Dun­beg sci­en­tist ap­peals for help from sea an­glers

The Oban Times - - Outdoors - DAVID MCPHEE dm­cphee@oban­times.co.uk

SEA AN­GLERS who have fished for com­mon skate off the West Coast could have pho­tographs that could help sci­en­tists.

Any­one who has fished in a West Coast Ma­rine Pro­tected Area (MPA) could have valu­able in­for­ma­tion stored on their phones, com­put­ers or in fam­ily al­bums.

Ma­rine sci­en­tists study­ing the world’s largest skate species in the Loch Su­nart to the Sound of Jura MPA are ask­ing an­glers to share any pho­tographs they have of com­mon skate, some­times known as flap­per skate, which were caught and re­leased in the area dur­ing the past 10 years.

The species has suf­fered a se­ri­ous de­cline in pop­u­la­tion numbers over re­cent decades and the fish is the main fo­cus of ma­rine bi­ol­o­gists’ re­search in the MPA.

Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage (SNH), the Scot­tish As­so­ci­a­tion for Ma­rine Science (SAMS) at Dun­staffnage and the Scot­tish Sea Angling Con­ser­va­tion Net­work (SSACN) are work­ing to­gether on a project look­ing to see if in­di­vid­ual skates can be iden­ti­fied by the spot pat­terns on their backs.

So far this re­search has fo­cused on an archive of more than 400 pho­tographs taken be­tween 2011 and 2016 by angling char­ter boat skip­per Ron­nie Camp­bell, who comes from Oban.

From these pho­tos, more than 200 in­di­vid­ual skate have al­ready been iden­ti­fied.

Dr Steven Ben­jamins from SAMS, who is leading the re­search, said: ‘ We have found that spot pat­terns vary a lot be­tween in­di­vid­u­als. Some fish are al­most com­pletely dark brown all over with hardly any spots, some are com­pletely cov­ered in tiny spots in a type of mot­tled pat­tern and some have dis­tinct pat­terns of large spots.

‘Typ­i­cally, the spots them­selves are very clear but they can some­times be blurred at the edges, or spots might have a dark cen­tre, form­ing rings or dough­nuts. Any and all of these fea­tures may al­low iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of in­di­vid­u­als.’

An­glers with pho­tos they are happy to share with the project should con­tact skates@sams. ac.uk or visit the ded­i­cated SAMS web­site at https://skates. sams.ac.uk.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.