Marine survey and monitoring in Scottish MPAs

Details of our marine survey and monitoring work 

Our marine survey and monitoring work helps inform the designation and management of marine protected areas in Scottish territorial waters.

Our surveys for 2023

  • March – A survey of Didemnum vexillum in Loch Creran. Part of a multi-year partnership project with Herriot Watt University, revisiting sites which have been set up to monitor for the invasive colonial species also known as carpet sea squirt.
  • April 16th- May 14th – A cruise with Marine Scotland Science (MSS) to survey the Wester Ross MPA and Sound of Barra SAC. Drop-down video and grab sampling used for infaunal (creatures living in the sediment) analysis to build up a time series so we can monitor changes in PMFs with the removal of fishing pressure. We visited further sites along the west coast of Scotland and Hebrides to widen our knowledge of PMF condition and distribution.
  • June – Visiting sites in Wester Ross. A dive survey predominantly, diving to set up a long-term monitoring study to monitor changes in the habitat with the removal of fishing pressure.
  • August – Visiting South Arran MPA to carry out a repeat of the long-term monitoring survey of the MPA. Looking for changes in the seabed and PMFs with the protection of these sites, as well as further seagrass surveys to increase our knowledge of their condition and distribution.


NatureScot diver swimming over a maerl bed

Our team covers three main areas:

1. Marine survey work includes:

  • marine survey design and planning
  • locating Priority Marine Features
  • assessing condition of features
  • exploring effectiveness of management
  • investigating trends

2. Marine data

  • mobilisation of data
  • data archive

3. Marine research and collaboration 

  • working with experts from universities and institutions in the UK
  • collaborating with local groups and communities
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