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July 4, 2017

The search for sea pens

BY: Suzanne Conlon



Today we arrived at Devil’s Hole, here there are several muddy trenches and our plan for the day was to look for sea pens using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The weather was on our side, the sea was calm and the currents were weak, perfect for the ROV! In fact, we managed to complete four ROV dives!

The name “Devil’s Hole” was coined by fishermen who often lost trawl nets on the steep sides of the trenches. Throughout all of the ROV dives, we could see the presence of trawling activity by the straight and long scours in the soft sediment. There was a stark difference in the species (or lack thereof) from this survey area compared to the Aberdeenshire survey site, highlighting the destructive nature of trawling. Despite the presence of trawling activity, we did find a number of sea pens scattered throughout all of the dive areas. The final ROV dive of the day revealed a large area of burrowed mud, this is a protected marine feature in Scotland and this was also heavily trawled. During this dive we found several Norway lobsters in the burrows and hagfish. The highlight of the day was watching a hermit crab run full speed into a seapen which quickly retracted into the sand. If only all sea creatures could avoid intrusions (i.e. from trawling) by hiding in the sand!