Sandeel Surveys in the East Coast

December 6, 2019 by No Comments | Category Marine Directorate general, Marine Directorate Science, Research Vessel Surveys

MRV Alba na Mara Programme
Survey: 2219A
Duration: 5-18 December 2019


  • Sandeel dredge × 2 (modified 4′ scallop dredge with 6″ teeth and spare toothbars) with towing bar and camera attachment.
  • TV camera.
  • Minilogger (or equivalent).


  • To determine the abundance, length and age of sandeels in the sediment from regions east of the Firth of Forth and around Turbot bank.
  • To collect and preserve samples of marinus, specifically i) all 0-group sandeels (size to be estimated from age/length keys of sampled catches) not required for age determination; ii) 100 age-1 individuals from each of the northerly and southerly sub-regions.
  • To determine the sex and maturity stage of all sandeels selected for ageing.


All required gear will be loaded onto the vessel on 2 December. Scientific staff will be transported to Leith to join the vessel on 5 December.

Figure 1: Location of important sandeel fishing areas

Two regions of historical importance for sandeel fishing will be surveyed (see Figure 1). In the first half of the survey a series of eight dredge stations to the east of the Firth of Forth will be sampled following the protocol established in 1999. A modified scallop dredge will be used to catch sandeels buried in the substrate at the priority stations given in Table 1 and Figure 2. Further stations in this region will be sampled if time permits. In the second half of the survey, the dredge will be deployed at stations 20-36 in the Turbot bank region (Table 1, Figure 2). Ideally, five repeat tows will be conducted at each station although this may be reduced to a minimum of two if catch quantities are low or available time is limited. Dredge duration will be approximately ten minutes at a towing speed between two and three (ideally 2.5) knots.

Table 1: Location of dredge stations. Priority stations (1 – 10; 24,30,32-34 and 36) are highlighted.

In addition, if time and weather allows, 1-2 new stations will be considered off Stonehaven to add a sandeel recruitment dimension to the SCObs time series.

At each dredge station, all sandeels will be identified to species level, measured, and otoliths (5, 8 or 10 depending on length strata, per half centimetre) will be taken for age determination (Objective 1).

All 0-group sandeels will be retained and frozen individually for later analysis. Sub-samples of 100 age-1 (size to be determined from age-length keys of sampled catches) A. marinus will be taken from the northerly (latitude > 57°N) and southerly (latitude < 57°N) sub-regions (objective 2).

Sandeels selected for ageing will be hand stripped and assigned a maturity stage based on a simple three-point scale (I = immature/indeterminate sex; MM= mature male; MF = mature female). Immature individuals will be individually frozen for further dissection and assigned to 1 of 2 stages (IM =Immature male or IF= Immature Female). (objective 3).

Figure 2: Chart of dredge stations to be sampled in 2219A. Areas historically fished for sandeel are shown in green. The new stations will be added in the circled area (in red).

Further Information:

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