Local angers help to protect fish species
MARINE biologists from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Marine Scotland Science (MSS) are working together to try to protect two of Scotland’s fish species.
Using high-tech tracking, and with help from local creel fishermen and anglers, they are working to understand how common skate and spurdog use the Argyll Marine Protected Area (MPA).
Dr Jane Dodd, who is managing the project for SNH, said: ‘ We’re really lucky in Scotland to have a wonderful range of wildlife living in our seas.
‘Previous studies have shown that common skate are resident in the waters off Oban in significant numbers and the MPA was designated for their protection in 2014.
‘By tracking skate in the MPA, we aim to better understand how they use the area throughout the year, which will help us to make sure that the management of the site is appropriate.’
The project, which runs until July, has so far fitted tags to 40 skate and more tagging is planned for the summer.
The area is also a hotspot for spurdog, sometimes known as spiny dogfish, a small shark which grows up to 1.5 metres long. The team tagged eight spurdog in the Firth of Lorn and 50 in Loch Etive, the largest of which was 99.5cm long.
The individual fish were photographed for future identification and each had a DNA sample taken for analysis.
Some of the skate were also fitted with data storage tags (DSTs) which provide information about how the fish spend their time in the MPA by recording depth and temperatures.
Both species are now classed as ‘ vulnerable’ having declined significantly in numbers.
Dr Dodd said: ‘This exciting project has brought together a range of people who all want to see these fantastic fish thrive in Scotland’s seas.
‘ We are particularly grateful to the creel men who are helping us to maintain the moorings and collect the data from the receivers, and to the anglers who have shared their skate and spurdog data with us and are returning the DSTs to us.’
A skate is tagged and measured as part of the project.