Wednesday, 27 July 2016

SCANS 3 - Setting the scene

Mark Tasker and Mark Lewis have traveled far beyond the shelf edge north and west of Scotland, to take part in SCANS 3. This is the third in a series of Europe-wide, large-scale ship and aerial surveys to study the distribution and abundance of cetaceans in European Atlantic waters. Mark T is part of the dedicated cetacean observation team, with Mark L, along with Paul French (who very kindly volunteered his time, as well as a substantial proportion of his stash of Werther's Originals) making the most of an opportunity to collect bird data in what is a relatively data poor part of UK waters. The cetacean data will improve our understanding of these animal's occurrence throughout the survey area, as well as giving insight into any population changes, when used alongside data collected from previous surveys in 1994 and 2005. The seabird data will be added to the ESAS (European Seabirds at Sea) database, which has long been used to inform marine management, has been used extensively in the process of delivering marine SPAs (special protection areas), and is a valuable resource that can be made available for academic or other management purposes.

The first part of the survey saw us heading north and west of the Outer Hebrides, where we steamed transects through the areas coloured beige, and numbered 7 and 8 on the map below. This was a long journey from Aberdeen, but time was well spent, calibrating our very technical survey kit, gathering data along the way, and taking the opportunity to spot some of the most remote parts of the UK, such as North Rona, and Sules Skerry and Stack.

Map of the SCANS 3 survey blocks

Sule Skerry - part of the Sule Skerry and Sule Stack SPA

After completing these areas, Mark T has headed down to survey beige area 9 (I'm sure it's a lot more interesting than that makes it sound!) with the rest of the cetacean team. Mark L and Paul made use of a port call in Cork to return to land and head back to civilization having completed as much data collection as they could within UK waters. I'll soon be posting a few more details on the work that we were doing, and some of the incredible things that we saw.

Watch this space!