Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

November 26, 2015
by Ruth Allen

New report published about the Spatial dynamics of scallops in relation to the Orkney dive fishery

This new report – a Report of Fishing Industry Science Alliance (FISA) Project 03/12 – has been published in the Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science series.


The principal method of fishing for king scallops in Orkney waters is hand collection by divers. Local scallop divers, exploiting small patches of seabed, have reported that these exploited areas are repopulated within the same fishing season, potentially due to immigration from surrounding areas. Studies which quantify the rate of spatial turnover in a scallop population at a small spatial scale have not previously been conducted, and understanding the extent to which scallops move and re-colonise areas could assist in defining a sustainable fishery for scallops in Orkney waters.

Depletion fishing experiments and tagging work was conducted with funding from FISA* to determine the spatial turnover rates of scallops at the scale of individual fishing patches. The main finding of the research was that on average, the scallop population within a previously fished strip of ground 178 m by 4 m increased at a rate of more than 25 % per month due to immigration of scallops, and could be as high as 50 % per month during the summer.

These results suggest that at this small spatial scale, it is possible for a fished ground to be restored to pre-fishing scallop population levels in under a year.  This will however depend on the existence of undepleted stocks in areas adjacent to the fishing grounds. Further work is now underway to determine the real implications of this scale of movements on the Orkney scallop stock, which could in turn inform local fisheries management.

*FISA draws on the combined expertise of fishermen and scientists. It was established to support collaborative research and further scientific knowledge, with the aim of supporting sustainable and effective fisheries management in Scotland.

Further Information

November 24, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Scotia: Survey 1715S Programme

Duration: 18 November – 8 December 2015

Fishing Gear:

GOV Trawl (BT137 – Strengthened) and ground gear D.


  1. To participate in the ICES co-ordinated western division demersal trawling survey;
  2. To obtain temperature and salinity data profiles at each trawling position; and
  3. To collect additional biological data in connection with the EU data collection framework (DCF).


Scotia set sail on 18 November and (after all safety drills and shakedown trawl shoot) commenced fishing operations on the stations to the west of Orkney.  A half landing will be made around 1 December, into Greenock, to exchange staff.  The survey will end in Aberdeen on 8 December with all staff, equipment and fishing gear returning to the Marine Laboratory.


One trawl haul of thirty minutes duration will be made at the positions (approximate) shown on the attached chart and table.  Final trawl locations will be decided after SIC consultations with Fishing Master and Captain.  For each haul, the Scanmar monitoring system and NOAA bottom contact sensor will be used to observe and record the performance and geometry of the trawl and trawl doors.

Fish Sampling:

All fish will be treated according to current standard research vessel procedures and additional biological data will be collected as determined by EU data regulation 1639/2001 and 1581/2004.

Hydrography Sampling:

CTD casts will be taken at each trawl station.  The thermosalinograph will be run continuously to obtain sea surface temperature and salinity throughout the survey area.


Further Information:

Scotia 1715S - Trawl Locations















November 18, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Alba na Mara: Survey 1815A Programme

Alba 1815A MapDuration: 26 November – 1 December 2015

Sampling Gear:

  • BT 158 with 50 mm cod-end;
  • 2 m beam trawl with 50 mm cod-end;
  • Day grab and table;
  • Catamaran and manta neuston net; and
  • Bongo net.


  1.  To undertake flatfish sampling in St Andrews Bay, and Forth estuary in support of the Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme (OSPAR and MSFD).
  2. To undertake sediment sampling in St Andrews Bay, Outer Firth of Forth and Forth estuary in support of the Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme (OSPAR and MSFD).
  3. To undertake sample preparation for subsequent eco-toxicological analyses.
  4. To undertake survey of sea-surface litter in surface waters of the Scottish east coast.
  5. Adventitious sampling of fish and shellfish for micro-plastics.
  6. At two sites in the Forth estuary and Firth of Forth, to  sample sediments, benthic infauna, benthic epifauna, demersal fish, phytoplankton and zooplankton in support of PhD project on trophic transfer of contaminants.


Fishing and scientific gear will be loaded in Leith prior to Alba na Mara sailing on 26 November.  Flounder and five sediment stations will be sampled in St Andrews Bay and in the Forth estuary (Tancred bank), five sediment stations will be sampled in the outer Firth of Forth.  The neuston manta trawl will be deployed in the Forth estuary, the Firth of Forth, and off the east coasts of Fife and East Lothian.  This net is to be towed at five knots, or less, for 30-90 minutes in order to collect and sample micro-plastics floating on the sea surface.  In the Forth estuary and the Firth of Forth additional sediment grabs will be collected for benthic invertebrates.  Crabs and other epibenthos will be adventitiously sampled from Tancred bank beam trawls; additional fishing will be undertaken to collect dab and invertebrates (Nephrops, crabs, etc.) as may be found in the Firth of Forth.  Six bongo net hauls will be undertaken in the Forth estuary and six in the Firth of Forth in order to obtain plankton samples.

Tables 1, 2 and 3 list the sediment, fishing and sea surface litter survey sites, respectively.

On completion of this survey, passage will be made to Leith from where all scientific gear and samples will be transferred to MSS (Aberdeen).



November 17, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Sir John Murray: Survey 0215SJM Programme

Duration: 16-22 November 2015

Sampling Gear:

  • SEPA-provided 2 m beam trawl with 50 mm cod-end;
  • SEPA-provided bottom trawl with 50 mm cod-end;
  • SEPA-provided Day grab and table;
  • MSS-provided catamaran and manta neuston net; and
  • MSS-provided bongo nets for plankton sampling.


  1.  To undertake flatfish and sediment sampling in the Clyde and Solway in support of the Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme (OSPAR and MSFD).
  2. To undertake sample preparation for subsequent eco-toxicological analyses.
  3. To undertake survey of sea-surface litter in the Firth of Clyde and Solway Firth.
  4. To take adventitious samples of fish and shellfish for micro-plastics.
  5. To obtain samples of sediment, plankton, benthic invertebrates and fish in support of PhD project on the trophic transfer of contaminants within the Clyde.


Scientific gear will be loaded on to the Sir John Murray in Troon on 12 November.  Scientific staff will join the vessel in Troon on 16 November.

Five sediment samples will be collected for contaminant analysis from each of two water bodies in the Firth of Clyde and one in the Solway Firth.  Flatfish (dab, plaice or flounder) will be collected for determination of contaminants and their biological effects from the Bowling, Holy Loch, Hunterston (contaminants only), Garroch Head, Outer Clyde, and Solway Firth (disease only) fishing stations.  At the Holy Loch and Outer Clyde fishing sites, samples of sediment, plankton, benthic invertebrates and fish will be taken in support of a PhD project on the trophic transfer of contaminants.  The manta neuston net will be towed on passage at five knots in order to survey and sample sea-surface litter from the Solway, the Clyde estuary and the inner, middle and outer Firth of Clyde.  On completion of the survey, passage will be made to Troon where MSS scientific gear and staff will unload and transfer to Leith to load Alba na Mara for survey 1815A.  Staff and frozen samples will then return to Aberdeen on the 23  November.

Rest Day Provision:

This is a seven-day survey programme followed by the transfer of gear to Leith and the loading of Alba; one rest day will be then be taken.

Possible Good Weather Programme:

  1. Leave Troon to collect Outer Firth of Clyde fish and sediment samples; use the manta net en route to the Solway Firth.
  2.  Sample fish and sediments from the Balcary Point sampling stations, make use of the manta net on return journey to Troon.
  3. Collect the Middle Clyde offshore sediments and the Garroch Head sediment/fish; berth at Troon, using manta net in Irvine Bay, Sound of Bute, and en route to/from fishing site.
  4. Collect fish from Hunterston and Holy Loch; use manta net en route to berth at Greenock.
  5.  Make use of manta net en route to/from collecting fish at Bowling, and in the Gare Loch area; berth in Greenock.
  6. Sediment samples from Holy Loch and Largs Channel; manta net en route to Troon; unload.

Poor Weather Programme:

Go into Clyde, working where possible.  Fewer manta net tows.  Going to Solway if/when weather allows.


Further Information:



November 13, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Vacancy: Licensing Casework Officers (Closes 9th December)

We are currently seeking applications for 1 x Full Time (42 hours per week) and 1 x Part Time (FTE) Licensing Casework Officer within Marine Scotland’s Licensing Operations Team based at The Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen.

The job holders will co-ordinate the application process for marine licences (under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, part 4 – Marine Licensing) and S36 consents under the Electricity Act 1989, providing advice to applicants, liaising with statutory and non-statutory consultees and issuing appropriately conditioned marine licences.

Read more and apply…

More Information

November 12, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Scotia: An update on survey 1615S

MRV Scotia 1615S Blog PictureWe sailed from Aberdeen on 4th November to undertake comparison trials of a new ground gear (ground gear E), with a standard ground gear (ground gear B).  The survey began with instrumentation trials, before moving to commercial fishing grounds to undertake catchability trials.

Once the required number of hauls were completed for ground gear E, and data collected, the net was re-rigged with ground gear B and the catchability trials recommenced.  Catchability trials are ongoing; as are the under water TV observations and instrumentation trials.


Further Information

November 9, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

SNH Commissioned Report 894: Harbour seal haul-out monitoring

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has recently published a study which investigated the consequences of disturbance from boats to seals using haul outs.  The work was carried out by the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews and helps to inform our understanding of the effects of disturbance, particularly in relation to the 194 protected seal haul outs that were designated by Scottish Ministers in September 2014 under powers granted in the Marine (Scotland) Act (2010).

Further Information

November 6, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Alba na Mara: Survey 1715A Programme

Duration: 10-23 November 2015

Gear: Surface and subsurface PAM moorings

Objectives: To retrieve a series of moorings comprising dhan buoys (eight surface marked moorings) or acoustic release systems (22 subsurface moorings) and the acoustic recording devices attached to them (30 C-POD and ten SM2M/SM3M) as part of the east coast marine mammal monitoring programme (see Table 1 and Figure 1 shown below).Figure 1: Positions of all 30 moorings, with depth in meters and type of mooring to be retrieved during survey 1715A.

Procedure: Loading of all equipment will be carried out on 6 November when the previous survey (1615A) returns to Fraserburgh.  Alba na Mara will sail from Fraserburgh on the morning of 10 November and make for the first mooring position.  The ultimate order in which the moorings are retrieved will be dictated by the weather forecast and the likely shelter that can be provided by the east coast. Acoustically triggered moorings that may have malfunctioned, but can be located by echosounder, will be grappled for using the creeping hook attached to the trawl warp. It may be necessary for Alba na Mara to make a partial unloading of retrieved moorings to ensure enough available space on the vessel.  If this is the case the vessel will visit the most suitable port depending on her location.


Further information:

October 30, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

MRV Scotia: An Update on Survey 1515S

On the 19th October 2015, MRV Scotia set sail from Aberdeen on survey 1515S to undertake 15 days of cooperative work between JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) and MSS (Marine Scotland Science). The survey covered two sites some 100 miles east of Aberdeen, with all scientific work being carried out by our team of four MSS staff, five JNCC staff and the crew of MRV Scotia. Collaborative work such as this has been carried out by the two organisations since 2004.

For this trip, the sites chosen for investigation were the East of Gannet and Montrose Fields and the Norwegian Sedimentary Plain (shown below), which were selected as part of ongoing studies into Marine Protected Areas with special protected features.

After steaming east for around 10 hours, Scotia arrived on station in the East Gannet/Montrose area and started sampling using a 0.25m2 Hamon grab, a large and heavy piece of kit ideal for working over coarse and mixed sediments. The grab samples around 25 litres of sand and mud per sample and deposits it in a catch tray, this sample is then passed through a 1mm mesh and anything remaining (including a variety of worms, shellfish, urchins and hermit crabs) is preserved in a tub or jar. We are planning to collect up to 276 samples over both sites followed by extensive observations of the seabed using TV and digital still camera systems on the Gannet/Montrose site only.

To date (30 October) we have successfully collected just over 200 grab samples and recorded 50 TV tows and we hope, weather permitting, to complete our objectives (with a few added extra sites) by early Sunday morning after which Scotia is scheduled to return to Aberdeen.

Picture 1 below shows the Hamon grab sampler while Picture 2 shows an example of a sample after having been sieved.


Further Information

Figure 1: East of Gannet and Montrose Fields and the Norwegian Sedimentary Plain

Figure 1 1515S East of Gannet and Montrose Fields and the Norwegian Sedimentary Plain








Picture 1: Hamon grab sampler

Picture 2 1515S Example of a sample after having been sieved







Picture 2: Example of a sample after having been sievedPicture 1 1515S Hamon grab sampler








Previous Post:

MRV Scotia: Survey 1515S – dated 16th October



October 29, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank
1 Comment

MRV Scotia: Survey 1615S Programme

Duration: 4-15 November 2015

Fishing Gear:

GOV Trawl (BT137) and ground gear B and new light rockhopper (E rig).
2 sets ground gear bags (port, starboard and center).


  1. To compare the catchability of a GOV trawl rigged with a new light rockhopper ground gear (E Rig) against the same net rigged with the bobbin ground gear rig (B Rig) use during IBTS North Sea surveys.  Catchability will be assessed using the ground gear ‘bagged’ technique.
  2. To obtain under water TV footage of ground gear contact, adjuster chain assembly and mid-bridle orientation.
  3. To carry out instrumented gear measurements using self-contained load-cells and Scanmar to assess bridle loads and net drag.

Loading of all trawl gear will take place on 2 November.  Loading of all other scientific equipment will take place on 2 and 3 November with all equipment being set up and tested by the evening prior to sailing.  Scotia will sail on 4 November and (after all safety drills and a shakedown trawl shoot), thereafter, commence fishing operations on suitable GOV tows East of Aberdeen, Moray Firth or East of the Orkney Islands.  Weather conditions at the time will determine the exact start area.  Trawling operations will be conducted from 07:00 hours until 21:00 hours and the survey schedule and operations will be decided by SIC after daily consultation with Fishing Master and Captain.

The plan is to start the survey with the new light rockhopper gear (E Rig) and undertake TV observations and instrumentation trials.  Once these have been completed the ground gear bags will be attached and catchability data collected.  It is anticipated the duration for the observation and instrumentation hauls will be up to two hours (codend untied) and for the ‘bagged’ catchability tows 15 minutes (codends tied).  Once sufficient hauls have been made with the rockhopper ground gear the GOV trawl will be re-rigged with ground gear B and the process repeated.

During the instrumentation hauls the tow procedure will consist of blocks (15 minute periods while towing at constant rpm) for three different speeds.  Once the 15 minute blocks have been completed for each speed the vessel will turn and the same procedure repeated in the reciprocal direction.  Prior to turning, the gear will be hauled until the ground gear is on deck and once turned then redeployed.  The number of speed ranges will be dependent on the prevailing weather and may be reduced.