Fair Isle Inshore Fish Survey

North Stacks

Inshore fish populations are an important feature of Fair Isle’s seas recognised by the DR MPA designation order. There is very little known about the Fair Isle’s inshore fish populations and thus hard to quantify levels of appropriate fisheries management. 

The Fair Isle inshore fish survey is delivered in partnership with the DR MPA Steering Group and lead by Shetland UHI. The first Fair Isle inshore fish survey took place in 2022 and provided an initial snapshot of the demersal ecosystem. It was therefore recommended that the survey be repeated again in 2023 allowing for an expansion of survey coverage to inform further assessment of local fish population dynamics. The second Fair Isle inshore fish survey took place during the summer of 2023 using the same methodology and the SMEEF-funded Shetland flapper skate tagging project was also initiated during this survey. The third inshore fish survey is due to take place around Fair Isle during the summer of 2024.

The purpose of the Fair Isle inshore fish survey is to collect data and provide trends on the distribution, relative abundance, and population structure of commercial fish species around Fair Isle. These data are used to investigate the dynamics of fish species and can inform sustainable use and management of marine areas. UHI Shetland have been collecting data on commercial fish species in the inshore waters of Shetland for over 10 years. This allows comparisons between Fair Isle data and elsewhere in Shetland.

Inshore fish surveys collect data on the abundance and size distribution of demersal fish species from within the Fair Isle DR MPA. The catch from each haul is first sorted then weighed by species. For commercially important species the total lengths of individual fish are measured. BRUV (Baited Remoted Underwater Video) landers are deployed at appropriate sites to capture fish species abundance and also provide information on habitat types around Fair Isle.

For each species, catch rate is considered both in terms of weight (kg / hr) and in terms of the number of individual fish (number / hour). While catch is generally quantified in terms of weight, this approach is less sensitive to hauls with high numbers of undersize fish which may be of interest when considering future recruitment. Maps are produced to aid visualisation of the CPUE data across the DR MPA.

Size compositions are investigated by considering length frequency distributions. These will be annotated with minimum scale sizes and approximate age distributions. This assists with the identification of any species with high proportions of juvenile fish within the survey catches. Results of the survey are discussed in relation to providing baseline information to the Fair Isle DR MPA and also in a wider context with comparison to the existing 10 year time series for waters around mainland Shetland.

This project is funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery through the National Trust for Scotland’s Love our Nature project.

The full Fair Isle inshore fish survey report for 2022 is available below. The final report for the 2023 survey will be available soon.

A squat lobster (Galathea strigosa) and a closed beadlet anemone (Actinia equina) on a typical boulder cave floor

Catch being weighed prior to being returned to the sea alive. Photo (c) UHI Shetland.

Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) footage highlights deployed during the 2023 Fair Isle inshore fish survey carried out by UHI Shetland. This project is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery through the National Trust for Scotland’s Love our Nature project.

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