Scilly survey 2019

After spending the darker, colder months analysing all of the survey footage from 2018, and prepping for this year’s field season, the team were ready to don the oilskins again and get back out at sea.

This year the team kicked off fieldwork in the Isles of Scilly, as part of the SCILL-E project. Working in conjunction with Dr. Sian Rees and the Isles of Scilly Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, (IoS IFCA) this projects sets out to develop a series of decision support tools for the IFCA to use in order to ensure healthy seas around the IoS that support a wide range of ecosystem functions and services.

Prior to our arrival, Cornwall IFCA had taken their research vessel Tiger Lily across to the IoS to carry out side-scan surveys. This method uses sound pulses to generate an image of the seabed providing information on the different seabed habitats types found around the IoS.

It was the team’s responsibility to help ground-truth these data. To do so we deployed our trusty Towed video array from local fisherman, Adam Morton’s, vessel Kestrel. Taking the array down to depths of nearly 100m provided us with some incredible footage of rocky reefs boasting a wide range of diversity including species such as Spiny lobster (Palinrus elephas), Boarfish (Capros aper), and some of the biggest Ross corals (Pentapora foliacea) we have ever recorded!

The awesome marine life didn’t stop there! to the team’s excitement we were lucky enough to be joined by Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) while conducting the towed video survey, and on several occasions we were accompanied by Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) bow riding on our steam back into the islands after a long day at work.

Alongside Towed array footage the team also collected sediment samples to further ground-truth the side-scan survey carried out by Cornwall IFCA. To do so a Shipek grab was used to gather a sample of the surface sediment. These samples not only provide information on the sediment type, e.g grain size, but can also be sieved and picked to determine which organisms are living inside this sediment.

By combining the data from towed video, sediment analysis and the side-scan survey the team will be able to create fine scale maps that characterise the different seabed habitat types found around the IoS. This, alongside information on how sensitive these different habitat types are to fishing pressures will help the IoS IFCA ensure their district continues to be sustainably managed.

For more on this and other exciting projects, visit the Projects page.

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