‘CSI of the Sea’ whale stranding investigators secure fresh funding

Published Thursday, 8th February 2018 in Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme news

A blue shark found on Roseisle beach, Moray, was among the cases recently investigated by SMASS.
Pictured: A blue shark found on Roseisle beach, Moray, was among the cases recently investigated by SMASS.

The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) is to benefit from additional funding and will expand its research into sharks.

The team of scientists responsible for investigating whale strandings around the UK’s coastline – which includes the Inverness-based Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) – has secured additional Government funding to continue their vital studies for the next three years.

In addition to ongoing investigation of stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and marine turtles, the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) will now also expand to encompass research into strandings of other large-bodied shark species, such as the porbeagle (Lamna nasus).

Coordinated by scientists from ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and working alongside partners the Natural History Museum, SRUC, Marine Environmental Monitoring in Wales and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Strandings Network, the CSIP was launched in 1990 with funding from Defra and the Devolved Governments in Scotland (delivered through Marine Scotland) and Wales

Tasked with the post-mortem examination of stranded marine animals around Britain’s coast, the CSIP provides a vital source of data for monitoring the various health threats facing these iconic species – from accidental entanglement in fishing gear (by-catch) and ship-strike, to the insidious effects of persistent organic pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Dr Andrew Brownlow, who leads SMASS, said: “This is excellent news, as we are now able to expand our monitoring to cover most apex marine animal species in Scottish waters. These are species which feed high up in the oceans’ food webs - important in their own right and also because they serve as very good indicators of the health of the marine environment. This funding will allow us continue monitoring the effects of both natural and human-induced mortality, such as pollution, marine debris and infectious disease.”

CSIP project manager Rob Deaville from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology said: “Given the challenges facing many publicly-funded projects right now, we’re naturally delighted that Defra and the Devolved Governments continue to recognise the ongoing importance of our work.

“We’re also really excited at the prospect of expanding CSIP’s remit to include additional large-bodied shark species such as the Angelshark (Squatina squatina), as we strive to understand more about the threats facing these iconic marine animals and try to improve their future conservation status.”

To find out more about SMASS, go to www.strandings.org

To report a stranding in Scotland, email strandings@sruc.ac.uk or call 07979 245 893 or 01463 243 030 

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