This week the Scottish MPA project reached a significant milestone this week with the designation of 30 protected sites throughout Scottish waters. This network is the result of work involving many agencies and organisations. Marine Scotland Science (MSS) has been working hard conducting research, monitoring surveys and providing advice to help support this work.
MSS Scientists have unique knowledge and expertise of some of the habitats and species considered to be marine nature conservation priorities in Scottish waters or Priority Marine Features (PMFs) as they are commonly known. This is particularly so for some of the mobile fish species such as common skate and sandeel.
Understanding how connected the protected features may be between different MPAs is important but is a difficult area of science where often little is known about the movements or spread of many of the features being protected. MSS oceanographer Alejandro Gallego has used hydrographic models to simulate where the planktonic larvae of protected benthic species may move to, potentially providing a bridge from one protected site to another http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/07/7896
MSS scientists have led on several surveys with partners JNCC and SNH using Marine Scotland vessels Alba na Mara and Scotia across a range of MPA search areas, possible MPAs and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) (part of the wider MPA network). Survey methods in which MSS specialise, such as: swathe bathymetry, towed underwater video, grab sampling and deployment of fish traps, were used to record the habitats and species in MPA areas in the Minches, West of the Hebrides, Northern North Sea, Moray Firth and Faroe Shetland Channel as well as the SACs East Rockall, Wyville Thompson Ridge, Stanton Banks, Solan Bank and Pobie Bank. These surveys have provided data to define search areas, revise site boundaries and set a baseline for future site condition monitoring.