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PELTIC 2021 update 1 - 4 October

It’s 21:30 on the 4th October and I’m sitting in my cabin putting this first blog entry together, the only problem is we’re still tied up alongside the quay in Lowestoft instead of being somewhere near Weymouth Bay ready to start the survey tomorrow. Delays in getting covid test results means we have been unable to depart.


This is the fifth PELTIC survey I’ve done and this year I’m joined by Emma Neave-Webb as my co-surveyor. I thought it might be useful to give you some background on the aims of the survey to give a little more idea about what happens on board CEFAS Endeavour besides me and Emma counting seabirds and cetaceans.


This is the tenth PELTIC survey of the western English Channel, southern Celtic Sea and, for the second year, Cardigan Bay (on behalf of the Welsh Government). The primary aim of the survey is to estimate the biomass of, and gain an insight into, the populations of the small pelagic fish community including sprat Sprattus sprattus, sardine Sardina pilchardus, mackerel Scomber scombrus, anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus and horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus. This is done using two methods:

a. by acoustic survey during daylight hours to map and quantify the small pelagic species community.

b. trawling for small pelagic species using a 20x40m mid-water trawl in order to obtain information on:

· Species and size composition of acoustic marks

· Age-composition and distribution, for small pelagic species

· Length weight and maturity information of pelagic species

· Stomach contents of selected species


Another major aim is to assess environmental properties of the water column gathering data on parameters such as salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and micro-plastics. Plankton is also sampled at the same time to quantify the presence of fish eggs so that spawning and nursery areas can be identified. This side of the survey is undertaken at night so the ship is in operation 24 hours a day for the duration of the survey.#


There is also a considerable amount of other detailed scientific work undertaken during the survey such as water sampling for eDNA and collecting samples of other fish species as part of long running research programmes.

Map of the transects to be covered

This delay is giving us plenty of time to look for wildlife from the bridge – we’re not allowed off the ship as we’ve had clear covid tests – so there is little to do other than while the day away looking out from the bridge. Or rather that’s what I’m doing, Emma can immerse herself in some course work for her distance-learning masters. There’s not a huge amount to be seen (besides lots of Herring and Black-headed Gulls) but I’m always hopeful. For instance while alongside last year Short-eared Owl and Little Egret were seen from the ship.

The local Peregrines

So far the avian highlight has been some grand views of the pair of Peregrine using a disused quayside tower as a favoured perch (photos 2-5). We’ve also notched up our first marine mammal – a Grey Seal hunting up and down the harbour (photo 6). It’s forecast to be a bit breezy tomorrow so that might push something into the harbour.

Grey Seal (Peter Howlett)

There’s quite a bit of work required to get the Endeavour ready to go out on survey work and part of that involves testing the fast rescue craft out for a spin to check it’s all in working order (photo 7).

Photo 7

Unexpected event of yesterday was watching the trawler Reul na Mara (photo 8) very nearly run into us as it departed the harbour, trawler skipper reckoned he’d been caught by a gust of wind. Also had the first spectacular clouds of the trip this morning too with some big cumulonimbus clouds off to the east first thing (photo 9).

Photo 8
Photo 9

Hopefully by this time tomorrow we’ll be underway!

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