Scottish environment minister Richard Lochhead has promised further studies in 2012 into the biodiversity of the nation’s coastal waters after surveys this year which discovered a number of rare and unexpected species.
A total of 15 surveys were carried out this year covering 2,000 square miles of seabed. They found species such as the fan mussel, at up to 48 cm long Scotland’s largest sea shell, and the rarely seen Amphioxus.
The surveys were carried out by Marine Scotland in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Northern Lighthouse Board, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, British Geological Survey and Scotland's science institutions.
These studies were the first investigations into Scottish marine biodiversity to make use acoustic multi-beam scanners to create 3D images of the seabed. This allowed the first maps of deep water sites to the west of the Outer Hebrides.
“In an age where the lands of the world have been mapped out and recorded, it’s amazing how many discoveries are waiting to be made under the waves. Spanning from the weird to the wonderful, discoveries this year have included the bizarre Amphioxus and the beautiful yet elusive brightly coloured Flame Shell,” said Lochhead.
“The waters around Scotland are rich in such fascinating biodiversity and it’s our responsibility to protect this fragile environment. That’s why we have ramped up our marine survey work, with plans being prepared for new surveys in 2012 to further our knowledge of what lies beneath Scotland’s seas,” he added.
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