14 Forth fish found

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Fish flourishing in the Forth

DESPITE its long history of industrial use the Forth Estuary is much healthier than many people realise,

Fish such as Cod, Whiting and Lemon Sole have been caught close to Queensferry, according to scientists from Scotland’s environment watchdog, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The tests, completed in the Spring, were carried out to establish the health of the Forth’s estuarine fish populations. Diversity and abundance of estuarine fish is a barometer of the health of the marine environment as they are mobile, relatively long lived and found near the top of the food chain.

Myles O’Reilly, senior specialist scientist in SEPA, said: “The Forth Estuary with its extensive mudflats is relatively rich in fish species and acts as an important nursery ground for young marine fish. In Spring we undertook surveys of the fish that occur in the lower estuary close to the road and rail bridges and revealed 14 different species of fish. Trawling of the seabed between Port Edgar and Limekilns found the young stages of many commercial species such as Whiting, Cod, Dab, Plaice and Lemon Sole.”

Among the more colourful fish observed was a young Tub Ggurnard with beautiful blue-green pectoral fins, and scientists also caught a Sea Mouse, a marine worm found in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean.

SEPA aims to harm no fish during survey and the fish were returned to the water.

Myles explained: “Traps set overnight for shore fish at Limekilns captured Flounder and Eelpout. Eelpout are unusual among Scottish fish in giving birth to live young. They are cool water species and thought to be potentially sensitive to global warming. We also use hand-operated siene nets in shallow bays to sample huge shoals of Sprat, important food for seabirds, such as Terns, nesting on nearby islands in the Firth of Forth.”