations – the Population Consequences of Disturbance (PCOD) Framework.

The steering committee for the project was chaired by Dr. Ian Davies, Renewables and Energy Programme Manager at Marine Scotland Science and the publication and he said:

“The publication of this model provides a new framework is a significant step forward in our ability to assess acoustic risks to marine mammals. However, it is very much an interim measure; it is expected that it will be further refined and built upon over time as more evidence becomes available. The interim PCOD model is a novel tool that will allow further insight into the potential impacts of disturbance on marine mammal populations. For now, it’s important that renewable energy project developers considering using the Interim PCOD approach seek advice from the SNCBs and/or regulators at an early stage.”

More Information


June 30, 2015
by Ruth Allen

RiCORE Newsletter: June 2015

RiCORE  logo

RiCORE logo

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, RiCORE aims to develop a risk-based approach to the consenting of offshore renewable energy sites, running from January 1st 2015 to June 30th 2016.

The project is comprised of six European partners, including Marine Scotland and they have also started to produce a regular newsletter, with details of all their latest updates.

More Information

June 22, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Taking the message about marine litter back to school

Picture from Mill O' Forest Primary school

Picture from Mill O' Forest Primary school

In Marine Scotland, we have a bunch of very active and knowledgeable colleagues who are STEM Ambassadors who spend lots of time educating and working with your people, whether at schools or universities.

In March, one on the members of our Fish Health Inspectorate attended an Eco-day at the Mill O’Forest primary school in Stonehaven, where he spoke to several primary 1 and 2 children on the subject of Marine Litter.

As he explained:

“I was asked to come in to the school and talk to their Eco-committee about a marine subject and marine litter is an important subject, so I suggested a presentation on this. I thought “great – a lunchtime chat to 7 or 8 children of varying ages, but all interested in the environment, throw in a couple of slides of some rubbish on a beach – what could go wrong?”.  The proposal quickly developed into an ‘Eco-day event’ involving multiple schools from across the region and the request soon grew to an entire day, speaking to three classes, amounting to over 70 kids!  Needless to say I felt rather apprehensive and decided that a strategy to ensure pupil engagement was a necessity.

A short presentation, with lots and lots of pictures, highlighted the different types of marine litter that exist, where it comes from, the impact it has upon marine organisms and the actions we can all take to prevent and reduce the problem. This was followed by several sessions in smaller groups looking and talking about real examples of marine litter.  There was a drawing competition, with prizes, allowing the children to demonstrate what they had learnt.

The children were enthusiastic and really engaged throughout the day. They showed a big interest in the marine environment and the animals and plants which live there. In addition, they were exceptionally well behaved. The comment of the day has to be from one of the primary 1 pupils who announced that if a shark cut itself (through a piece of marine litter) then it would try and eat itself! I like the logic.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day I spent at the school.  The staff were very appreciative of my time and effort – so much so that I have been invited back, to talk to their Eco-committee (as originally planned) and to be involved in their next assessment as part of the Eco-schools process. “

More information

June 18, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Marine Scotland Science supports sustainable aquaculture projects

More than twenty new research projects have been awarded funding to address key challenges to the aquaculture sector. The proposals, supported by co-funders including Marine Scotland, Centre for the Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Sciences (Cefas) and the Scottish Government,  will focus on farming or cultivation in finfish, molluscs and crustaceans. The programme primarily aims to build capacity across the aquaculture research sector, with multidisciplinary projects spanning bioscience and environmental science. The funded projects will also seek to expand the uptake of new tools and technologies in priority areas.

The aquaculture sector provides a vital role in feeding a growing population, set to reach 9BN by 2020. In the UK, the value of aquaculture in producing finfish such as salmon and sea trout is worth around £580M per year and rising. Challenges to the industry such as disease and parasite infections affecting farmed stock have a devastating impact.

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC’s Science Director said: “To help ensure sustainable aquaculture stocks for society and the economy, a broad research base is needed to understand the biology and health of farmed species. Research focusing on the interactions between industry and the ecosystem is crucial to ensure sustainable production of this healthy and nutritious food source.”

More information

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC):

June 17, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Marine Scotland Science colleagues mentor Product Design student

Neptune: Vacuum Filtration System

Neptune: Vacuum Filtration System

For the fifth year in a row, Marine Scotland Science colleague John Dunn has mentored a PDE (Product Design Engineering) student from Glasgow School of Art. 

This year’s student, William Balloch, had the task of designing a better chlorophyll filtering system for use on board research vessels. Given the importance of this particular job and the volumes of water needed to be filtered, it is somewhat surprising that there is no current commercial system available to workers in this field. The system which we use on MRVs Scotia and Alba Na Mara was manufactured in the lab from pieces of available lab-ware and suffers from leaks and being fiddly and awkward to use.

William, a qualified engineer already, arrived at the lab in late summer never having been in Aberdeen, let alone a marine laboratory. I showed him our current system and talked him through the job we wanted the filtration system to do. He made copious notes, took photographs and made lots of measurements. I also talked him through some of my ideas on how things could be improved and was able to give him some video footage of the current apparatus being used. This helped to highlight some of the design problems associated with the current kit.

Over the months, and after a constant flow of emails backwards and forwards and several more visits to Aberdeen, William started work on his design.

During January and February this year, things went very quiet and I was concerned that perhaps William had become swamped by the enormity of the task. However, I needn’t have worried as he then emailed me his design and the dissertation on how he had worked through the various engineering and materials design issues. Not only had he produced an excellent design (the Neptune Vacuum Filtration System), but he had actually built a working prototype which, after some minor modifications, we hope to test on-board Scotia quite soon.

Unfortunately, I was unable to go to the degree show at Glasgow University School of Art, but my colleagues Dr Berit Rabe, Pam Walsham and Matt Geldart did attend and they were unanimously impressed by both William and the prototype design he had constructed.

William’s enthusiasm for the project remains undimmed and even though he has secured a job, he is very keen to continue working on the project to ensure that it meets our exacting scientific demands. A number of commercial companies have been contacted and I am confident that at least one of them will be keen to produce this excellent piece of apparatus commercially.

We will keep you updated with William’s success!

June 16, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Consultation: Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan

A consultation is being launched on a plan that will be used to guide development activity in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters and members of the public will soon have the opportunity to give feedback on the draft plan.

The Marine Spatial Plan has been developed by a working group that includes Marine Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council and it is an important stepping stone towards the introduction of regional marine plans around the entire coast of Scotland.

The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters were chosen to pilot the development of a Marine Spatial Plan to support the sustainable management of the area’s seas. It aims to balance the needs of local communities and marine economic activities whilst protecting the environment on which they depend. These economic activities include the renewables industry, commercial fishing, tourism, recreation, aquaculture, shipping and oil and gas.

Following an earlier consultation in 2013, the comments received were taken on board to inform the preparation of the plan. After consideration by Councillors, it has been endorsed by both Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council and will now go out to public consultation.

The working group would like to invite members of the public and other interested parties to provide their views on the Marine Spatial Plan. The consultation period runs from Monday June 15 until September 6 and a series of public consultation events have been organised in Orkney, Caithness and Sutherland. These are:

  • July 6 –Warehouse Buildings, Stromness
  • July 7 – Caithness Horizons, Thurso
  • July 9 – Village Hall, Durness

These events will take place from 1pm – 8pm with a short presentation at 6:30pm.

Chair of the Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor James Stockan, said: “The first Marine Spatial Plan to be prepared for Orkney and the Pentland Firth is a major step towards supporting sustainable economic growth whilst protecting our outstanding marine environment.

“The marine area is a very important part of Orkney’s culture and heritage, and the Marine Spatial Plan will be a vital tool to safeguard the wellbeing and quality of life in local communities.”

To take part in the consultation follow the link from the home page at or go directly to

Copies will also be available to view at the Council’s Customer Services in Kirkwall and Stromness and local libraries.

Further information about the Marine Spatial Plan is available at:

Consultation responses can be submitted by September 6 2015:


June 15, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Vacancy: Marine Superintendent (Closes 10th July)

Applications are invited to fill a vacancy for a Marine Superintendent located in Marine Scotland Compliance Headquarters, Edinburgh.

The role is to be professional head for all Marine Staff on Marine Scotland’s fleet of three Marine Protection Vessels and two Marine Research Vessels, and to support the Head of Compliance in delivering an integrated fleet, supporting both research and compliance activity at sea.

Read more and apply…

More Information