School of Biology, University of St Andrews

Author: Hannah Ladd-Jones (Page 1 of 3)

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.

Meeting for Strengthening Activities in the Sechura Desert

Within the framework of the project “Fishing and farming in the Desert, a platform to understand how to respond to the El Nino in the context of climate change in Sechura, Peru and with the aim of strengthening coordination activities with the communities surrounding the lagoons of Napique and La Niña in the Sechura Desert”; the technical team of the Agrarian Development Foundation (FDA) visited the town of “Chutuque” in the district of Cristo Nos Valga, Sechura.  Dr. Jaime  Mendo and his technical team met with Mr.  Bernardo Ruiz Tume  (Chairman of the Committee of users of temporary water for irrigation, livestock, fisheries, tourism and others of the left and right margin of the Piura River , Sechura Province – R.A. No. 040-2019-MDCNV/A) and Mr. Diego Chunga Morales (Lieutenant Governor “Chutuque”).

Dr. Jaime Mendo started the meeting with a brief explanation of the project and its importance for decision-making in the face of the opportunities generated by the El Niño in local economic activities, mainly in fisheries and agriculture. Mr. Bernardo Tume and Mr. Diego Chunga   expressed their interest in supporting the project by facilitating interviews with villagers and pledged to support more communities in their organization. They also  mentioned  that the aforementioned committee has been implementing a project called “LA TAPA DEL CUY”  aimed at damming water from the Piura River and being used for family farming; and requested support so that through the university or another institution productive projects such as aquaculture, grape production, management of algarrobo forests, production of artemia and training for the use of technical irrigation can be developed as an alternative to water  scarcity.

The FDA team expressed to leaders the importance of community organization in accessing funds for the development of pilot projects, and pledged to contact UNALM teachers to virtually advise and train villagers for the use of technical irrigation in local agricultural production. It is  worth mentioning that the leaders have registering the inhabitants in their region and offered to  provide  the   information that is needed. This organization covers the villages of  “Mala Vida”, “Cerritos”, “Onza de Oro”, “Nuevo Pozo Oscuro”, among others.

Finally, the FDA team held a meeting in Sechura with Ing. Alex Eche Chunga (Economic Development Manager of the Municipality of Sechura) who expressed an interest in strengthening the level of organization of these communities to access future funds and logistical support to continue the surveys over the next few months.

New PhD student joins CRMG

Project Title

Understanding the scale, impact and potential mitigation of marine animal entanglement in the Scottish static gear fishery.


Marine animal entanglement in fishing gear is a global concern, considered by many to be the most significant marine mammal welfare issue of our time. In Scottish waters concerns regarding entanglement have been raised by the inshore creel sector, and the available data indicates that the frequency, rate and range of species impacted has been increasing in recent years. Entanglements have conservation, welfare, economic and human safety implications, however a thorough scientific understanding of the issue is data deficient. For example the amount of creel gear being deployed, and the association between fishing effort and the incidence, seasonality, severity or outcome of entanglements is unclear. Recent work has highlighted industry willingness to address this issue, and meaningful engagement with fishers will be essential to this project.

The project will take a transdisciplinary approach to explore theoretical and applied approaches to mitigating entanglement risk, by building on data and methodologies developed through two innovative programmes of research:- the Scottish Inshore Fisheries Integrated Data System project (SIFIDS) and the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA). The main aims of the project are to:

  • Infer the location, intensity and variability of static gear fishing activity including the number of creels and amount of rope being deployed.
  • Conduct a series of surveys to measure Fishers’ perceptions, attitudes and motivations around entanglement, and understand the motives and barriers to fisher engagement with this topic.
  • Develop behaviourally-informed, evidence-based interventions to promote Fishers’ reporting of entanglement events involving cetaceans, elasmobranchs and marine turtles, and support declaration of gear loss locations and quantities.
  • Develop feasible, practical, industry-led data collection and mitigation strategies to reduce entanglement hazards whilst maintaining the economic sustainability of the fishery.


Dr Mark James (University of St Andrews), Dr Dave Comerford (Stirling University), Dr Andrew Brownlow (SRUC), Dr Kirstie Dearing (NatureScot), Dr Simon Northridge (University of St Andrews), Dr Tania Mendo (University of St Andrews), Prof. George Gunn (SRUC).


This project is funded through the SUPER Doctoral training partnership, in collaboration with St Andrews University, Stirling University, NatureScot and SRUC.  



Protecting Covid-hit fishing communities in Peru

A project is led by Dr Mark James and Dr Tania Mendo of the School of Biology has been awarded a grant of nearly £300,000 to help protect the livelihoods of fishing communities in Peru hit by Covid-19.

Peru is one of the world’s worst Covid-19 impacted countries. High levels of labour informality drive the need for people to work, undermining disease containment. This is particularly acute in the fishing and seafood supply sector where there are limited economic alternatives.

This new research will help address the urgent need to understand the impacts of Covid-19 on fishing dependent communities and to develop strategies to reactivate the seafood supply chain whilst minimising further Covid-19 infections.

The funding of £297,163 has been awarded from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), through the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.

The 18-month project will create a survey platform involving data collection, collation, automated analysis and a user-friendly data visualisation interface to provide decision support information to an Inter-Agency Consortium (IAC) led by Regional Government in the Piura region of Peru.

Online survey instruments will be developed and 12 Community Monitors trained to use them remotely to collect data from 12 key fishing communities. The data collected will include: health and welfare, fisheries related production and market information together with other local socio-economic indicators.

Gaps in social welfare, poor infrastructure and living conditions as well as high levels of informal employment exacerbate the impact of this disease in Peru. Artisanal fisheries are an important and overlooked activity which provides employment and basic nutrition for some of the poorest in rural areas. Thousands of jobs in the seafood supply chain are affected by the pandemic.

The project will involve researchers from the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) in the School of Biology and the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia; the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome; the Agrarian National University; Redes Sostenibilidad Pesquera and an Inter-Agency Consortium (which includes representatives of all relevant Regional Government Departments, NGOs, industry and community stakeholders) as well as fishing organisations in Peru.

New interns at CRMG.

Adrianna Pisarczyk

“I study Marine Biology and will be going into my second year at St Andrews. I am very interested in marine conservation and want to specialise in marine zoology. I have had experience working with aquatic wildlife, surveying coral reef populations, and analysing underwater video footage, and I have also worked on several conservation projects in Bermuda, Galápagos, and the British Virgin Islands. I am excited to collaborate with the Coastal Resources Management Group this summer, and I look forward to learning more about Scotland’s commercial inshore fisheries.”

Lindsay Grant

“I have just finished my second year at St Andrews University as a Marine Biology BSc (Hons) student. I am still finding my way to a specific area within marine biology, but my interests and passions lay in science that supports the conservation of our oceans, it’s ecosystems and the sustainability of it’s fisheries. I have experience volunteering with education and outreach, as well as within marine research stations, the behaviour and biodiversity lab within St Andrews University and conservation projects both internationally and within Scotland. I am excited to be a part of the Coastal Resources Management Group for summer 2020 and look forward to the experience I will gain by interning with them, as well as being part of a group that promotes the sustainability of our oceans through science.”

The Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources programme opens

The Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources programme is a £12.4 million initiative set to deliver research in support of UK marine environmental policy across five years. The research programme will support six projects covering a range of initiatives that seek to achieve the programme’s core themes. Proposals can bid for up to £1.5 million for 36 months and must address at least two of the programme’s three themes.

The overarching objective of the SMMR programme is to improve sustainable societal, behavioural and economic benefits through better management of UK marine resources and integrate this into systems-based approaches that support the development and analysis of interventions and inform effective decision-making for marine management and policy. At the same time, the programme will achieve an enduring step change in the capability of the marine interdisciplinary research community working on marine issues and its close working on solutions with stakeholders, including policy makers, industry, and the public.

Delivery of the programme’s objective will be strongly dependent on developing interdisciplinary capability (across environmental, social and economic sciences) and stakeholder engagement. Projects will be required to solely focus on the UK’s marine environment, to take advantage of the opportunity to build on a strong portfolio of related research (e.g. NERC, Defra, Marine Scotland).

The programme’s three Themes are:

Theme 1: Understanding the different value systems people hold when they connect with the marine environment and how this affects their decision making, in order to inform and direct policy development.
Theme 2: Development and integration of modelling tools to support coastal and marine natural capital approaches and accounting.
Theme 3: Development of interventions that support government policy to improve the marine environment for the next generation.

This programme will:

• Deliver approaches and tools on interventions and management scenarios for improved environmental, social and economic outcomes focussing on public goods and net gain.
• Make recommendations on future policy concerning interventions to improve the marine environment and achieve net gain.
• Utilise social, economic and environmental metrics and model tools to enable evaluation of interventions.

For more information please check out the SMMR’s website or contact the SMMR Champions, Professor David Paterson and Dr Mark James at

MASTS Webinar series relaunches

As the science community adjusts to working from home, MASTS relaunched it’s webinar series to help provide a platform to keep the MASTS community engaged and to share research.

From the 1st of April, each Wednesday at 1 pm will have a different presenter give a 40 min talk with a live Q&A session with host Hannah Ladd-Jones afterward. All webinars are free to join and more information about upcoming talks along with the registration form can be found here.

All seminars and their Q&A sessions are recorded and uploaded to the MASTS youtube page

SNH join James on his flapper skate fieldwork

During the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, SNH staff working along our shorelines and waterways provide an insight into the important and varied work they do. Jane Dodd, a marine operations officer based in Oban, wrote about her time helping James with his fieldwork on the Critically Endangered flapper skate (common skate complex) earlier this year.

It’s been a successful day – the tag data will allow us to check the status of flapper skate within the MPA, while the ultrasound and blood samples will help us learn more about the ecology of this little-understood species.

Jane dodd

Find the full blog post here:

New discoveries on Outer Hebrides reveal new reasons for why stone circles were built

New discoveries at the Calanais site in Lewis, Outer Hebrides could potentially change what archaeologists think might have been the reasons behind the building of stone circles. Research by St Andrews, Bradford and Lampeter University along with the Urras nan Tursachan, Calanais Visitor Centre, have discovered evidence of a massive lightning strike at the very centre of Site XI stone circle.  The discovery was made during investigations of the buried Neolithic landscape onshore around the most famous Tursachan site.  The research also involved a survey of Loch Roag to the west of the site as this drowned landscape may also hold further clues to the life and times of the Neolithic people that constructed the circles. Further investigations are planned both on land and on the water in 2020. The findings are due to be discussed on Landward Thursday 9th April @ 2000 on BBC Scotland and Friday 10th April @ 1930 on BBC1 Scotland.

« Older posts