School of Biology, University of St Andrews

Category: CRMG updates (Page 2 of 3)

See what we’ve been up to!

FishPi2 summary and final report published



The summary report which documents the work conducted under the fishPi2 project is divided into a Summary Report and a series of related Annexes which contain more detailed material relevant to each Work Package.
The Summary Report and Annexes can be found at the following URLs:
The Summary Report and Annexes together with ancillary R code can be found at:


Workshop: Introduction to R held for Peruvian students

As part of the closing activities of the DYNAMICO – PERU project, the workshop: Introduction to “R” was conducted between 10 and 11 January 2020 in Los Organos, Piura. This course was taught by Dr Tania Mendo and MSc Janneke Rasjin both from the University of St Andrews (Scotland-UK). A total of 7 students from the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina and Universidad de Piura attended to the workshop. The workshop focused on data cleansing, data visualization and production of high quality figures for publication. At the end of the course the participants were able to identify outliers, inspect their data, combine data from different tables, run descriptive statistics, perform basic statistical tests such as Analysis of variance and linear regression and produce maps with quality of publication.

Champions of SMMR Programme

The MASTS Directorate (David Paterson, Mark James and Emma Defew) recently submitted a bid to the recent NERC/ESRC Call to lead the Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources (SMMR) programme. CRMG is delighted to report that this bid was successful and work to get this programme underway will begin in earnest in the New Year.

The £12.4m SMMR programme aims to improve understanding of societal perspectives and behaviours concerning the marine environment 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. The team will work with the wider research and user communities to develop the SMMR funding call and further activities to ensure that the programme delivers its objectives. The team look forward to expanding the collaborative ethos of MASTS across the UK and delivering this programme’s ambition to deliver real change. The SMMR programme should provide opportunities for the MASTS community to engage with other interdisciplinary expertise across the UK.

The £12.4m SMMR programme will be jointly delivered by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on behalf of UKRI, and in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Marine Scotland.

Presenting results at the 17th Latin American Conference of Marine Science

Between 4-8 November, the 17th Latin American Conference of Marine Science (XVII COLACMAR) was held in the city of Mar del Plata – Argentina. This conference brought together researchers, professionals and students from universities and public and private companies from all over Latin America and the Caribbean. Iván Gómez, the project manager for the Los Organos project, presented our current projects in Peru: “Use of low-cost technology for the collection of catch and effort data in artisanal hake fishing in Los Organos, Piura, Peru” and “The Dynamico-Peru project: Generating information for the management of the prawn trawler fishery in northern Peru“.
Both projects involve using phones (mobile applications) to collect data for monitoring the artisanal fishery in northern Peru. The importance of improving fishing effort data collection and catches was shown, as well as providing the location of fishing activities at fine spatial scales.

Photos caption: Iván Gómez, presenting our latest project results in Argentina

Seedcorn Funding Received for Lobster Life-History Research

Dr Mark James and Dr Niki Khan have combined forces and successfully pitched a collaborative study at a recent meeting of the Institute for Behavioural and Neural Sciences, gaining seedcorn funding to identify the impact of repeated capture during early life on the European lobster.

Scotland has ~1400 inshore fishing vessels, the majority of which use pots, creels or traps to catch crabs and lobsters. Mark’s projects on inshore fishing activity show that many vessels fish the same areas repeatedly, with undersized lobsters potentially being caught and released daily. This begs the question, what is the impact of being caught multiple times on the growth, reproductive success and survival of lobsters? This is an area of research that Niki specialises in. We already know from studies in other species that repeated bouts of stress events can have long term impacts on physiology, such as compromising immune systems, digestive systems, and cognitive function. Effects aren’t limited to the ‘stressed’ generation, either; parental stress, even prior to reproduction, reduces hatching success, growth rates, and survivorship of the next generation and even further generations in a range of taxa.
As both Mark and Niki haves existing relationships with inshore fishers in Scotland, they are well placed to effectively use this seedcorn funding to undertake some pilot experiments to explore the potential to undertake a much larger project. This involves the development and testing of a mark recapture systems using PIT tagged lobsters, together with some basic method development to field sample and analyse a suite of physiological/biochemical measure of acute and chronic stress together with rapid, detailed 3D morphometric analysis of specimens.

Tagging tiger sharks in the Caribbean

James Thorburn was recently one of the scientific leads on an expedition at the Saba Bank in the Caribbean Sea to deploy a new type of tag on tiger sharks in an effort to gain more data on their movements and behaviour. Via an invitation from the Dutch Elasmobranch Society, who, along with the Saba Conservation Foundation and Nature Foundation Saint Maarten, organised the expedition – Save Our Sharks 2019.

As well as deploying tags, the team took blood samples and fin clips to help understand the health of the animals, how they fit into the systems food web and how the populations are connected to other areas.

Full blog post can be found here

Tagged flapper skate findings presented at International Conference on Fish Telemetry

PhD student, Edward Lavender, recently presented some of his surprising early findings about the detection patterns of Critically Endangered flapper skate within an array of static acoustic receivers in a Scottish Marine Protected Area at the 5th International Conference on Fish Telemetry, Arendal, Norway (June 2019).
Tagged skate were almost entirely detected around a small set of receivers in the south of the Marine Protected Area. But is this really where they ‘like’ to be? And does this mean their movements are restricted?
Unfortunately, detections at acoustic receivers represent an unknown combination of animal movement, the spatiotemporal distribution of receivers (i.e. sampling effort) and detection probability. For flapper skate within a highly non-uniformly distributed receiver array, this means that detection patterns, alone, tell us very little about space use. Fortunately, however, high resolution depth data were collected alongside acoustic data for some individuals. In addition, skate are bottom dwelling and, off the West coast of Scotland, live in a bathymetrically heterogeneous environment. This raises the enticing possibility of estimating movement pathways between acoustic detections using depth data as a way of circumventing these challenges to address the questions posed above.

At the conference, Edward presented the first version of such an algorithm, creating the opportunity to study the movement patterns and space use of demersal species within similar systems in a way which isn’t so constrained by the design of the receiver array and at higher spatial (5 m) and temporal (2 minute) resolutions than previously possible. For the flapper skate specifically, Ed’s research opens new doors to investigate their movements in relation to the Marine Protected Area.

The International Conference on Fish Telemetry is a forum to discuss research on the application of tagging technologies to study fish biology. This year, researchers from over 20 countries came to Arendal – a small municipality in the far south of Norway – to give posters, presentations, meet colleagues and extend the boundaries of knowledge.
This context, set within a spectacular Nordic fjordic system, fostered an atmosphere buzzing with ideas, excitement and discussions spanning the conservation physiology of Atlantic salmon and spatial management of threatened elasmobranch populations to cutting-edge model development, open data and more.

Edward Lavender is grateful to Shark Guardian for supporting this research and his attendance at the conference.
If you would like a copy of the poster or more information please contact Edward.

Effect of temporal and spatial resolution on the identification of fishing activities – Published paper

Dr Mendo’s latest paper, “Effect of temporal and spatial resolution on identification of fishing activities in small-scale fisheries using pots and traps“, has been published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science. Small-scale fisheries (SSFs) vessels have generally been exempted from positional reporting requirements, but recent developments of compact low-cost systems offer the potential to monitor them effectively.
The paper’s analysis highlights the optimal rates of data collection to characterise fishing activities at the appropriate spatial resolution, minimising demands for data transmission, storage and analysis. This has significant implications globally for sustainable management of these fisheries, many of which are currently unregulated.

CRMG’s Dr Mendo and Dr James along with fellow colleagues used onboard observers to log fishing activities whilst collecting Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) positional data every second on 66 Scottish vessels 12 m and under in length, using static gear (pots or creels), and primarily targeting lobsters, crabs, and prawns. The data were then analysed to understand what the minimum GNSS logging frequency would be needed to accurately infer fishing activities from just the positional track alone (accounting for other key vessel characteristics such as vessel engine size) as part of the SIFIDS Project. For vessels using pots and traps in Scotland, a polling interval of 60 seconds was found to be optimal for estimating the number of hauls, total area fished per trip, mean area fished and spatial extent of fishing activities in small and medium vessels.

Paper URL:

Visit to the University of Nord

James recently visited the University of Nord in northern Norway to give a guest lecture about his tagging work and the use of Marine Protected Areas in elasmobranch conservation. Nord is one of the universities, along with Aberdeen, working on the genetics of the flapper skate (Drs. Cath Jones and Les Noble). The genetic and tagging work support each other, increasing our insight into the movements and interactions of skate within the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA and so face to face time that such a visiting opportunity present are valuable.

A class of attentive Marine Biology undergraduates all up and at lectures for 9 am!

Nord University is a recently established university (2016) but has access to amazing facilities including a marine station on the coast from which the students can enjoy practical fieldwork onboard one of their research vessels. It is set amongst amazing mountain scenery, with stunning coastlines where sea eagles are abundant. One of the more impressive marine features in the area is the Saltstraumen, a small strait with one of the strongest tidal currents in the world. Not too dissimilar to our Loch Etive with the Falls of Lora, this is an impressive marine feature and not one to be underestimated!

A very tame looking Saltstraumen – a very different place during a spring tide!

Delivering a seminar and a student lecture, James visited Les, his former PhD supervisor, for 4 days and was treated to some amazing aurora displays (leaving a very happy James, getting to tick off a long-held bucket list ambition) and fantastic Norwegian hospitality.

Amazing Aurora over the island of Landegode

A big thank you to the University of Nord for hosting CRMG!

SIFIDS mention in national discussion paper

SIFIDS has been mentioned in Marine Scotland’s Future of fisheries management in Scotland: national discussion paper (March 2019). The paper seeks to start an in-depth discussion to help inform and develop the Scottish Government’s Future Fisheries Management Strategy. It contains a range of ideas and proposals to help deliver a future management structure which will firmly establish Scotland’s place as a world leader in responsible and sustainable fisheries management.
The Scottish Government is committed to delivering a sustainable, evidence-based approach to the management of Scottish fisheries based on high-quality scientific data. SIFIDS is highlighted as a project helping combat the challenge of data deficiency encountered when conducting inshore stock assessments. Investigations into innovative, low-cost and low-maintenance technology will help SIFIDS formulate attainable recommendations to Scottish Government on how best to improve inshore fisheries science.

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