Survey report for the 2023 Fair Isle inshore fish survey

Shaun Fraser, Sarah Ayres, Mia McAllister, Louise Thomason, Katie Cubbon, Chevonne Angus

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Abstract

In 2022 the first Fair Isle inshore fish survey was conducted in line with the objectives of the Fair Isle Demonstration and Research Marine Protected Area (DR MPA) Designation Order. This first survey provided an initial snapshot of the demersal ecosystem, and it was recommended that expansion and repetition of the survey during the following year would enable further analysis of local fish population dynamics.
The second consecutive Fair Isle inshore fish survey was undertaken in 2023. Data collection was
conducted using the same methodology and trawl gear as the previous year by UHI Shetland staff
aboard the 12 m MFV Atlantia II (LK 502) which enabled direct comparison of catch results. The same method has also been used since 2011 during the annual Shetland Inshore Fish Survey (SIFS) which offered further opportunities for comparisons. Additional data were collected using baited remote underwater video (BRUV) landersthat were deployed in nearshore areas. The SMEEF-funded Shetland flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius) tagging project was also initiated during the 2023 fieldwork.
Catch data were collected from eight valid tows in areas east and west of Fair Isle which indicated an
overall dominance of commercial gadoid species, especially haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus)
and cod (Gadus morhua). Elasmobranchs catch rates were substantially less than in the 2022 Fair Isleinshore fish survey, particularly for spurdog (Squalus acanthias), but were nonetheless higher in mostcases than corresponding data from SIFS. The additional eighth tow conducted during the 2023 survey provided the first small sample of sandeel (Hyperoplus lanceolatus) and only observations that year of brill and turbot. There was comparatively little evidence of juvenile populations of commercially important fish species recorded around Fair Isle compared to similar data from elsewhere in Shetland.
Video footage from four successful BRUV lander deployments showed that those deployments
covered a variety of habitat types and the presence of at least 12 mobile species including fish species not sampled by the trawl. Flapper skate were consistently observed in the footage with up to seven individual flapper skate recorded in a single deployment. Combined with the BRUV data from 2022, the available footage was analysed to provide an overview of observed nearshore habitat types.
These results are discussed in the context of other available information. Limitations of this study are identified, and recommendations made including the continued repetition and expansion of the Fair Isle inshore fish survey in subsequent years which would further inform management of the Fair Isle DR MPA.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUHI Shetland
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2024

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