Research Projects

2020 Habitat Classification and Sensitivity Analysis

With funding from the  European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), the University of Plymouth have just completed a year-long research project to improve our knowledge of the seabed habitats to the east of St. Marys and to develop a tool that can be used to help visualise and understand their sensitivity to different fishing pressures. 

Cornwall IFCA on board the Tiger Lily spent four days in May 2019 towing a sidescan sonar to provide a seabed profile, the following month a team from the University of Plymouth spent six weeks working on board the Kestrel with local skipper Adam Morton. The team used a towed flying camera array in transects of about 40 minutes each to provide a detailed picture of the seabed type and the marine life that is growing on top of it. They also used a Shipek grab to gather small samples of sediment which was later analysed to find out the types of creatures that live under the seabed.

Over the winter the videos and samples were analysed and classified into different habitat types and amalgamated with existing models. This provides us with a much more accurate and detailed seabed map which helps us to understand how they could be impacted by fishing activities. Habitat sensitivity comes from the Marine Evidence-based Sensitivity Assessment (MarESA) database developed by MarLIN in Plymouth. The research discovered a habitat that had been modelled as soft sediments, was actually colonised by reef species such as bryozoans and hydroids growing through a thin sediment veneer from the rock underneath. 

The full report can be read here

2020 Ecosystem Service Asset and Risk Register

In parallel with the habitat classification work, the University of Plymouth have also developed a marine ecosystem service asset and risk register, building on techniques that they had pioneered as part of the North Devon Marine Pioneer. An asset and risk register are decision support tools used within business and industry to identify risks to operations; and can equally be applied to inform fisheries management and conservation decision making. This research was informed by the classification work and will provide the IFCA with an important baseline and tool to help inform good decision making in the future. 

The research used existing data on habitats, species and human activities to develop a basic register for the condition and likely trend for key marine habitats on Scilly. Interviews with fishermen helped to capture their knowledge and perception of risk. Models were provided for marine habitats showing risks based on current and future management scenarios for the provision of food, healthy climate (carbon sequestration), sea defences, tourism and clean water. 

The report finds that there is a very low level of risk across the Isles of Scilly. The models help us to understand how and where this risk may increase under different theoretical management scenarios. 

The full report can be read here

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