SNH Press Release
Survey work in Loch Sween got underway this week to confirm the presence of some of Scotland’s most important marine wildlife features.
The aim of the survey is to update existing knowledge about habitats and species of high conservation importance, known as priority marine features. Previous surveys have revealed the presence of several such features in the loch including native oysters, seagrass and maerl beds and burrowed mud communities with sea pens.
The survey will be carried out by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), as an extension to the routine sampling regularly undertaken in the loch. Marine biologists from SEPA will use a drop-down video camera to capture undersea footage and take “grab” samples from the seabed.
The Loch Sween survey is one of a series taking place in Scotland’s seas in 2010 as part of the Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) Project, a joint initiative between Marine Scotland, Historic Scotland, SNH and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).
Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "Scotland's seas are home to some of the world's most precious wildlife and stunning marine habitats. This includes internationally important species and that is why efforts to increase our knowledge, such as those being undertaken in Loch Sween, are so important.
“This work will help identify the tremendous national underwater assets we have and enable us to get the careful balance between the growth of important new marine industries and our conservation commitments right."
Other areas that have been surveyed in 2010 include the Ullapool Approaches, the Sound of Canna and the Firth of Clyde, which current data suggest are also home to many priority marine features, including flame shell beds, fan mussels and fireworks anemones.
Ben James, SNH’s project manager for the Loch Sween survey, added: “These surveys are significantly improving our understanding of the distribution and extent of species and habitats that are particularly important to the diverse ecosystems found in Scottish waters.
“This new information will be very useful in our advisory role, helping us provide up-to-date information on the status and distribution of Scotland’s priority marine features.”
The survey work is expected to be completed by the end of November with the final report of the findings published next spring.
David Ross, SEPA’s Marine Ecology Manager, said: “It is great to see this important work, which will improve our understanding of the environment, being completed with little additional cost by coordinating it with existing SEPA monitoring programmes. This is an excellent example of the environmental agencies pooling their resources to ensure maximum benefit for Scotland’s environment.”