Sound of Canna to be surveyed – Fishupdate.com

Sound of Canna to be surveyed Published:  03 May, 2010

THE undersea habitat of one of Scotland’s most rare and endangered sea creatures is to be explored and charted in detail for the first time by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The Sound of Canna contains dense concentrations of fan mussels (Atrina pectinata), a rare fragile mollusc now believed to be in serious decline in UK waters.

The survey will set out to chart the quantity, quality and distribution of fan mussels in the Sound together with other important marine life such as burrowing anemones, seafan communities, seagrass beds and deep burrowed mud habitats.

The survey is the first to be carried out under the Scottish Marine Protected Areas Project, a joint initiative between Marine Scotland, SNH and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The Project includes gathering information on the important habitats and species in Scottish waters (called Priority Marine Features) to support the selection of Marine Protected Areas.

Environment minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “The quality of habitat and abundance of species in Scotland’s seas provides us with a tremendous national asset offering many benefits and opportunities. It is important that we go forward balancing the growth of exciting new marine industries with the need to protect this key asset. This first detailed survey of the Sound of Canna will give us a much clearer picture of its marine life and in doing so support decisions on future management of the vulnerable fan shell population found there by Marine Scotland scientists in 2009.”

The Sound of Canna survey work is being undertaken as a pilot study. The survey team will identify the presence and condition of Priority Marine Features which could potentially lead to the designation of a Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area.

The survey adds to work being carried out elsewhere this summer. Around Ullapool and in the Firth of Clyde surveys will focus on confirming the presence of Priority Marine Features recorded in previous surveys. They will also look at extending the current knowledge of marine habitats and species in these areas. Current data suggest the sea lochs in the north of the Clyde, including Loch Fyne and Loch Long, are home to numerous PMFs including the fireworks anemone, maerl beds, and beds of blue and horse mussels. Around Ullapool previous surveys have revealed the presence of seagrass beds and tall sea pens as well as beds of maerl and flame shells.

Susan Davies, SNH’s Director of Policy and Advice said: “This is an important first step by the Scottish Government’s (Marine Scotland) MPA Project to build a more accurate record of the extent and quality of our marine wildlife and habitats. The survey will enable us to assess the conservation importance of this area and advise on ways to safeguard it for the future. SNH is pleased to be able to assist with this programme of survey work in Scottish inshore waters.”

The survey is expected to start in July 2010.