We are excited to hear that the SCANS III surveys have begun!

For those of you who don’t know what SCANS III is: SCANS is a project to study the distribution and abundance of Small Cetaceans in the European Atlantic and North Sea. SCANS I was conducted in June/July 1994, continued with SCANS II in July 2005 and now SCANS III is happening in June/July 2016. SCANS III involves large scale ship and aerial surveys around the European Atlantic continental shelf, French, Spanish and UK offshore waters; and Norwegian coastal waters north to Vestfjorden.

Numbered survey blocks are being covered by ships and lettered blocks by aircraft.

[/media-credit] Numbered survey blocks are being covered by ships and lettered blocks by aircraft.

The aim of SCANS III is to generate estimates of abundance of cetaceans in the region. These results provide a regional snapshot of the density and distribution of cetacean species and typically contribute to the assessment the impact of human activities on the marine environment. The data will also be used to compare methods to create a best practice guide for monitoring cetacean abundance to inform European Directives. This information will enable the conservation status of several species of cetacean to be assessed at a biologically appropriate spatial scale and is essential to support conservation efforts throughout the European Atlantic.

It is always important to remember when using SCANS data that, while it provides a large scale assessment of the density and distribution of cetaceans around the European Atlantic, the surveys are only conducted in June/July and so provide only a snapshot of the density and distribution of animals and may not be representative of density and distribution at different times of the year or between years.

The SCANS II data suggested that there might have been a shift in the distribution of harbour porpoise since SCANS I (bearing in mind these surveys are snapshots a decade apart), with porpoise shifting from the north to the south of the survey area. It will be interesting to see what SCANS III finds and how the abundance estimates and distribution patterns compare to previous SCANS surveys.

The schedule for the survey is:

27th June: aerial surveys conducted by the 7 aircraft began

27th June to 5th August 2016: ship 1 – offshore waters west of Scotland and the northern Bay of Biscay

3rd July to 29th July 2016: ship 2 – southern Bay of Biscay and offshore Spanish waters to the west

4th July to 24th July 2016: ship 3 – Skagerrak, Kattegat and Inner Danish waters

For more information on SCANS III, including field diaries, visit the SCANS III website or follow them on twitter @SCANS_3 to see survey updates and photos.

SCANS III is coordinated by the Sea Mammal Research Unit with partners from many different countries.

[media-credit name=”SCANS III” link=”http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/scans3/” align=”aligncenter” width=”300″]SCANS III logo[/media-credit]