Focus on fish as study aims to assess stock levels

Published: 15 March 2010

Sea anglers, conservationists and scientists have joined forces to investigate novel ways of assessing inshore fish stocks.

Sea anglers, conservationists and scientists have joined forces to investigate novel ways of assessing inshore fish stocks.

The project, which is part of the Scottish Industry Science Partnership (SISP), was instigated by the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network (SSACN) following concerns about dwindling numbers of fish in Scotland’s coastal waters.

Other partners in the project are the University of Glasgow, Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and University Marine Biological Station Millport.

Nearshore waters in particular provide a critical habitat for a range of fish species targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries, both of which make important contributions to local economies in rural areas.

Understanding the sustainability of fisheries exploiting these species requires information on their distribution, abundance and patterns of movement, however, established survey methods are not suited to nearshore areas so there is a lack of information on fish abundance in these areas.

The objective of the study is to develop and test a variety of techniques that will be practicable, effective and efficient in Scottish inshore waters; these will be backed up by angler rod-and-line surveys.

This type of information is also particularly crucial in relation to the appropriate design of networks of marine protected areas to meet requirements set down in the Scottish Marine Bill and in international obligations.

Dr David Bailey, lecturer in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, said: “The aim of the project is to develop and trial techniques for collecting fish population data that are cost-effective and generate good, useful information.

“We’ve already started using cameras which we put in the water along with bait to take pictures of any fish that come up to the bait. We’ll be able to identify the fish and depending on how many appear and how quickly, we should be able to calculate how many fish are in that particular area.

“We also intend to recruit teams of anglers, with standardised bait and lures, to see which catches the most, how long it takes. We can also use various types of trap.

“Finally, we’re also using a mini-submersible vehicle that we can use to explore the sea. Once we’ve got a method that works well, we can then effectively establish the baseline population which could then be monitored in any conservation area that is set up.

“It’s a great example of different partners with a stake in sea angling working together to address the issue of declining fish abundance.”

Ian Burrett, Project Director at the SSACN, said; “Recreational sea angling is a big income generator for Scotland and figures compiled by the Scottish Government have shown it is worth more than £140m annually to the Scottish economy.

 “We’ve had concerns for a number of years about declining fish numbers in Scotland’s coastal waters and have been lobbying the Scottish Government to take steps to protect and regenerate stocks.”

Dr Philip Smith, Lecturer at the University Marine Biological Station Millport and project coordinator, said: “It is exciting to be part of this new collaboration between sea anglers and scientists. SISP has enabled a project team combining a range of expertise and experience to come together, to develop new ways of providing information needed to look after our coastal waters.”

The 12-month project is being funded by £105,000 from SISP and is being led by the University Marine Biological Station Millport, Isle of Cumbrae.

For more information contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email

First published: 15 March 2010

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