Scientists ask seafarers to be on lookout for ‘marine vomit’

The NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway is starting a new project searching for marine species that may have been introduced to Shetland from elsewhere in the world.

Introduced species (also known as non-native or alien species) can be harmful to the marine environment, not only having a potentially negative impact on wildlife but on Shetland’s important marine industries such as aquaculture and fisheries.

Project officer Jacqui Tweddle, part of the marine spatial planning team in the department of marine science and technology at the NAFC, is visiting marinas around Shetland this summer to see what species have made it to the isles. So far she has visited Fair Isle, Bridge-End, East Voe, Cullivoe and Lerwick Harbour.

One of introduced species Ms Tweddle will be looking out for is called the “carpet sea squirt”, which is also known by the less attractive name “marine vomit” (presumably for its colour and consistency).

This species, originally from Japan, has been found in England and Ireland where it has been causing problems for the shellfish industry by smothering oyster beds. It can also smother farmed mussels. The species has also been found in marinas in Wales and Scotland.

Species such as the carpet sea squirt have managed to hitch a lift around the globe on boat hulls and in ballast water. Unfortunately, man-made structures (such as marinas and aquaculture infrastructure) can sometimes offer ideal habitats for these species to grown on.

As well as checking for introduced species, Ms Tweddle will be developing information sheets for marinas, the aquaculture industry and other marine users so they can keep a look out for anything unusual living around the coast.

The NAFC would be interested to hear of any unusual species that people might have seen and pictures can be sent to or telephone (01595) 772000.


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