Friday 16 November 2012

Offshore survey due to commence in the northern North Sea

On Saturday 17th November another two week survey will commence of three areas within the Scottish offshore area. Three members of JNCC staff have joined the Cefas Endeavour research vessel, and over the next two weeks, will undertake a detailed survey of both Braemar Pockmarks and Scanner Pockmark candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSAC), as well as a proposed area for a national Nature Conservation MPA in the Fladen Grounds.

Braemar Pockmarks and Scanner Pockmark were both submitted to the European Commission as examples of submarine structures made by leaking gases and have both since been approved as Sites of Community Importance (SCI). These sites are both located in the northern North Sea regional sea, with Braemar Pockmarks located about 240km east of the Orkney Islands and Scanner Pockmark approximately185km off the north east coast of Scotland.

Map showing Braemar Pockmarks cSAC and Scanner Pockmark cSAC

The Braemar pockmarks are a series of crater-like depressions, two of which contain submarine structures made by leaking gases. Also within the site boundary, and to the south-west of these pockmarks, there is an additional submarine structure that is not associated with a pockmark. These large carbonate blocks and pavement slabs are formed during the oxidation of methane gas. The habitat created supports chemosynthetic organisms that feed off the bubbling methane and provides shelter for fish species such as wolf fish and cod. Scanner Pockmark is a seafloor depression containing submarine structures made by leaking gases. The large carbonate blocks lie in the base of the pockmark, supporting chemosynthetic organisms and animals usually associated with rocky reef, such as squat lobsters and anemones and providing shelter for fish such as haddock and hagfish.

The main aim of this survey is to gather additional information to aid the development of management measures for these sites as well as assisting in the development of a baseline for future site monitoring.  After surveying the cSACs, the vessel will transit to an area within the Fladen Grounds to gather additional evidence to support and refine a number of Nature Conservation MPA proposals for the Scottish Marine Protected Area Project.