Scotland’s rare and iconic sealife catalogued

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Some of Scotland’s rarest and most iconic sealife has been gathered together for the first time in a new catalogue aimed at safeguarding its future.

The publication, produced by government nature adviser Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), showcases the country’s diverse marine environment and the threats it faces.

The waters and coasts around Scotland are some of the planet’s most bountiful, providing a home for an estimated 8,000 species of plants and animals.

They are of major scenic, historical and cultural value and play a key part in attracting thousands of wildlife tourists to these shores each year.

Illustrated with photos and maps, the new catalogue highlights 81 habitats and species considered to be priorities for conservation.

It includes 55 species and 26 habitat types is used to help target conservation efforts.

Important animals range from the small and relatively stationary fireworks anemone, northern feather star and heart cockle to the large and highly mobile minke whale, Risso’s dolphin and common skate.

Featured habitats include maerl and flame shell beds, serpulid aggregations, cold-water coral reefs and seamount communities.

Many of the country’s best-known sea-dwellers are listed, including the Atlantic salmon, otter and killer whale.

Others, like the leafscale gulper shark, small brackish water snail and round-nose grenadier, are less well known.

The descriptions cover the characteristics, environmental preferences, distribution and status of each entry.

“This publication is aimed at anyone who wants to know more about our priority marine features, from specialists to students and enthusiastic amateurs,” said Morven Carruthers, who managed the project for SNH.

“Scotland’s seas are amongst the most biologically productive in the world and the catalogue gives a real flavour of the extraordinary diversity of life they support.

“It’s also a reminder of how vulnerable marine life can be and the importance of balancing human activities at sea,” she added.

The catalogue, Descriptions of Scottish Priority Marine Features, was produced in partnership with government agency Marine Scotland and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and can be downloaded from the SNH website – www.snh.gov.uk