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, and inform the establishment of PMF management areas in Scottish territorial waters.

Our surveys for 2024

  • 22 March to 2 April – A research cruise with Marine Directorate (MD) on board Alba na Mara to survey the Southern Trench MPA prior to proposed amendments to fisheries management and of various proposed PMF management areas in the Northern Isles to widen our knowledge of PMF condition and distribution in these areas.
  • 16 to 18 April – Visiting Loch Hourn. This will be our annual training dive survey and survey of the proposed PMF area in the loch.
  • Summer (dates TBC) – Visiting Loch Fyne. A dive survey to monitor the condition of the flame shells feature of the Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil MPA (NC).
  • August (TBC) – Revisit Arran to support our partners at the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) in monitoring scallops following the 2023 fishing incident.
  • Summer/autumn (dates TBC) – Visiting Skye to support flapper skate work in the Red Rocks and Longay MPA in the Inner Sound of Skye.
  • 23 September to 7 October – A research cruise with Marine Directorate (MD) on board Alba na Mara targeting marine protected areas and proposed PMF management areas of the southern west coast of Scotland (Ardnamurchan Point to the Solway Firth.

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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