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Protecting the protected

Marine biologists are to launch a new study into ways of protecting two protected species in Scotland – one of which feeds on the other.

The scientists at the University of St Andrews hope to develop novel solutions of preventing seals from eating salmon in rivers and estuaries, whilst ensuring the safety of both.

The project, to be undertaken by researchers at the University’s Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), will focus on an investigation into the extent of the problem and safe ways of dealing with it.

Funding from SEERAD (Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department) and a number of organisations including the Atlantic Salmon Trust, has allowed SMRU to employ two researchers to carry out a 3-year investigation into how seals and salmon interact. One of the initial aims is to establish the extent of seal predation on salmon.

For this investigation, researchers will use techniques including using electronic tagging and photo-identification to keep track of seals, their whereabouts, behaviour and diets. Further studies will look into safe ways of preventing seals from entering specific areas of water where salmon are particularly vulnerable. The project will also provide training for fisheries managers.

Both seals and salmon are important and prominent parts of Scotland’s wildlife – as well as being of local economic importance in rural Scotland, the Scottish populations of both species have Europe-wide significance to conservation. Suitable measures have long been required to address the conservation needs of both species in areas where seals are known to eat salmon.

How seal predation affects salmon populations and salmon fisheries has been a controversial issue for many decades but the EU Habitats Directive now places an obligation on the UK to develop effective measures to conserve both wild salmon and seals. Because salmon fishing is an important part of the rural economy of Scotland, there is also a need to address the issue of damage done to the economic well-being of fisheries by seals.

The study represents a major step towards improving the link between science research activities on seal-salmon interactions and the development of practical management measures that could be used to benefit salmon and salmon fisheries whilst also conserving seals.

Professor Ian Boyd, Director of SMRU, said: “This is a major opportunity to build a lasting partnership to tackle one of the most difficult issues in rural development, namely how to find ways around conflicting objectives in resource management. Science has much to offer both by spreading a deeper understanding of the problem and by helping to develop novel solutions.”

The study, which will mainly be carried out in the Moray Firth, is a collaboration between SMRU and the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the University of Aberdeen and Fisheries Research Services.

Weblinks; http://www.smru.st- and.ac.uk

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

SEA MAMMAL RESEARCH UNIT – DR CALLAN DUCK – 01334 462630

SPEY FISHERY BOARD – DR. JAMES BUTLER, DIRECTOR – 01340 810 841

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st- andrews.ac.uk Ref: protecting the protected 280405.doc View the latest University press releases at http://www.st- andrews.ac.uk

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