Skip to Content

Pobie Bank Reef Survey 0923S (Blog #2): Hide and Seek at Pobie Bank Reef

By Ellen Last

MarineOffshore Survey Pobie Bank Reef SACSurvey 0923S

Find out the latest from our offshore survey team. In their second blog post on their survey of the Pobie Bank Reef Special Area of Conservation (Survey 0923S), being undertaken with colleagues from the Marine Directorate of the Scottish Government, they tell us about some of the animals they have been finding.

During the first half of the 0923S joint offshore expedition with Marine Directorate of the Scottish Government and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the survey team has completed 107 drop-camera transects in the Pobie Bank Reef SAC, over a range of habitats that characterise the site. Some areas consisted of bedrock reef or stony reef, with big boulders, whilst other areas had sand, often interspersed with cobbles or gravel. A wide range of animals were seen, including octopus, small spotted catsharks, sunstars and cuckoo rays (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 (from top left to bottom right): Octopus on sand; Small-spotted catshark over sand; Sunstar on rock; Cuckoo ray on sand (© JNCC/Scottish Government).


Some animals appeared to be trying to hide (see Figure 2), such as some urchins using old shells to partially cover themselves. Urchins clearly like to accessorise!

Figure 2 (from left to right): Urchin with 'test' hat (i.e. an old urchin shell); Cushion star with flatfish 'invisibility cloak' (© JNCC/Scottish Government).


Other organisms were much more successful in their attempts to hide however, and were much harder to spot…. We’ve picked out a few photos as a challenge for you – can you spot the animals hidden within the images below? Answers are at the bottom of the blog post!


Game: Spot the animal in the photo

Figure 3: Camouflaged monkfish (© JNCC/Scottish Government).


Figure 4: Scallop buried in sand (© JNCC/Scottish Government).


Figure 5: Seven-armed starfish (© JNCC/Scottish Government).


One of the more exciting sightings for the team were three individual flapper skates (see Figure 6). This species is listed as a Priority Marine Feature (PMF) in Scottish waters due to being critically endangered. We believe these are the first sightings of this species at Pobie Bank Reef, although flapper skate and their egg cases have been found inshore around Shetland previously (e.g. Shelmerdine and Shucksmith, 2021). 

Figure 6: Flapper skate on sand (© JNCC/Scottish Government).

Flapper skates each have a unique spot pattern, it is possible to identify between individuals – this means we can check against the SkateSpotter photo identification catalogue to see if these individuals at Pobie Bank Reef have been observed before. There are currently two inshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Scotland that are designated for the species: the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA, and Red Rocks and Longay MPA, both located on the west coast of Scotland.

If you missed our previous blog post on this survey, you can catch up at the following link: Pobie Bank Reef Survey 0923S (Blog #1): Return to Pobie Bank Reef – a 'Reef-tacular' Expedition


Answers to spot the animal game:

  • Monkfish, heavily camouflaged, visible in top left hand corner.
  • Starfish, orange, visible centre left, on patch of sand
  • Scallop, outline, visible centre, on sand
Back to top