Sea surveys to reveal Scotland's marine secrets

Diver surveying
Image caption Eight marine surveys will gather information on the biodiversity of Scotland's seas

A series of surveys to increase knowledge of Scotland's marine life is due to be carried out, the Scottish government has said.

Eight marine surveys will gather information on the biodiversity of Scotland's seas.

The surveys will cover almost 2,200 square miles - equivalent to an area one and a quarter times the size of the Cairngorms National Park.

Underwater videoing and acoustic and 3D images will used in the surveys.

Vessels from Marine Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Northern Lighthouse Board will all be involved.

The information gathered will build on existing knowledge and help inform plans for the creation of Marine Protected Areas, provide additional information on fish stocks, and inform plans for renewables and other marine developments.

The results will also be used to develop better maps of the seabed and improve our understanding of the species and habitats associated with our seas.

Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, said: "Scotland's seas provide rich marine habitats and a stunning array of biodiversity.

"Our waters are home to some of the world's most precious wildlife, including internationally important species, therefore it's critical that we further our knowledge as much as we can."

'Important asset'

Sandy Downie, marine ecology manager at SEPA, said: "We are pleased that SEPA can help Marine Scotland carry out this work.

"Scotland's seas are an important asset and working closely together to make best use of existing Scottish survey vessels is essential to ensure best use of capabilities to understand and manage our seas."

Roger Lockwood, chief executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board said: "The Northern Lighthouse Board is committed to the safety of mariners and our marine environment.

"We are delighted to be able to work with such a knowledgeable team and to utilise the survey capacity of our ships in support of Marine Scotland's aim to acquire a greater understanding of Scotland's seas."

Commenting on the surveys, WWF Scotland's head of policy, Dr Dan Barlow, said: "Scotland's seas and coasts are home to an amazing range of wildlife, however, we urgently need to see action to halt and then reverse the declining health of our marine environment.

"We welcome these surveys as they will provide vital information on what lies beneath the waves which in turn should inform decisions on better ways to protect this important resource now and long into the future."

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