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.