Fishy delight for Scottish scientists

Scientists have voiced delight in the results of a survey of fish in Scottish estuaries which found more than 20 species.

Scottish Environment Protections Agency (SEPA) researchers surveyed the Clyde and Garnock estuaries to check the health of estuarine fish populations.

Researcher Stephen Nowacki said: “Those of us who have been out taking part in the sampling work have been surprised and delighted by our findings.

“The waters support a very good diversity of fish species; the communities are thriving and appear to be very healthy.”

The work was completed in the spring and will be repeated in the autumn. The diversity and abundance of estuarine fish is a barometer of the health of the marine environment as they are mobile, live a relatively long time and are found near the top of the food chain.

Estuaries also act as important nursery areas for young fish. Myles O’Reilly, another researcher, said: “Our spring surveys have recovered over 20 fish species, and as well as the more usual fish we have also seen massive shoals of sprat and many juveniles of important commercial species such as sole, plaice, dab, herring and cod.

“Large populations of flounder are present right up to Glasgow City centre, supporting seabirds such as cormorants and guillemots.”

Sampling involves a variety of fishing methods, including seabed and mid water trawls from a SEPA survey vessel.

Nets are used to trap fish overnight in intertidal areas before they are returned to the water.

More surveys will take place around Scotland’s coastline in coming years.

Species found included:

-Dragonets with colours akin to tropical fish.

-Pipefish: close relatives of the Sea-Horse and up to 30cm long.

-Snake Blennies and Viviparous Blennies: cold-water species which could be used to help monitor climate change.

-Mullets: vegetarian fish, up to 60cm long.

-Sand Smelts: a small, shallow-water shoaling fish not seen in Clyde waters before by SEPA scientists.

David Gibbs

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