Monday, 31 March 2014

Farewell Fladen

The last phase of the survey up at the Fladen Grounds has been focussed on collecting evidence for Scottish Government to better understand feature condition across a surface abrasion pressure gradient, particularly looking at seapen and burrowing megafaunal communities.  One element of this burrowing megafaunal community is the Norway Lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) or langoustine as you may be more familiar with. Nephrops are typically nocturnal, so the night shift have had more luck spotting them then the day shift, as they emerge from the burrows to hunt and scavenge. They feed on other crustaceans, worms or even fish. Their main predator is the cod (Gadus morhua).
 A Nephrops caught in the 'headlights' of the camera sledge (JNCC/Cefas)
A Nephrops emerging from its burrow (JNCC/Cefas)
 At this time, it is too early to report any findings from the surface abrasion study.  Once off the ship, the data will be analysed intensively before the findings are captured within a final report….typically this process can take from 6 months up to a year.  Keep an eye on the JNCC website for the final report.

Despite the bad weather experienced throughout this phase of the survey, we've made some good progress during the more favourable weather experienced this past week.  When there’s a spare minute, we've had time to appreciate beautiful sunrises from the deck and oil rigs lit up at night.

Sunrise over the Fladen Grounds (Hugh Wright, JNCC)
Throughout a number of stations at the Fladen Grounds, we've spotted what may be a cup coral living on the surface of the sediment.  On our last grab of the survey, we were lucky enough to get two of these in our sample.  They do indeed look like a species of cup coral, but appeared to just be sitting on the surface of the muddy sediment (see the images below).

Cup corals seen on the muddy sediment surface from the camera sledge (JNCC/Cefas)

Two cup coral specimens recovered on the very last sample of the survey (Neil Golding, JNCC)
As I write this, we’re completing the last few camera transects before setting back to Lowestoft. It’s a long journey home – nearly 36 hours!  But it gives the survey team an opportunity to take stock of the data collected, and complete the ship-side QA checks.