Lo­cal angers help to pro­tect fish species

The Oban Times - - OUTDOORS -

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.’

Pho­to­graph cour­tesy of SNH

A skate is tagged and mea­sured as part of the project.

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