Heriot-Watt experts explore seas around Ullapool

Marine biologists will chart the seabed around the Ullapool area to confirm the presence of some of Scotland's most important marine wildlife features

Heriot-Watt marine biologists are exploring the seas around Ullapool to produce a survey of the area's wildlife.

A team of marine biologists from the University's School of Life Sciences and Scottish Natural Heritage is charting the seabed around the Ullapool area to confirm the presence of some of Scotland's most important marine wildlife features.

This work will help identify the tremendous national underwater assets we have and enable us to get the careful balance between the growth of important new marine industries and our conservation commitments right

Roseanna Cunningham, Environment Minister

The team will be surveying the quantity, quality and distribution of habitats and species of greatest conservation importance known as Priority Marine Features (PMFs).

Previous surveys have revealed the presence of several PMFs such as the calcareous algae maerl, seagrass beds, native oysters and Iceland cyprines.

The Ullapool survey is the first of a series taking place in Scotland's seas over the summer under the auspices of the Scottish Marine Protected Areas Project, a joint initiative between Marine Scotland, Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

The survey team will use a drop-down video camera to capture undersea footage. This information will be augmented with a number of "grab" samples from the seabed. The fragility of some habitats, such as flame shell and seagrass beds, means grabs sampling could use lasting damage. Therefore work in these sensitive areas will be complemented by detailed diver and snorkel observations.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said, "This work will help identify the tremendous national underwater assets we have and enable us to get the careful balance between the growth of important new marine industries and our conservation commitments right".

The survey is expected to be complete by the end of August and the final report will be published next spring.