SOI Ltd was approached by The Crown Estate to design and carry out a survey of St Andrews Bay and Largo Bay, Fife, for benthic (sea bed) biodiversity (number of different species present) and species abundance. The comparison was to look at how these factors vary between the two bays and investigate whether any significant differences noted may be due to variations in fishing regulations between the bays.
This information would be used as part of a preliminary assessment to explore the potential benefits to inshore benthic habitats of the Inshore Fishing Order, which forbids the use of all mobile fishing gear including trawls (e.g. beam trawls, otter trawls) Danish seine, purse seine, or similar nets, ring nets or dredges (e.g suction dredge, hydraulic dredge, scallop drags and clam dredges), in a number of lochs, estuaries and coastal areas of Scotland.
Mobile fishing equipment is widely seen as a very destructive method of fishing. Benthic trawls and dredges indiscriminately catch, non-target species or under-sized fish and invertebrates, and destroy plants that are important in maintaining the benthic ecosystem. There is evidence to suggest that long-term use of this type of equipment has a major impact on the benthic community through direct mortality and habitat alteration.
This investigation was comprised of a geophysical seabed habitat survey coupled with benthic macrofaunal community analysis (via grab sampling and ROV video transects). St Andrews Bay (where the ban on mobile gear is strictly enforced) was compared with nearby (unregulated) Largo Bay.
- 07 May 2015