Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

August 18, 2014
by Ruth Allen

Various Vessel-based Vacancies: Marine Scotland Compliance (closing date 26 September)

There are a number of vacancies within Marine Scotland Compliance, all of which are based on Marine Patrol and Research Vessels:

September 18, 2014
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

Award for the best undergraduate dissertation in marine science

At the Challenger Society for Marine Science’s Biennial Conference, a student co-supervised by Dr Bee Berx from the Oceanography Group at Marine Scotland Science (MSS) was awarded a prestigious award for the best undergraduate dissertation in marine science.  Christine McKenna, studying for a BSc in Geography & Mathematics at the University of St Andrews, used data collected during a number of MSS research surveys on MRV Scotia to investigate the different water masses that are present in the Faroe Shetland Channel.  Christine combined measurements of temperature, salinity, nutrient concentrations and stable isotope ratios of oxygen to calculate the fractions of the different water masses and estimate mixing between them, using a new statistical technique (Parametric Optimum Multi-Parameter analysis).

The Faroe Shetland Channel is an important region for the exchange between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nordic Seas (the Norwegian and Greenland Seas).  The water masses that are found close to the sea surface originate from the North Atlantic, while those near to the sea bed were formed in the polar regions.  Mixing between these water masses can change their properties and may have an influence on the exchange of heat and salt between the two basins, which is an important component of the Earth’s climate system.  Marine Scotland Science has a long history of observing water mass properties (such as temperature and salinity) and velocities (using current meters) in the Faroe Shetland Channel.

Christine McKenna presenting results from her undergraduate dissertation work at the MASTS annual conference

Christine McKenna presenting results from her undergraduate dissertation work at the MASTS annual conference

Christine, who also received the 2014 Edwards Prize from the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews, was awarded the tripartite prize for the best undergraduate dissertation in marine science.  This award is made every year by the three major learned societies in the field of marine science: the Challenger Society for Marine Science, the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology, and the Society for Underwater Technology.

Christine recently presented results from her undergraduate dissertation work at the MASTS annual conference at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.  Together with her supervisor at the University of St Andrews, Prof William Austin, work is underway to finalise a manuscript for peer review based on Christine’s undergraduate research work.  Christine will start a post-graduate course at the University of Reading this autumn.

Further Reading:
Topic Sheet on North Atlantic Circulation
Ocean Challenge Article The Hydrography and circulation of the Faroe–Shetland Channel

September 5, 2014
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

Crossing the edge: from coastal seas to open ocean

By Bee Berx

The Faroe Shetland Channel (FSC) is a key connection between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nordic Seas.  The flow of warm, saline Atlantic water polewards, and the underlying equatorward cold overflow are important branches of the Atlantic overturning circulation.  Marine Scotland Science (MSS), in collaboration with the Faroese Marine Research Institute (FAMRI) and University of Bergen (UiB), has contributed to North Atlantic monitoring for a number of years.  Traditionally, this work has involved ship-based surveys measuring temperature, salinity and the flow of water throughout the water column.

Image courtesy of Sarah Hughes, MSS

The drifters line up at the race start line (50 m drogued drifters are on the left hand side, 1 m drogued ones are to the right).

In May 2014, researchers from MSS and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) deployed ocean drifters during a research cruise aboard MRV Scotia to observe the Scottish slope current and its variability.  Ten drifters were drogued at 1 m depth (this means they are designed to be pushed along by the currents at this depth), and 15 were drogued at 50 m depth.  A satellite tracker at the water surface transmits the drifter’s GPS position to our computers, allowing us to remotely track their progress.  During the summer, the drifter race was broadcast via the drifters’ own webpages (see embedded links above), as well as via regular Twitter updates.  There is still time to catch up with their story by visiting our Storify page.

Although drifters can provide valuable information on the region’s circulation, they are passive, and once released scientists are unable to influence their path.  This is not the case for the more recently developed gliders, which can be directed by scientists from land.  During summer 2014, two gliders were deployed to observe key physical parameters along one of the standard hydrographic monitoring lines (the Fair Isle Munken line).  In May 2014, Knockando was deployed from MRV Scotia, and the scientists from SAMS piloted the glider to travel between the Faroe and Shetland Isles.  During its deployment, the glider was also instructed to hold position near one of the moored current meters.  The strong currents in the region meant this was no mean feat to achieve.  In August 2014, MPV Jura–one of Marine Scotland Compliance’s vessels- helped recover Knockando when she ran into trouble in the FSC at the start of August.  The experienced crew then assisted with the deployment and recovery of the second glider: Orca from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Image courtesy of George Slesser, MSS

Dr Marie Porter (SAMS) and glider Knockando

Unfortunately, this second deployment had to be cut short, but this close collaboration between scientists from MSS, SAMS and UEA, as well as the involvement of Marine Scotland Compliance officers and crew, saw the first successful deployment of gliders in the Faroe Shetland Channel.  An experience we hope to build on in the near future.

Acknowledgements: This work was done in collaboration with Dr Marie Porter, Prof Mark Inall and the SAMS glider team, and Dr Rob Hall and the UEA glider team. We are very grateful to MPV Jura’s officers and crew for the safe return of both Knockando and Orca.

September 5, 2014
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

New measures to control trade in some shark and ray species

From 14th September new trade restrictions will be in place to protect populations of some sharks and ray species.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has added six shark and ray species to Appendix II. Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.

The species listed are:

  • porbeagle (Lamna nasus)
  • oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)
  • scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini)
  • great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
  • smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena)
  • manta rays (Manta spp.)

For further information on these new trade measures please visit the UK government website.

Other Links: CITES website

September 2, 2014
by Ruth Allen

Erin’s aiming to ride high on the Crest of a wave

Erin Warner

Erin Warner

Erin Warner, a 6th year pupil from South Uist, has become the latest pupil to enjoy a six week placement with Marine Scotland Science (MMS), through the Nuffield Science Bursary Programme. The six-week Nuffield Foundation Science Bursaries allow pupils to spend a summer working alongside practicing scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

Erin, who was 17 when she took part in the project, said:

“I hope to study all three sciences and go on to study Marine Science when I leave.  Near the end of my 5th year, I was made conscious of the Nuffield scheme and applied for a Nuffield Bursary and the opportunity to complete a project at Marine Scotland’s Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. I was thrilled to be given my own project, where I would attempt to discover whether there is enough food for sandeels in the Firth of Forth.

I have always had a keen interest in biology and chemistry, and have been fascinated by the sea and what it could contain for many years  – much helped by the fact that I live on South Uist and am constantly surround by the vast Atlantic Ocean.  The project was rather daunting at first; there were a lot of things that I didn’t have a clue about. However, over the six week period, I became aware of a lot of the issues surrounding sandeels and their food, and learning why this part of the food web is so important.  After much sorting of samples, and collecting data, I finally had the knowledge to produce a report and poster on the subject!

Right the way through the project I learned a huge deal about the subject and gained a priceless insight into scientific research and techniques used in real life.  It has definitely lead to encourage me to study marine science in the future, and maybe even make it back to the lab someday.

Although my mentors, Dr Kathryn Cook and John Dunn, were very busy themselves, they helped immensely with explaining every step of the process, giving me the encouragement and confidence I needed to complete this project and produce a useful piece of work.”

Over the last eight years, MSS has collaborated with the Nuffield foundation to provide projects which can be undertaken by a capable school student with supervision from MSS scientists. The projects are all jobs that MSS needs to have done, so the student has to produce a scientific report and a poster on the project , to the satisfaction of both Nuffield and MSS.

The posters and reports are showcased in a celebration event held by Nuffield at Surgeon’s hall in Edinburgh, where successful students  are presented with certificates, and hear presentations from former Nuffield students and a prestigious scientific guest speaker.

Erin has now entered her successful Nuffield project for a Crest award, and later on this year she will enter the Big Bang competition which will be held in Manchester next year. The Big Bang is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK and is by invitation only, drawing on pupils who have achieved scientific excellence from all over the United Kingdom, to have their work judged by a committee of experts in each scientific discipline and age group.

Crest awards and the British Association for Science awards are scrutinised by professional scientists in the particular field that the student has worked in , and are not awarded lightly. Colleges and Universities now use these awards to help them choose potential students.

Previous MSS students have featured both in Nuffield literature and on their website, and that they have also gone on to win the Big Bang out right, and the tomorrow’s water competition, as well as representing  the United Kingdom at international events.

August 26, 2014
by Ruth Allen

Scotlands Environment Website want your views!

At Scotland’s Environment website, they want to make sure you get the best experience when visiting.

They’re currently running a website survey , so why not pop over and tell them what you think and let them know if you have any ideas for further improvements or changes?

This only takes a few minutes and we value your feedback.

August 21, 2014
by Ruth Allen

Scotland’s Future and Scottish Fisheries: Independence boost for fishing

New report sets out key independence gains for fishing industry

Five key gains for the fishing industry have been set out in a new report published today by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Mr Lochhead said that only independence will ensure Scotland’s fishing will be a national priority and ensure that the industry thrives for generations to come.

The five gains for the fishing sector set out in more detail in the report are:

• Fishing will be a national priority

• Direct representation in the EU and ability to negotiate our priorities without compromise

• Protection of Scotland’s fishing quotas

• Fairer share of EU Fisheries budget

• Ensure Scotland’s fishing levies promote Scottish seafood

Mr Lochhead said:

“Scotland’s fishing and seafood sectors are great industries and play an important part in our economic success and in our social and cultural identity.  As such they are many times more important to Scotland than to the UK as a whole, and for that reason they will be a much greater priority in an independent Scotland.

“Only with independence will Scotland’s fishing industry benefit from greater influence, better representation, a fairer deal in funding, and quota protection.  Freed from the existing constitutional arrangements, where it is not a national priority, it is a sector which will flourish.

“With independence, quota – which is the lifeblood of the fishing industry – will be protected.  A vote for independence will mean that we can protect our fishing sector and our rich heritage as an eminent fishing nation for this and future generations by stopping our quota being sold outside Scotland.

“Scotland is already one of the EU’s leading fishing nations as our waters account for at least 20 per cent of the European Union’s catch and fourth largest of the EU’s core sea areas.  We are already at the centre of Europe’s complex fisheries management arrangements and independence will bring greater influence on the decision making process.

“As an independent Member State we will have a greater influence on the issues that matter most to us. It will bring an end to the ludicrous situation where the landlocked countries of Europe, such as Slovakia, Austria and Luxembourg, can even speak on EU fisheries policy, while Scotland currently cannot.  And it will end the situation where time and again I am forced to sit in silence while other nations of Scotland’s size – and smaller – make their case and secure key concessions for their fishing industries.

“Independence will give us the voice we need to negotiate a fairer share of European fisheries budgets to help our fishermen and the wider industry. Unlike the UK Government which has sought to reduce the size of these funds – and whose negotiation tactics have left Scotland third bottom of the European fisheries funding league tables – we will fight for a fair deal where the funding Scotland receives is relative to the size of the industry we have.”


August 20, 2014
by Paul Stainer

New Publications on Marine Renewable Energy Developments

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have recently completed two reports relating to marine renewable energy developments and their potential impact on the environment.  These reports offer a risk assessment of the interaction between marine renewable devices and the diving birds and megafauna in the area.

The first report, Commissioned Report No. 773. A Diving Bird Collision Risk Assessment Framework For Tidal Turbines, was funded by Marine Scotland and is available through Marine Scotland and SNH.

The second report, Commissioned Report No. 791. Understanding the potential for marine megafauna entanglement risk from marine renewable energy developments, is available through SNH.

Summaries and links to both reports can be found below.

Commissioned Report No. 773. A Diving Bird Collision Risk Assessment Framework For Tidal Turbines

Marine tidal energy schemes are likely to make a substantial contribution to the mix of future energy sources within Scotland and the UK, but their environmental impacts are poorly understood. For diving seabirds, collisions with tidal turbines represent a potential way in which tidal energy developments may cause population-level impacts

This report describes an approach for assessing the collision risk of diving birds with tidal turbines, known as the exposure time population model (ETPM). The approach explores the collision rate required to achieve a critical level of additional mortality by estimating (i) thresholds of additional mortality for the population at risk of collision (via population modelling) and (ii) the potential time that each individual within the population is at risk of collision (via exposure time modelling).

Apart from the ETPM, there are a number of other models used to assess collision risk of marine wildlife. We currently do not favour any one model when undertaking a collision risk assessment.  All of the available models are likely to have imperfections, and the accuracy of the model predictions is dependent on the quality of the input data. Nonetheless, given the limited knowledge base and poor understanding of the underwater movements of diving birds and their behavioural responses to underwater devices, this approach is considered an appropriate and useful method for assessing collision risk of diving birds.

Commissioned Report No. 791. Understanding the potential for marine megafauna entanglement risk from marine renewable energy developments

This report considers the potential entanglement risk to marine megafauna from moored marine renewable energy developments (MRE).  Existing information relating to entanglement is reviewed, and a qualitative risk assessment was developed to assess relative risk to marine megafauna on the basis of biological (body size, manoeuvrability etc.) and physical (mooring characteristics) risk factors.  Results suggest that MRE device moorings are unlikely to pose a major threat, but that some mooring designs pose a greater relative risk than others.  Recommendations are made to assist developers include relevant information in their development applications.

Article by Drew Milne

August 18, 2014
by Ruth Allen

World Leading Mammal Acoustic Monitoring Programme in its second year

Proportion of days with Dolphin detections 2013Marine Scotland is currently running a world leading monitoring programme to detect the presence of dolphins and porpoises at 30 sites along the east coast of Scotland. The aim of the programme is to establish the distribution of dolphins and porpoises, providing valuable information on which to base future marine renewable developments.

In May 2014, work began on the second annual deployment of moored CPODs (echolocation click detectors), which detect the presence of dolphins and porpoises.  These are clustered in sets of three at increasing distance from shore, at 10 locations around the coast.  One mooring out each group of three also holds a broadband acoustic logger, which records ambient noise levels, as well as dolphin whistles.  Analysis of whistles allows identification of dolphins to species level.

Last year, porpoises were detected at most sites every day, and at the Fraserburgh site, porpoises were detected for an average of 19 hours.  However, the known aggressive interactions between dolphins and porpoises mean that porpoises were not detected as often in areas that bottlenose dolphins are known to visit.

Proportion of days with Porpoise detections 2013

The data will allow assessments to be made about whether planned wind farm developments may affect the broad scale distribution of dolphins and porpoises across the east coast and the ambient noise measurements will also be used to inform Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) noise descriptors. The noise measurements are also being analysed by the National Physical Laboratory as part of a project developing underwater soundscapes.

Dr Kate Brookes, the leader of this project commented: “This project is ambitious in scale; monitoring the whole east of Scotland simultaneously.  It will provide the first broad scale data on how and when dolphins and porpoises use particular areas.  Analyses from last year’s deployments are ongoing, but show that porpoises use many areas of the east coast every day.  They also seem to avoid areas where dolphins spend more time, presumably to avoid the well documented aggressive interactions seen between the two species.”

(Attached maps compiled using data from moored CPODs)