Marine wildlife survey starts in Firth of Clyde and Sound of Jura

Exploration of the Firth of Clyde and the Sound of Jura is starting this week (12th March) to find out more about some of Scotland’s most important marine wildlife.

A team of marine biologists from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will be surveying underwater wildlife and habitats of high conservation value, including horse mussels, the rare but beautiful fireworks anemone and burrowed mud, an internationally important habitat home to burrowing animals.

The scientists want to update existing knowledge about marine life in the survey area, which covers the south of Arran; the outer edge of the Firth of Clyde, south east of the Mull of Kintyre and the upper reaches of the Sound of Jura, including Loch Sween.

A drop-down video camera will be used to capture undersea footage, with ‘grab’ samples taken from the seabed for more detailed analysis.

Laura Clark, SNH’s project manager for the survey, explains: ‘We hope to cover a large area during the survey using the SEPA vessel Sir John Murray. We’ve surveyed some of the sea lochs within the Firth of Clyde before but this time we’re going to explore areas that we don’t have much information on.’

The survey is one of several which have taken place around Scotland since 2010.

Funded by Marine Scotland, it is part of the Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) project, an extensive programme of work carried out by Marine Scotland, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), SNH and Historic Scotland. The findings will be used to advise the Scottish Government and others on conservation and development in the marine environment.

This is where fisherfolk take pause.

Laura says: ‘Scotland has responsibility for 13% of the seas in Europe – they are a huge environmental, economic and recreational resource. These surveys are helping us better understand the distribution and extent of the nationally and internationally important wildlife and habitats found around our shores. This in turn helps us provide up-to-date information when advising Government and others on marine developments and how best to meet international commitments to designate a network of marine protected areas in Scottish waters.’

Other areas surveyed in the last 12 months include the Noss Head, near Wick; the Southern Trench in the outer Moray Firth; the Minch; Lochs Linnhe, Etive and Eil and the Sound of Canna.

The survey starts the week that the fourth marine protected area workshop takes place near Edinburgh (on 14th and 15th March. Marine Scotland, SNH and JNCC will meet with representatives of the fishing industry, other economic interests, local authorities and communities who have expressed an interest in marine protected areas, to let them know what’s going on and get their feedback on search locations.

Video clips of Scotland’s internationally important marine wildlife and habitats can be seen here on the SNH website.

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3 Responses to Marine wildlife survey starts in Firth of Clyde and Sound of Jura

  1. Fishing areas aside…
    While I welcome searches of this type…one wonders why implementation of areas of SPA’s & SCA’s are so slow to follow…recommendations ignored…or worse still, that new projects can be given the go ahead to destroy such areas while SPA is in the process of been assured…
    I fear that even when an area meets and exceeds the qualifying criteria to become a SPA or SCA, commercial based interest in an area prevents establishment of such areas. This makes NATURA 2000 lack credibility, shows hypocrisy on behalf of our government and re-enforces my view that big business has the final say on what is and is not worth preserving or saving.
    Surely, once an area is recognised as a possible SPA/SCA…all new development should be put on hold?
    Please read:
    on the developing and hugely controversial Argyll aka Tiree Array SPA situation.

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  2. Karl: Once a site has been identified as a proposed SPA/SAC then it has the same protection as if it already is one. However, it can’t get to the proposed stage without some good science first, which are what these surveys are about. The areas they are covering include, as is stated, some about which there is very little knowledge. And, yes, it is always possible for damage to take place between survey and the proposal for designation. However, for designation to be refused once it has been proposed, the objection has to satisfy the EU in Brussels not just the national government.

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  3. Hi Alex

    The area has already been surveyed. Ref: JNCC Report No.416 August 2009 ‘ The number of inshore waterbirds using the waters of Mull, Coll and Tiree during the non-breeding season: an assessment of the areas potential for qualification as a marine SPA

    ‘Once a site has been identified as a proposed SPA/SAC then it has the same protection as if it already is one’

    The waters around Tiree have been identified…where can I get quantification of the above statement, this is the kind of information I need.


    A link for

    Your comment ‘

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