Courses, conferences and call-outs
Friday 13th July 2018
It’s been another busy couple of weeks for the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA) partners. On Monday 9th July the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) ran a citizen science course at their Inverness base, to train volunteers from around Scotland how to photograph and sample dead stranded animals for research purposes. Samples collected by this volunteer network are vital to SMASS’s work, which aims to provide a systematic and coordinated approach to the surveillance of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals), basking sharks and marine turtles stranded around Scotland. As part of SEA, the SMASS team (including the SEA project co-ordinator) will be offering specially designed courses to fishermen in various locations around the coast over the next 18 months which will focus on collecting data from dead-at-sea marine animal cases. If fishermen and willing and able to collect information rom these cases, which otherwise would be inaccessible, this information would be invaluable to the continued work of SMASS.
SMASS veterinary pathologist Andrew Brownlow demonstrating to volunteers how to take skin and blubber samples from a stranded harbour porpoise. See www.strandings.org for more information about SMASS.
On Tuesday 10th July the SEA co-ordinator and our partner from Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) attended the bi-annual Scottish Fishing Conference in St Andrews. The theme of the event was ‘Fisheries Management in Changing Times’ and the key issues affecting Scottish fishing across were discussed in depth. There were also a diverse range of keynote speeches, including from Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP and from officials visiting from Norway and the Faroe Islands who detailed their experiences of being independent coastal states. The conference was well attended by fishermen, students, and representatives from Marine Scotland, RIFGs, processors, retailers and NGOs. It was live-streamed too enabling those at sea or unable to attend in person for other reasons to participate in and hear the discussions and Q&A sessions.
Last week was also a busy one for SEA’s large whale disentanglement team, who were called upon to respond to reports from Gairloch on a young free-swimming minke whale with a rope caught in its mouth. A swift response was mounted however due to poor light and sea conditions the whale was unfortunately lost from sight but local boats, the coastguard and Marine Scotland vessels continue to keep an eye out for the animal and the disentanglement team remain on stand-by. If and when the animal is seen again, the rescue attempt will be re-launched.
The young entangled minke whale spotted off Gairloch last week. Image credit: Steve Truluck.
Entanglement in fishing gear is a worldwide issue affecting marine animals and fishers wherever the two overlap, and around the globe numerous programmes already exist to address this issue. Here in Scotland the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA) was established in response to an increase in marine animal entanglement reports in our waters in recent years. Minimising the occurrence and negative impacts of these incidents to both fishermen and marine animals from an economic and welfare perspective is the goal of this research, and central to this will be engaging with local fishermen to ensure they benefit as much as possible from this work.
Next week our project coordinator Ellie will be visiting Mull and Oban, to continue meeting with and interviewing local fishermen there. If you are a fisherman in this or any other Scottish region and would be willing to speak to her and complete a short questionnaire it would be great to hear from you. It is important to speak with fishermen who have and haven’t experienced entanglements, to gather information about their own experiences and perceptions of this issue, and offer opportunities for them to get involved in SEA research, workshops and training events. If you would be willing to meet and contribute to this work, share your own experiences of entanglement, or would like to learn more about SEA, please contact
All of the project partners realise that marine animals entanglement is a sensitive issue and guarantee that any information shared will be treated anonymously.