The NAFC Marine Centre is to launch a three-year study into the biology and ecology of megrim in the northern North Sea (ICES IVa), with the aim of providing key information to support the management of the commercially important species.
The study will be undertaken by fisheries scientist Paul Macdonald and funded by Seafish (through the Seafish Industry Project Fund), the Scottish Fishermen’s Trust and the SIC, as well as a significant investment of staff resources from the NAFC Marine Centre.
The research will deliver a wide range of data which will be made available to inform management decisions while the findings will also provide a basis for any future assessment of Scotland’s fifth most economically important demersal species – after monkfish, haddock, cod and whiting – in the North Sea.
Mr Macdonald will be registered for a PhD through the University of Newcastle for the duration of the project with academic supervision from Nicholas Polunin (University of Newcastle) and Chevonne Laurenson (NAFC).
Mr Macdonald said: “The lack of information on the biology and fishery of megrim in the northern North Sea was highlighted by industry in 2007 and led to a six-month pilot study being funded by the Scottish Industry Science Partnership (SISP) last year.
“During that study many knowledge gaps were identified and the preliminary biological data suggested that there may be differences in biological parameters – including both growth and reproduction – when compared to the west of Scotland and also areas further south.
“In recent years there appears to have been an expansion in the distribution of megrim in the northern North Sea accompanied by a large increase in abundance. It is therefore clear that there is a requirement for more appropriate management of the species, particularly considering its commercial importance, but without the supporting data and evidence this is unlikely to be achieved.
“I am confident that the biological, ecological and fisheries data we collect during the course of this study will be a valuable first step towards improved management in the North Sea.”
NAFC director David Gray said: “This is an excellent opportunity for us to further strengthen our research and teaching links with the University of Newcastle, while delivering a project outcome that is of critical importance to the industry.
“This study is yet another example of the resourcefulness and initiative demonstrated by staff at the NAFC Marine Centre in securing external funding for a major project, which will ultimately help and support the local maritime industry – and that is exactly what we are here to do.”
Seafish resource development technologist Bill Lart said: “Megrim is a widely distributed species occurring from west Africa to off Iceland and this is an important opportunity to improve knowledge aimed at better management of the fishery for this species in this part of it’s range, where it is of increasing importance to the UK fishing industry. Seafish is looking forward to collaborating with NAFC Marine Centre on this project.”