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Updated: 2 hours 13 min ago

Marine Directorate appoints Chief Scientific Adviser 

Mon, 2024-07-01 15:00

Leading marine physicist Professor Mark Inall has been appointed as Chief Scientific Adviser to Scottish Government’s Marine Directorate.

With a distinguished career in physical oceanography spanning more than three decades, Mark’s links to the wider scientific community will ensure that Marine Directorate policy  continues to be underpinned by the best scientific evidence available.

Drawing on his extensive academic experience and networks, he will further embed scientific evidence at the centre of decision-making and provide oversight and assurance which delivers maximum impact for Scotland’s seas.

Mark will continue part time in his role as Marine Physicist at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Oban, maintaining valuable industry links.  He will carry out the Chief Scientific Advisor Marine role for three years,

The role of the Chief Scientific Adviser Marine is to provide independent challenge to our science advice and evidence, which informs our work across marine and freshwater policy areas.  The Chief Scientific Adviser Marine will also work with the Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland and the Scottish Science Advisory Council to help ensure that Scottish Government has access to the best scientific advice to inform its work across all policy areas.

The Chief Scientific Adviser Marine will also be an advocate, across Scotland and further afield, of our world-leading marine and freshwater science and its potential to benefit our economy, people and environment.

The Marine Directorate has a key role to play in tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Mark’s input will be significant in mitigating their impact on the marine environment and improving marine ecosystem resilience.

We are delighted to welcome him and know his experience and expertise will provide a strong scientific lens through which to deliver the Blue Economy Vision for Scotland.

Mark said:  “Scotland has such a rich marine heritage, and a bright but complex marine future. The Scottish Government acknowledges the vital role scientific evidence plays in guiding our current and future uses of the diverse waters that surround us and the role of Chief Scientific Adviser Marine will contribute an important role in delivering that for Scottish Government.

“It is a great privilege to take up the role of Chief Scientific Adviser Marine. I look forward to the challenge and will put all my energy into it!”

About Mark

Mark Inall gained his BSc in Physics from the University of Edinburgh, followed by both MSc and PhD in Physical Oceanography from the University of Southampton. He has undertaken research at the Universities of Cambridge, Bangor and Victoria (BC).

Since 1998 he has led a marine physics research group at SAMS, with more recent responsibility for directing the Institute’s research portfolio. He co-developed Scotland’s first Marine Science BSc for the University of the Highlands and Islands. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and is Honorary Professor in the College of Science & Engineering at the University of Edinburgh.

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UK, Norway and Faroe Islands mackerel agreements

Thu, 2024-06-20 13:06

The UK has, this week, signed agreements with Norway and Faroe setting out arrangements on mackerel for 2024 onwards. These agreements build on our already strong relationships with Norway and the Faroe Islands, two of our closest Coastal State partners, and are a complimentary layer to the bilateral arrangements we already have.

The structure of the package is fourfold:

  1. Norway and the Faroe Islands have agreed to reduce the shares they set themselves for mackerel, an immediate reduction in fishing pressure by 10 percentage points of the global total allowable catch (TAC). This represents a significant step towards our long-held goals of ensuring a sustainable fishery, while wider sharing discussions continue
  1. in addition to these reductions, both Parties will transfer a proportion of their remaining allocation to the UK. These exchanges will deliver additional opportunities to the UK worth approximately £41 million in 2024
  1. in return for the quota transfers, Norwegian and Faroese vessels will be granted access to fish a proportion of their opportunities in UK waters
  1. within the Agreed Records, the Parties reaffirm their commitment to the long-term sustainable management of the mackerel stock. This includes a commitment to continue to engage in discussions between Coastal States to agree a comprehensive sharing arrangement for the stock, and to hold timely consultations should one or more Coastal States indicate an interest in joining these interim arrangements

If no comprehensive sharing arrangement for the stock is agreed, these arrangements will remain in place until at least 2026. Additionally, the UK share will increase in 2025 through the implementation of the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Wider sharing consultations will continue in the autumn, and Scotland will continue to put our full energy behind these talks, seeking agreements which are based on robust evidence, and are as comprehensive as possible, ensuring the sustainability of this stock and fisheries in the long term.

The Agreed Records have been published on the Scottish Government website.

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Scottish crab and lobster management improvements from May

Fri, 2024-05-03 08:56


From 12th May 2024, selected interim measures will be implemented in Scotland including:


  • prohibition on landing of egg-bearing crab and lobster into Scotland
  • controls on creel fishing vessels of more than 12 meters overall with a track record of landing more than 200 tonnes of crab and / or lobster in any 12 month period since 2020


Scottish inshore fisheries are vital to our economy and rural communities, but our science shows crab and lobster stocks are under pressure from overfishing in many areas.


The Scottish Government are aware that concerns over the health of these stocks are shared by many of our fishers and localised, stakeholder-driven initiatives have focussed on addressing declining catch rates for crab and lobster.


Earlier this year, working with the Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) and Fisheries Management and Conservation (FMAC) Inshore Fisheries Subgroup, we began engaging with hundreds of fishermen and representatives to address these challenges head-on and formalise solutions. Central to this approach is collaborating with industry on how we might use short-term interim measures to improve the health of shellfish stocks and overall sustainability of our inshore fishing industry from May 2024.


These interim measures are part of an overarching improvement roadmap to inshore fisheries management in Scotland which also includes:


  • updating our stock assessment data this year, considering other indicators of stock health for crab and lobster, as well as improving our crab and lobster sampling programme
  • consulting on a broad package of inshore fisheries management measures later in 2024
  • progressing related key transformational projects such as inshore vessel tracking for the under 12 metre fleet


We want to continue the co-management approach demonstrated by our development of interim measures. This includes government, industry, academia and others coming together to help shape fisheries management policy that recognises the complex variations and interlinkages in Scotland’s inshore fisheries.


Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, said:


“It’s in all of our interest to alleviate pressure on our shellfish stocks and improve the science base to help ensure sustainability for Scotland’s most prominent inshore fisheries.


“Decisive action and co-management will help aid Scotland’s transition to a more agile and responsive management system.


“Only by engaging with all of industry, and listening carefully to people’s unique ideas and expertise, will we create solutions and policies that work for businesses, the wider sector and, importantly, the marine environment.”


The full detail of the license condition on the short-term improvements will be published on the Scottish Government website on Friday 10 May 2024.




  • Scotland’s inshore fisheries are defined as extending out to 12 nautical miles
  • around 80% of Scotland’s circa 2,000 registered fishing vessels operate in these waters
  • they are typically small, family businesses, comprising a mix of creelers, Nephrops trawlers, hand-liners, scallop dredgers and divers
  • the 2017 Inshore Fisheries Pilots Initiative saw projects implemented in the Outer Hebrides and Mull. Both of these used additional management measures to address diminishing catch returns and competition for space
  • our RIFG network has overseen development of various other initiatives including a suite of voluntary static gear controls in the Firth of Clyde
  • the latest Marine Directorate Stock Assessment Report for 2016–2019 (published in 2023) highlights many stakeholders’ views on the health of shellfish stocks

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Targeted protection for critically endangered flapper skate proves effective

Thu, 2024-05-02 16:57

Over a third of elasmobranchs (cartilaginous fish such as sharks, rays and skates) are categorised as endangered or critically endangered, making them amongst the most threatened marine animals. This includes Dipturus intermedius which is more commonly known as the flapper skate. The decline in flapper skate over the last century is mainly the result of historical overfishing. With their slow body growth, late maturity and an 18-month egg development period, flapper skate are particularly vulnerable to the effects of fishing. Often, individuals were caught before reaching maturity and as a result did not contribute to the next generation, creating the historical decline.

The Loch Sunart to Jura Marine Protected Area (MPA) was established in 2014 with fisheries measures, such as fisheries closures and fishing gear restrictions, introduced in 2016. This area is thought to act as an important refuge for flapper skate; being the focus of a joint tagging and survey effort conducted by the Scottish Government’s Marine Directorate, Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and NatureScot. These evidence-informed MPAs are designated marine spaces which in some instances ban or restrict specific fishing activities to conserve marine resources and ecosystems, supporting climate change adaption and maintaining biodiversity.


The current study looked at how MPAs can help protect flapper skate. To do so, it used participatory science data collected by the angling community from two sites in the MPA to support the research. Here, participants reported sightings of skate (identified by either artificial tags or photo-identification based on natural markings) logged the location found and noted if they were new to the study or had been found previously in the MPA. From the data, key indicators relating to site based protection, such as survival, residency and movement within and out of the MPA, and resident population size could be determined.

The study showed a substantial increase in numbers recorded within the two sites within the MPA:

  • resident population size increased from 403 to 848 individuals at the Firth of Lorn site between 2016 and 2019
  • resident population size increased from 355 to 524 at the Sound of Jura site between 2018 and 2019

When compared to the relative stability estimated for the wider west of Scotland area, this observed increase corresponded to an encouraging rise in the number of juvenile flapper skate. Evidence also showed that individuals were very limited in their movement between the sites within the MPA and that there was little overspill between the MPA and wider area, both observations serving to highlight the importance of the current MPA.

This study confirms that when a species shows certain behaviours within an area, remaining loyal to a site for part or all of its life-cycle, targeted measures to reduce fishing pressures, such as MPAs, can offer that vital protection.

This study provides:

  • an increased understanding of flapper skate distribution, movement, growth and population dynamics
  • evidence that the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA is effective at enhancing local flapper skate populations
  • evidence that wider conservation benefits may be realised through the implementation of a network of MPAs

Find out more with the recently published Spatial management measures benefit the critically endangered flapper skate, Dipturus intermedius.

More reading

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Marine Fund Scotland: North East marine projects net £5m

Mon, 2024-04-15 14:01

The Scottish Government recently opened its fourth year of the £14m Marine Fund Scotland for 2024-25.


Applications are welcome until Thursday 9 May 2024 from a wide range of eligible individuals, businesses, organisations and communities to deliver projects which contribute to an innovative and sustainable marine economy.

More than a third (33) of the 91 projects awarded funding in 2023-24 were businesses in the North East of Scotland, totalling £4.8m in grants. On an individual basis, these ranged from around £6k to £1.16m.


Fraserburgh Harbour benefitted from grants to make harbour improvements, including around £1.16m for North breakwater structural repairs and more than £87k on a decarbonising clean up using an all-electric boat and marine litter prevention campaign.

Pamela Neri, Harbour Development Manager for Fraserburgh Harbour said:


“We are greatly appreciative of the funding assistance from the Scottish Government, which has provided current infrastructure and future environmental enhancements to the harbour.


“Together with the community we have been working with local schools to educate on the challenge of marine litter, bringing the issue to the wider public and addressing how we tackle it together.”


Robert Gordon University secured around £360k for a research and innovation project to develop biotoxin testing for shellfish.

Robert Gordon University (RGU) Applied Microbiology Professor, Christine Edwards said:


“Making sure our shellfish is safe to eat is a legal responsibility for all food business in Europe.


“Unlike some other harmful bacteria and viruses which can cause food poisoning, biotoxins are largely resistant to heat so will not be removed through cooking. That’s why testing for biotoxins in Scottish shellfish, enjoyed at home and across the globe, is paramount to make sure product containing unsafe levels is not placed on the market.


“CyanoSol research group which includes colleagues from RGU, Scottish Biologics Facility at University of Aberdeen and Lateral DX Ltd continue to work closely with industry partners to develop robust solutions to new field tests for diarrhetic shellfish poison toxins.”


In Aberdeenshire, Trinity Seafoods (formerly Peterhead Whitefish Processors) received more than £360k for the purchase and installation of a white fish processing line. This automated facility provides a solution to the growing problem of manually handling smaller sizes of whitefish species, which is a time consuming and costly process. This will reduce waste and increase utilisation of this important blue food resource.

 Richard Duthie, Trinity Seafoods Director, said:


“It is great to see the Scottish seafood sector collaborating to create this new venture that will benefit fishermen and processers, and ensure best use is made out of sustainably caught whitefish.


“Not only will the new company and equipment offer direct benefits for the fishing and processing sectors, it will boost many support businesses in the supply chain.”


As well as seafood processing, marine research and innovation, and harbour improvements, other projects supported in the North East last year included fishing vessels, young fishers, commercial fishing and aquaculture. North East locations range from Aberdeenshire and Moray to Aberdeen and Angus.


Full list of the beneficiaries for 2023-24.

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