The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) wave energy converter test site, at Billia Croo, Orkney Islands, is within an area commonly used as a lobster fishery. In summer 2010 a Scottish Government funded project to investigate the possible effects of marine energy converter deployments on resident crustacean species within the area of the EMEC Billia Croo test site was established. This collaborative project, led by EMEC, had scientific input from Herriot Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) and Seafood Scotland, and industry input from Orkney Fishermen’s Society (OFS) and Orkney Fishermen’s Association (OFA).
The project encompassed two broad aims: firstly, to determine the likely influence of a small-scale refuge area on local lobster population abundance and availability to the fishery; and secondly to explore the potential for using such areas to augment local lobster stocks by using them as nursery grounds for the release of hatchery-reared juveniles. A supplementary aim of the project was to characterise experimental creel catches of all crustacean species in the area in the context of catches experienced by the commercial fishery operating in adjacent areas open to fishing.
The study concludes that the area within the EMEC wave test site at Billia Croo provides suitable feeding and refuge habitat for lobster, and has the potential to act as a nursery area to both the local fishery and to the Orkney Islands as a whole. Continuation of the project will be essential in order to assess the survivability and mobility of juvenile lobster electronically tagged and released during this project. The potential for artificial structures placed on the seabed during development of marine renewable projects to act as juvenile lobster habitat also requires further investigation. Previous sampling of lobster and brown crab landings across Orkney can provide valuable information on catch composition, but data on effort and catch rate are lacking and should be an important component of any future monitoring programme in order to determine stock abundance.