Further photographs and information about Fair Isle's Marine Environment, including additions to the Fair Isle Marine Database, can be found in FIMETI's Newsletter 'Making Waves' and also on our MARINE FAUNA page.
Fair Isle Bird Observatory’s long run of seabird monitoring data going back to 1969 is available to view on the JNCC website.
Fair Isle Marine Database
As part of a special community-led Initiative set up on Fair Isle in 1997, islanders have recorded a variety of information about the fish they catch which will be used for the protection & sustainable management of the island's marine resource for the future. This data recording includes any marine fauna and flora which the islanders and visitors spot in the local rock pools and along the shores of Fair Isle. The Fair Isle school has been designated an Eco-school for its environmental work. The teacher and children have worked closely with the Fair Isle Marine Environment & Tourism Initiative - and have helped doing beach transects, environmental projects and recording information for the Fair Isle Marine Database.
Investigating rock pools at North Haven
The Marine Database has the flexibility to cope with both casual and quantitative records. Participation in the collection of records is open to all, and the Fair Isle school bairns are helping us with some of the fieldwork.
Beach bruk survey
Fair Isle school bairns collecting rubbish from Leestit beach. This particular clean-up coincided with the Marine Conservation Society's 'Beachwatch 98'. Information about the rubbish collected from Fair Isle's beaches is entered onto the FIMETI database.
Beach bruk survey
Leestit beach, one of Fair Isle's beaches included in the Beach Bruk Survey.
Seabird Monitoring Scheme - food samples
In addition to their socio-economic importance to Fair Isle, seabirds are also a window on the state of our seas. Fair Isle Bird Observatory routinely monitors food samples caught by breeding seabirds as part of their nationally important Seabird Monitoring Scheme. The breeding success of a large proportion of Fair Isle seabirds has been poor or very poor in recent years. Breeding season failures have been associated with low food availability, particularly of the sandeel, which, for reasons of abundance and high calorific value, has been the mainstay on Fair Isle of food provisioned to chicks for the same species in the past. Fair Isle's offshore seabed is a major spawning & feeding area for fish, particularly sandeels. Fair Isle's large seabird populations have been under stress from prey shortages. These shortages have been driven by severe changes in the marine ecosystem, exacerbated by non-sustainable exploitation of the resource during the 1980's & 1990's by fishing boats from elsewhere.
As a consequence, Fair Isle's seabirds are now having to turn to other less suitable & less abundant prey species such as this Fifteen-Spined Stickleback (Spinachia spinachia) - a food sample dropped by a Tystie (Black Guillemot) at Mavers Geo.
Fair Isle's marine richness and diversity
Stewart Thomson holding a Sea-Urchin (Echinus esculentus). Note the prolific concentration of plankton suspended in the sea. Fair Isle's marine environment is pollution-free, relatively unspoilt and rich in marine life. The cool North Sea waters and the warmer Atlantic Ocean mix around Fair Isle and Shetland, bringing a rich supply of nutrients to the surface layers of the sea. These nutrient-rich waters around Fair Isle combined with the long summer hours of daylight result in an abundance of tiny green plants known as phytoplankton, which are the foundations of the marine food chain. These phytoplankton are food for tiny marine animals called zooplankton, which are in turn eaten by small fish such as sandeels. Sandeels are the favourite food of many of Fair Isle & Shetland's breeding seabird species like the Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake. Sandeels are also eaten by people. When one part of the food chain in destroyed, then other species suffer. It is therefore vitally important to understand and look after our precious marine resource in a sensible, sustainable way for future generations...
Fair Isle's Marine Richness and Diversity
Alcyonium digitatum (Dead Man's Fingers) and Echinus esculentus (Edible Sea Urchin).
Fair Isle's Richness and Diversity
Islanders of all ages have been supplying records for the Marine Database.
Jerry Stout, Fair Isle's oldest islander in 1998, enjoying a day at the fishing.
Fair Islanders have traditionally caught lobsters around their island using small-scale sustainable fishing methods such as here. In the 1950's & 1960's lobsters caught commercially by islanders were sent direct to canneries in Inverbervie, Scotland. In the last few years, the island's lobster population has since been severely damaged by the large-scale setting of creels by big commercial lobster boats from elsewhere, forced here by over-fishing of lobster stocks in their own areas. Aware of the need to preserve local resources for the future, Islanders have been undertaking a study of Fair Isle lobster stocks to establish sustainable management measures in order to protect them from over exploitation & to allow stocks to recover & be maintained for future generations.
Fish and Crustacean Record Form
Form used by Islanders to record fish and crustaceans around the Isle. Information recorded is then entered onto FIMETI's Marine Database.
Monitoring Fair Isle's sea surface temperatures and salinity
Thanks to Dave Wheeler (Fair Isle's resident meteorologist), Fair Isle has a continuous data set from 1968 to the present day. This can be used in conjunction with other data sets within the Fair Isle Marine Database and FIBOT's Seabird Monitoring Scheme to assist with important analysis and research into the health of Fair Isle's marine environment and resource.
Monitoring for Environmental Change
Populations of a whole suite of insects, and other fauna and flora, are extended their range northwards during this period of accelerating climate change and some are making it as far north as Fair Isle. This expansion is not confined to terrestrial species. The rare small cushion star Asterina phylactica was previously known only as far north as the Inner Hebrides, so the discovery of one near South Light by Henry Hyndman in April 2009 is a significant extension northwards. In 2014, the Cushion Star is now well established in one moderately big colony on the Isle.
Text Copyright Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative. Photographs Copyright as indicated. All rights reserved.