Luce Bay survey will decide future management

A survey that will determine the future management of Luce Bay, near Stranraer, is underway.

With funding from Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has commissioned a team of marine scientists to survey underwater habitats and species of high conservation value in the bay, which is internationally important for its wildlife.

The scientists will be working from the survey vessel Otarie, and will use a drop-down video camera to capture undersea footage.

In shallower areas they will work from an inflatable boat, using a camera mounted on a hand-held pole. Samples of sediment from the seabed will also be taken for detailed analysis. The work is scheduled to last for about 10 days, weather permitting.

Lisa Kamphausen, SNH’s project manager for the survey said: “One of our targets is to accurately map how far the honeycomb worm reefs along the eastern shore of the bay extend into the sea.

“These reefs are formed by worms that build tubes out of sand and Luce Bay has some of the most northerly examples in the north-east Atlantic yet recorded.

“They provide a habitat that attracts many other plants and animals, including seaweeds, barnacles, dog whelks, winkles, blue mussels, crabs and dogfish.

“The survey will also investigate previous records of horse mussel beds and maerl, a purply–pink hard seaweed that looks like coral.”

The project will build on an earlier broad scale survey of Luce Bay, carried out by SNH in 2007, to map the extent and distribution of the marine habitats.