School of Biology, University of St Andrews

Author: Hannah Ladd-Jones (Page 1 of 4)

Final report for MEFS project now available

The Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area (LSSoJ MPA) covers a 741 km area on the west coast of Scotland and includes a complex bathymetric environment. It is characterised by steep-sided trench systems, reaching up to 290 m in depth.

The Movement Ecology of the Flapper Skate (MEFS) project started in 2018 and aimed to provide more advanced analysis of passive acoustic and archival data collected in 2016/2017, providing information on space use within the LSSoJ MPA and the level of connectivity of this site to other areas. As part of MEFS, a second acoustic array was deployed to provide longer term site monitoring.

This study investigated the fine-scale movements of flapper skate in different life-history categories (male, female, immature and mature individuals) within the LSSoJ MPA. Passive acoustic telemetry and archival (depth) data from the 2016/17 study were used to examine the movements of tagged individuals and the extent of residency around acoustic receivers. Capture-recapture data were
used to examine the evidence for site attachment over a longer timescale.

Access the project page here along with the final report.

Outer Hebrides fisheries management pilot with CRMG members reports successful first year

A locally-led fisheries management pilot for the Outer Hebrides is reporting positive impacts on fishing businesses and the environment in its first year, a new report reveals.

The Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Pilot is co-managed by the Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (RIFG) and the Marine Scotland Directorate of the Scottish Government.  The Pilot limits the number of creels that commercial fishing vessels may deploy in the waters around the isles. The aim of this is to improve the management of shellfish stocks in area, enabling future generations to benefit from a resource that remains of vital importance to this island community.

The Pilot is also testing one possible approach to a low-cost vessel tracking solution for small inshore fishing vessels. This is being trialled aboard 40 vessels and builds on the Scottish Inshore Fisheries Integrated Data System (SIFIDS) project led by the University of St Andrews which involved many CRMG members and Scottish fisheries researchers.

Read the press release here

Access the one year report here

Now published “Piloting a Regional Scale Ocean Literacy Survey in Fife”

Peer reviewed paper “Piloting a Regional Scale Ocean Literacy Survey in Fife”

Ocean Literacy (OL) encapsulates the journey of improved awareness of marine and coastal issues, to the adoption of clear values and attitudes based on that knowledge, and intentional lifestyle and other personal choices at an individual and societal level. Understanding a community or group’s position in this transition enables institutions, such as universities, charities or civil society organisations, to target their public engagement efforts to make progress toward a healthier marine environment. To gather a baseline of OL in Fife, Scotland, an online survey was launched to residents of the Local Authority Area, between the 8th May and 30th June 2021. Responses indicated widespread uncertainty about solutions to marine and coastal problems, prompting the promotion of a solutions-based focus for public engagement efforts, particularly regarding local issues. While there was common agreement that the government, businesses and citizens could be doing more to advance the health of the marine environment and climate, only 55% of respondents had already made some changes to their lifestyles with the intention to continue at the point of survey. Some barriers evidently remain. Concern for the marine environment, climate and future generations largely govern the desire to alter behaviour to reap the desired benefits which include the enjoyment of nature, cultural heritage and aids to mental health. Taking a “nested approach” to OL surveying (regional surveys within a national framework) is likely to improve response rates and amplify the voices of rural and coastal communities. Furthermore, the OL surveying platform may opportunistically serve as a useful tool for investigating public priorities in the early stages of marine planning and policy development.

Read the article here


Ocean Literacy (OL), or Ocean Citizenship, is the basis of a movement to sway positive, lasting change in communities that will benefit the sea, coast and climate. An ocean literate person is understanding of the ocean’s influence on their own lives, as well as the way that their behaviours influence the ocean and is knowledgeable concerning ocean threats. A degree of informed-ness (or ‘literacy’) is thought to inspire effective communication and allow for impactful decision-making regarding personal lifestyle and behaviours, which are subsequently beneficial to the marine and coastal environment. Not only that, a collective OL mindset may be translated into policy, informing marine spatial planning authorities of people’s expectations regarding their marine and coastal spaces.


Global Open Source Data Collection Systems Network for Small Scale Fisheries (GoSSF)

Small-scale fisheries (SSF) account for two-thirds of the wild-caught fish that people eat. This sector employs more than 100 million people and contributes to food and nutritional security for more than 2 billion. 

Managing SSF has historically been extremely complex, with numerous and diverse fisheries operating in informal economies from remote locations such as small island developing states (SIDS). SIDS are highly vulnerable to climate change due to their reliance on SSF but lack the tools to effectively collect and analyse data to make informed decisions. Using low-cost electronics, sensors, open-source software, and expertise in fisheries, the University of St Andrews has developed technologies, processes and systems designed to collect data from SSF. Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to predict and map fishing intensity using data from high-resolution vessel tracking, gear deployment tags and catch monitoring via a customizable mobile app. 

In collaboration with WorldFish and the Government of the Republic of Palau, a two-day workshop was held in Koror, Palau on small-scale fisheries data collection systems and processes. Several topics were presented including an overview of the technology available and open-source systems, approaches to interpreting track data and a discussion on the benefits, opportunities, and challenges of fisheries digitalization. 

With support from Cyantech Biosolutions, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), four fishing vessels and a local marine protected area ranger have now been fitted with tracking systems for the first time in Palau. The potential to track vessels and match this with information on what is being caught has the potential to transform the way fisheries are managed. 

Read more about the project here

Gear Use And Recovery In The Scottish Inshore Creel Fishery- A Survey

You are invited to participate in a research project which aims to gather information on the use, recovery, and disposal of fishing gear within Scotland’s inshore creel fishery. The aim is to gain further insights based on your own experiences at sea and views on this. The survey is being conducted by the University of St Andrews and is completely anonymous. It takes approximately five minutes to complete and the information you choose to share will be treated confidentially and used solely for academic purposes.

If you are a commercial creel fisher and would like to take part, please follow the link below. Thank you

More information can be found here as well.

If you would prefer to talk to us or would like any more information, please contact

News Article: CABFishMan consortium releases new review of small-scale fisheries

Published on the 25th October 2021, the project CABFishMan received a write-up in the online Fishing Daily News regarding their latest comprehensive review of existing methods for data collection in Northeast Atlantic small-scale fisheries (SSF).

‘The review is especially relevant as it provides geo-referenced data on fishing effort and catches in the area, information which is crucial for establishing a collaborative co-management framework in the Atlantic region’ explained Murillas.

Read the news article here

The Sechura desert and the economic activities of its inhabitants

Sechura is located on the north coast of Peru, in the region of Piura. It has an area of 6311.69 km2 and an average altitude of 15 meters above sea level. It is divided into six districts, which are: Sechura (Capital of the Province), Bellavista de La Unión, Bernal, Cristo Nos Valga, Rinconada de LLicuar and Vice (INEI, 2017).

Fig 1. Sechura Map – Perú

Sechura is the home of the widest area of desert in coastal Peru. Communities that are located on the coast dedicate most of their activity to artisanal fishing in the sea. Despite being an area with a fairly hot climate and with lack of water, there are also communities further inland that develop activities such as agriculture, livestock, continental fishing, beekeeping, among others.

When we started our work on this research project, we were very excited to be able to travel to Sechura and learn about the experiences of local people in relation to their economic activities. However, we received the bad news of the arrival of COVID-19 in Peru and with it, our government imposed certain restrictive regulations that stopped a large part of the activities that we had programmed. Despite this, we adapted to the situation and reconsidered our work plan. At first we were able to analyze information available on the web, reports, theses, etc., which allowed us to better know these communities. Likewise, through telephone calls we were able to interview and make the first contacts with the inhabitants of the desert, thanks to the database provided by the NGO Prisma. Thus, we learned more about the communities that live in the desert and the level of impact that climate change and the El Niño phenomenon had on them. Through these experiences, we were able to identify some populated centers in the districts of Cristo Nos Valga and Bernal, due to their proximity to the “Ñapique”, “Ramón” and “La Niña” lagoons.

A few months later, the restrictions in Peru changed. With great caution and under a strict biosafety protocol, we were able to visit some populated centers in the desert. Among them are the most populated such as “Chutuque” and “Mala Vida” whose population is around 250 to 300 families. Around it there are also other populated centers such as “Nuevo Pozo Oscuro”, “Los Jardines”, “La Algarrobera”, among others. Families in this desert area have many economic deficiencies and basic services. They have limited access to water for family use, electricity is limited (only in some populated centers), and similarly the urban and telecommunications infrastructure is almost non-existant. Despite this, we were able to observe many children who take advantage of the tranquility of the desert to play.

Fig  2. First meeting with residents of Sechura and the team from the La Molina National Agrarian University.

The use of water for agriculture is very limited, therefore agriculture is normally carried out in small areas (<1 hectare) with little technology. The residents eagerly await the rainy season that begins in the summer (January to March); consequently, these rains moisten the soils and are suitable for growing food for a short vegetative period. In addition, these rains increase the water level in the Rivers and some lands may have temporary access to water, which is irrigated with the help of hydraulic pumps. Thus, the inhabitants of these desert communities can plant products in a limited way, such as: corn, sweet potato, various varieties of beans, watermelon, melon, cotton, squash, etc. These will then be harvested and commercialized, however much of it is stored for family consumption during the other seasons of the year.

Fig  3. Some rafts in the desert were used for fishing.
Fig  4. Some nets in the desert were used for fishing

Lately however, we have been visiting some populated centers in Sechura that are located near the channel of the Piura river. We have been interviewing residents of populated centers such as “San Cristo”, “Cerritos”, “Onza de Oro”, and unlike desert settlers, most families have irrigation canals in their agricultural fields. It has allowed them to develop a diversified agriculture such as cotton, rice, varieties of beans, sweet potatoes, fruit trees, squash, watermelon, etc. In addition, they have been able to develop raising animals such as goats, sheep, pigs, chickens in greater abundance than the desert populations.

Fig  5. Villages near to “ Ramon”, “Ñapique” and “La Niña” lagoons

The fishing is an important activity for these inhabitants; however, a large part of the fishermen are fishing in the sea and some take advantage of the Ñapique lagoon and other areas to catch mullet (Mugil cephalus) or tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).

With the presence of extreme events such as “The El Niño phenomenon”, two situations are contrasted, in the desert area this event is seen by the inhabitants as a “blessing” since the abundance of water improves their agriculture, livestock and fishing. However, the residents of the lower zone mention that it has a negative impact on them, in most of their economic activities.

We hope that the information we have been collecting will allow us to better understand this difference and propose ideas so that the local government, private companies and NGOs are interested in contributing knowledge, development plans and technology to improve the quality of life of these families.

Fig  6. Drylands for lack of rain in Ramon Lake.
Fig  7. An afternoon in “Mala Vida” – Sechura

This blog was writed by: Ivan Gomez (1) , Evelyn  Inguil (2),  Maya Gomez-Coultas(3)  and Gabriel Bonnamy (3)
(1),(2), La Molina National Agrarian University – Perú, Lima /  (3) St. Andrews University- -UK, Scotland

Coast to Ocean: A Fife-Eye View

This project is part of the wider Fife Sustainable Natural and Cultural Coastal Zone project in partnership with the People Ocean Planet Initiative and seeks to determine the relationship that Fife communities have with the sea and coast. To do this, we are surveying communities within the Fife Local Authority to understand your knowledge of and attitudes towards the sea, threats to it and, in turn, the solutions. This will provide a baseline of information that we can build upon, reflecting how Fife communities interact with and perceive the sea and coast. This enables us to identify what people are passionate about and what issues may require further engagement to support positive change for our marine area and the communities that benefit from it.

If you are a Fife resident * and would like to take part in the survey, please follow the link below. If you would prefer to talk to us, please get in touch with the Coastal Resource Management Group at 

Participants will be entered into a prize draw to the value of £50.

Survey link here!

*Please note that all participants must be resident in Fife Local Authority Area on a permanent or temporary basis and be aged 16 or over.

Engaging the Fishing Industry in Marine Environmental Survey and Monitoring

Surveys using local information from fishers have been used to better understand marine life in and around Scotland’s network of Marine Protected Areas.

CRMG member, James Thorburn, worked with Marine Scotland Science members on the EMFF funded project to provide opportunities for the fishing industry to engage and collaborate with the scientific community, Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies and Government departments in Scotland, to carry out evidence gathering and marine monitoring to help deliver national and international requirements in relation to the protection and restoration of marine biodiversity (with a particular focus on Marine Protected Areas – MPAs).

The project supported three main survey types, those being drop-down video (DDV) monitoring, juvenile fish surveys and investigations into the movement ecology of flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius) within and adjacent to Marine Protected areas.

Eight DDV surveys were completed throughout 2018/19. The equipment was deployed from a fishing vessel and this sampling effort resulted in 130 hours of video footage, and 16,676 photographs.

Access the report here

A number of flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius), once common around the coast but now extinct in many areas, were also found in the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA (designated for their protection in 2014). The project looked to track their movements and get a better understanding of how they use different habitats and also to see if the MPA is an important breeding ground.

Through the use of acoustic tags and acoustic receiver units deployed at locations within the MPA, it was possible to track the movement of skate within the MPA and to log the presence of the skate as they swam past.

Citation: G Pasco, B James, L Burke, C Johnston, K Orr, J Clarke, J Thorburn, P Boulcott, F Kent, L Kamphausen and R Sinclair (2021). Engaging the Fishing Industry in Marine Environmental Survey and Monitoring. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 12 No 3, 68pp. DOI: 10.7489/12365-1

doi: 10.7489/12365-1

Reunion Para El Fortalecimiento De Actividades En El Desierto De Sechura

En el marco del proyecto “ Pesca y Agricultura en el Desierto, una plataforma para para entender cómo responder a el niño en el contexto del cambio climático en Sechura, Perú y con  la finalidad de fortalecer las actividades de coordinación en la toma de información a pobladores de las comunidades aledañas a las lagunas Ñapique y La Niña en el desierto de Sechura,”;  el equipo técnico de la Fundación para el Desarrollo Agrario (FDA) visitó el centro poblado de “Chutuque” en el distrito de Cristo Nos Valga, Sechura. La FDA contó con la presencia del Dr. Jaime Mendo y su equipo técnico; quienes se reunieron con el Sr. Bernardo Ruiz Tume (presidente del COMITÉ DE USUARIOS DE USO TEMPORAL DE AGUA PARA RIEGO AGRICOLA, GANADERÍA, PESQUERIA, TURISMO Y OTROS DEL MARGEN IZQUIERDO Y DERECHO DEL RIO PIURA, PROVINCIA SECHURA – R.A. N°040-2019-MDCNV/A) y el Sr. Diego Chunga Morales (teniente gobernador del centro poblado de “Chutuque”).

El Dr. Jaime Mendo inicio la reunión con una breve explicación del proyecto y su importancia para la toma de decisiones frente a las oportunidades que genera el Fenómeno El Niño en las actividades económicas locales, principalmente en la pesca y agricultura. Los señores Bernardo Tume y Diego Chunga manifestaron su interés en apoyar al proyecto para la realización de encuestas a más pobladores y se comprometieron a dar apoyo para que más comunidades de su organización puedan brindar facilidades para la toma de información. Asimismo, mencionaron que el mencionado comité vienen ejecutando un proyecto denominado “LA TAPA DEL CUY” cuyo fin es represar el agua que proviene del rio Piura y sea usado para la agricultura familiar; y solicitaron el apoyo para que  a través de la universidad u otra institución se pueda desarrollar proyectos productivos como la acuicultura, producción de uvas, manejo de bosques de algarrobo, producción de artemias y la capacitación para el uso del riego tecnificado como alternativa ante la escasez de agua.

El equipo de FDA manifestó a los dirigentes la importancia de la organización para acceder a fondos concursables para la elaboración de proyectos pilotos productivos de impacto social, y  se comprometió a contactar con profesores de la UNALM para que asesoren y capaciten virtualmente a los pobladores para el uso de riego tecnificado en la producción agrícola local. Cabe mencionar que los dirigentes vienen ejecutando un empadronamiento de los pobladores de su organización y se ofrecieron a facilitar la información que se necesite, esta organización contempla los centros poblados como “Mala Vida”, “Cerritos”, “Onza de Oro”, “Nuevo Pozo Oscuro”, “Los Jardines”, entre otros.

Finalmente, el equipo de la FDA llevo a cabo una reunión en Sechura con el Ing. Alex Eche Chunga (Gerente de desarrollo económico de la Municipalidad de Sechura) quien manifestó su interés en fortalecer el nivel de organización de estas comunidades para acceder a futuros fondos concursables y el apoyo logístico para continuar con las encuestas durante los siguientes meses.

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