Marine News

Sent in by John Kinsman, operations manager at Coastwatch St Monans, east Fife

Fears for sea birds

A Fife fisherman has hit out at ocean rules that allow overseas boats to hoover up sand eels, a key food for sea birds in the Firth of Forth. Edward Black from Pittenweem said he spotted boats around 40 miles east of the Forth in the second half of May and again in early June. He said they came from Sweden and Denmark. Sand eels are the most important food for species for sea birds such as puffins, gannets, and guillemots.

Mr Black followed the boats in the marine traffic app. They disappeared before returning to the spot 70 miles from the coast.
He said, “I guess there were 20 plus boats. Sand eels are at the bottom of the food chain. Everything relies on feeding on them from fish and sea mammals to the sea birds of the Forth. Gannets will fly hundreds of miles in a day to feed”.

A shortage of sand eel numbers can have huge repercussions on other species in the food chain. Mr Black said the crews catch the sand eels for processing into pig meal. Mr Black said Marine Scotland were not doing enough to safeguard the area.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP for North East Fife suggested the situation was serious enough for Marine Scotland to consider closing the area to industrial fishing. Kittiwake, Tern, Fulmar are some of the populations affected by industrial boats, according to research by the British Trust for Ornithology.

And Mr Rennie said breeding failures for the birds increase in the period after the industrial fishing. He added, “The Wee Bankie off the Fife coast was closed in 2000 and we should be considering whether this is necessary for this and other areas again.”

A Scottish government spokesman said they were absolutely committed to protecting the interests of businesses and coastal communities in Scotland. He said, “The terms of the trade and co-operation agreement established between UK and EU in December 2020 entitles EU vessels full access to UK waters, out with 12 nautical miles to fish their available quota.” The spokesman said they are considering what measures can be put in place to manage activity. They wanted to do this in the most sustainable way possible he added.

Featured image shows Puffin with Sand Eels photo credit: Greater Kent Birder

Navy’s newest vessel enters fleet

The Royal Navy’s newest ship has been commissioned into service at a ceremony in the Highlands. HMS Spey is the fifth and final ship of the new generation of River Class offshore patrol vessels bring built under current naval contract. The 90 metre long can accommodate a royal navy Merlin helicopter and has room on board for up to 50 royal marines.

HMS Spey was constructed at BAE Systems in Glasgow and left the Clyde shipyard last October for sea training. The ship and her 45 strong crew were commissioned into the fleet in ceremony at the affiliated town of town of Invergordon on Friday June 18th. Later in the year HMS Spey will carry out security operations in the Far East.

The vessels commanding officer lieutenant commander Ben Evans told guests at the ceremony, “I am proud to be here today with my amazing ships company. They have achieved so much and worked hard.”

RAF submarine hunting Poseidon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth did a fly past and the Band of the Royal Marines Scotland played.

Scotland office Minster Ian Stewart said, “Introducing the Clyde built patrol vessel HMS Spey into active service once again shows that not only does defence play a crucial role in the security of the UK but it also contributes to Scotland’s prosperity through employment and investment. HMS Spey will always have a close bond with Invergordon but her foreseeable future is in the Indo-Asian -Pacific region where she will be deployed as part of the Royal Navy role in global Britain.”

Coastwatch St Monans

The volunteer Coastwatch St Monans team have had a busy few weeks . They were called out to search for a missing dog in the Elie area but after a full scale search there was no sighting of the young female spaniel. The owners of the missing dog praised the help of the Coastwatch St Monans team who spent several hours scouring the cliff tops, coastal paths and beaches in the area. A second call out was to a missing person in the local area which ended with a good outcome. A third call was to keep watch for overdue kayakers from their lookout station situated on the coastal path near the harbour. Kayakers were found safe and well.

Coastwatch St Monans team on call were operations manager John Kinsman and deputy manager Anne Kinsman john McLean, Bob McDonald, Beth McLean, Karen Dodson, on watch room duty Cameron McDonald.

Coastwatch St Monans team have taken delivery of their new uniform jerseys and shirts with their new moto on them “Coastwatch St Monans Station.” The jersey and shirts were made by Peter Drew company.

Operations manager John Kinsman and watch keeper Karen Dodson wearing the new uniform while on patrol at Elie

Sand Eels

Danish and Swedish boats could be stopped from industrial sand eels fishing off the Scottish coast under new Hollywood measures Rural Affairs Secretary and Angus MSP Mairi Gougeon has told her civil service team to draw up management measures amid growing concerns. She wants to tackle the sand eel fishing problem because of the effect it has on vulnerable seabird populations. Ms Gougeon said she had told her officials to consider it a matter of urgency.

The RSPB has warned fishing pressure is helping to drive sea birds populations to breaking point in the area around the Forth including puffins and gannets. A Pittenweem fisherman drew attention to Danish and Swedish boats operating in the seas close to the Forth over previous weeks. See main story above.