Month long survey to map Scotland’s marine environment

date19 May 2014

Marine ecologists and oceanography experts from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have today (19 May) embarked on a four week survey as part of ongoing work to improve scientific understanding of Scotland’s natural marine environment.

Utilising SEPA’s survey vessel, the Sir John Murray, data and samples will be collected from locations across Scotland’s west coast, to gauge the health and ecological condition of coastal water bodies. Scanning technology aboard the Sir John Murray will also be used to create high quality 3D maps of the various habitats and physical features found on the seabed, the first work of its kind to be carried out by SEPA.

Through partnership working agreements, SEPA also has access to a newly built high definition underwater camera system for environmental monitoring. The survey will see SEPA’s first use and trial of the camera system for capturing video footage of the seabed and underwater habitats. The system was custom built by Marine Science Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage specifically for use on SEPA’s survey vessel.

David Ross, Senior Scientist from SEPA, said:

The survey is an exciting opportunity to really broaden our scientific knowledge of these coastal environments. We take what we can see in the world around us for granted, however until now, getting maps and broad-scale knowledge of what lies beneath the waves has always been difficult.

“Application of this cutting edge mapping technology means that SEPA can now easily and affordably collect data to model how the environment operates at a broad scale, as well as giving us detailed habitat maps of what lives on the seabed. Using this data, we can better balance people’s desire to use Scotland’s coastal resources, with protection of these delicate ecosystems.

“The type of multidisciplinary and multi-agency co-operation shown by this survey illustrates how SEPA, and partner organisations, are able to deliver improved services for protection of our natural environment.”

The first two weeks of the survey will see the Sir John Murray operating in Loch Linnhe and Loch Tuath, in Argyll, with the second half of the survey carrying out mapping and sampling work in Skye and the Western Isles.

Once the vessel reaches the Western Isles, students from Lews Castle College in Stornoway will have a chance to visit the Sir John Murray as part of a two hour session to highlight the importance of coastal habitats and environmental monitoring. It is also hoped that staff from the local SEPA office, representatives from partner agencies and the local authority will also be in attendance.

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