By Rob Harbour
Our latest blog post is from our offshore survey team, who are embarking on a survey with the Marine Institute of Ireland to two recently designated Highly Protected Marine Areas (HMPAs) – Dolphin Head and North East of Farnes Deep.
After months of planning, surveying in the newly designated Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in Dolphin Head and North East of Farnes Deep is about to begin. JNCC is working in collaboration with the Marine Institute of Ireland aboard the Research Vessel (RV) Tom Crean, to collect evidence vital to understanding the ecological conditions of these important regions of our seas. The data we collect will form a baseline to which future surveys will be compared, allowing us to monitor ecological change in the HPMAs over time.
Image 1. Schematic map of the United Kingdom and Ireland showing the locations of Dolphin Head and North East of Farnes Deep HPMAs.
The ship has recently departed from Portland in the south of England, bound for Dolphin Head HPMA which is situated in the Eastern English Channel, approximately 55 km south of Selsey Bill, West Sussex, and covers an area of 466 km2. During this first part of the survey, our focus will be on collecting pictures of the seabed using a drop frame camera and BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Vehicles). We will take video and still images of the surface of the seabed, collecting high-resolution and detailed information about the marine environment, such as the types of sediment, habitats, and species present. Additionally, we’ll collect water samples which will be analysed later for nutrients and contaminants, as well as environmental variables such as temperature and salinity. The extra data help us to understand the wider environment in which the seafloor animal communities live, potentially allowing us to link changes over time to these variables.
After two weeks in Dolphin Head HPMA, the ship will make the journey around the south-eastern point of the United Kingdom and into the North Sea, heading north to the North East of Farnes Deep HPMA, situated about 55 km away from the Northumberland Coast. There we will collect imagery and water samples in the same way previously explained for Dolphin Head, with the addition of a campaign of grab sampling of the coarse and muddy sediments. Grab sampling means that we’re able to collect physical specimens of animals that are living in, or on, the sediment, building valuable data about community structure and biodiversity.
Image 2. Some of the JNCC Survey team, about to set sail.