SISP – surveying fish populations in nearshore waters

 This project has been completed.

SISP – Scottish Industry Science Partnership is a Scottish Government funded programme which aims to enhance co-operation between fishermen and scientists.

SSACN are the industry lead in the partnership and it is the first time sea angling interests have been the subject of a research topic within the programme.

Project Title :: Development and evaluation of methods for surveying fish populations in nearshore waters

Partnership :: SSACN, University of Glasgow Marine Biological Station Millport & Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Scottish Natural Heritage, Marine Scotland Science.

The project report is now available for download from the Government’s website.


Nearshore areas provide a critical habitat for fish species targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries, both of which make important contributions to local economies in rural areas. The economic value of recreational sea angling in Scotland is estimated to be in the region of £150M to £200M per annum.

Understanding the sustainability of fisheries exploiting these species requires information on their distribution, abundance and patterns of movement. This type of information is particularly crucial in relation to the appropriate design of networks of marine protected areas, as envisaged in the Scottish Marine Bill and in international obligations under the OSPAR convention and the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Established survey methods are not suited to many nearshore areas, owing to shallow depths, obstructions on the sea bed or vulnerable habitats, so there is a lack of information on fish abundance in these areas.

image New sampling methods are therefore needed that are practicable, effective and efficient. The project aims to develop and test three techniques for application to Scottish inshore waters:

  • baited underwater cameras,
  • fish traps and
  • systematic rod-and-line surveys,

and to carry out concomitant studies of fish movements.

Specifically, the objectives are to :

  • develop a baited underwater camera system that could be deployed from inshore fishing vessels
  • develop a design of baited fish trap suitable for sampling in inshore areas
  • assess the bycatch of fish in baited traps set for crustaceans as possible index of fish abundance
  • develop a method of systematic rod-and-line sampling for selected species
  • conduct trials of these methods initially in a well-studied area (the Firth of Clyde), where the habitat is well known and the fish fauna may be characterized by trawling
  • apply the survey methods at different nearshore sites with varying expected abundance and species composition of fish, and from this to assess differences in effectiveness, efficiency and selectivity
  • obtain information about movement patterns of selected fish species in the survey areas from a conventional tagging study and data storage tags
  • provide advice about the potential of each of these methods for further development into routine survey protocols.

The 1 year project commenced in October 2009