Herring stocks off Scotland’s west coast could recover after stocks collapsed in the 1970s, scientists hope.

Researchers at Edinburgh’s Napier University are urging people to record signs of herring as part of a project to help rebuild populations.

The Atlantic herring formed one of the world’s largest fisheries in Scotland during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but after stocks collapsed in the 1970s, the stocks failed to recover and some disappeared entirely.

But, after spawning herring were detected off Wester Ross in the spring of 2018, hopes have been raised that spring-spawning herring stocks are on track to recover.

Professor Karen Diele from Edinburgh Napier University’s School of Applied Sciences said: “With so many people starting to leave home after the long winter months, we hope that anyone on the west coast is keeping their eyes peeled for signs of the dear silver ones”. .

Dr Michelle Frost from Edinburgh Napier University. (Edinburgh Napier University/PA)

“The spawning of the herring is about to start and large schools will already be close to the coast. These attract large numbers of feeding seabirds and marine mammals, all great signs of the presence of herring, wonderful to watch and important to record.”

Dr Michelle Frost, a researcher with the West of Scotland Herring Hunt project, said: “Anyone can use the web application throughout the year to record Atlantic herring, especially during spawning seasons.

“People can even see ‘carpets’ of eggs: herring lay their sticky eggs on the seabed, sometimes covering several square miles. The eggs and larvae are important food for other species, such as sandeels and haddock.

“The Herring Hunt web app was developed with our colleagues at the University of Informatics and is very easy to use from a mobile phone or computer as it takes no more than a few minutes to report herring signals.

“The herring deserve our attention so they can rebuild resilient populations on the West Coast where and when possible, which would boost the marine ecosystem as a whole.”

The West of Scotland Herring Hunt is funded by the William Grant Foundation, a non-profit association established to support charitable causes in Scotland. His work is funded by William Grant and Sons Ltd.

The web application is available here.


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