Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

September 26, 2014
by Ruth Allen

Ministry of Defence Joint Warrior Exercise: 5 – 16 October – Brief for fishing vessels and ferries

Information is now available online for the next bi-annual Joint Warrior Exercise that will take place between the 5th and 16th October.

The Brief for fishing vessels and ferries is available online:

For any queries or issues, please contact the Staff Officer Submarines at:

Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff
Northwood Headquarters
Sandy Lane

Tel : (01923) 958788

Fax: (01923) 958779


September 25, 2014
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

The many considerations around stocking wild salmon

Although young salmon may look very much like one another, it is well established that their metabolic rates when resting are highly variable among families.

But what does that mean?

A recent publication from an international team, including John Armstrong of Marine Scotland Science (MSS) and Simon McKelvey of Cromarty Fisheries (Robertsen et al., 2014) found that salmon families with high metabolic rates grew and survived relatively well in some streams whereas those with lower metabolic rates performed best at other sites. Although it is not yet clear exactly what features of the local environment favour different levels of metabolism the study, using a large scale field experiment in northern Scotland, provides further insight into the likely importance of local adaptations.

Previous work at MSS conducted by Dave Stewart, Stuart Middlemas and Alan Youngson provides a good example of local adaption. Salmon are renowned for homing to the stream in which they were born. This process allows local evolution to occur, effectively fine-tuning the fish to their home stream. Dave showed that salmon from the upper river Tay catchment are quite different from those lower down the river in that they have evolved earlier “run timings”. Salmon grow in the river for typically 2-4 years before smolting into the marine form and leaving during spring. Dave’s experiment showed that by leaving earlier in the year, upper tributary fish arrive at the sea nearer the same time as those from lower in the river, and hence probably contribute to a large focussed run that reduces losses to predators.

Such potential local adaptations in metabolism, run-timing and many other biological characteristics, have important implications for fisheries management. Adding the wrong types of spawning salmon (technically termed “mixing up the locally evolved gene pools”) can be expected to result in offspring that are maladapted. Hence, they may leave as smolts at an inappropriate time and suffer poor growth and survival. The consequence of this approach can be a reduction in production of returning adults, and decline in the fishery.

The study of Grethe Robertsen and collegaues shows that even among streams within the upper River Conon catchment, there is the potential for significant differences in adaptation of metabolic rate. This result suggests that even stocking salmon from neighbouring streams may damage local gene pools. The growing consensus is that such stocking is truly a method of last resort in conservation of local populations and even then may not be a practical option. Further research from MSS in this area of interest is currently submitted for publication.

September 24, 2014
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

SNH Commissioned Report 783: Understanding the potential effects of wave energy devices on kelp biotopes

This report improves understanding of the potential changes to kelp habitats that could occur as a result of the development of wave energy renewables projects around Scotland’s coasts.  An objective risk assessment found that kelp habitats have the potential to be affected by site-specific disturbance by wave energy projects. However, given the extent of kelp habitats in Scotland and the high levels of natural disturbance tolerated by these habitats, the magnitude of the predicted impact is not considered significant on a regional and national scale. A framework for assessing the significance of the impacts of wave energy projects on kelp biotopes is provided as a tool to assist regulators, developers and their consultants that will inform impact assessments. Recommendations for best practice, mitigation and monitoring are outlined.

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.