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Sea fish

Scottish waters support a large variety of fish. All play important ecosystem roles and many are commercially valuable.

An estimated 250 species of fish occur in Scottish territorial waters (within 12 nautical miles of the coast). Scotland’s sea fish range from tiny gobies that dart across rock pools to the world’s second largest fish, the basking shark.

Sea fish species considered particularly important to our marine natural heritage are on Scotland’s list of priority marine features.

We tend to know most about those sea fish that have long been the target of important Scottish fisheries. Species such as cod, haddock and whiting have been studied for many years due to their commercial value.

The biology of some other fish is much more mysterious. Innovative research has been necessary to learn how to support the conservation of such species.

Basking shark movements hadn’t been well understood until research published in 2016, despite the huge size of this fish. Our basking shark satellite tagging project revealed the vast distances that the species can swim. We also now know how important certain areas are for feeding and breeding.

UK populations of common skate have suffered significant declines and the species is now a conservation priority. Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (NCMPA) was designated to protect an important area for common skate on the west coast. Our common skate and spurdog tracking project explores how the skate make use of different areas within the MPA.