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Crabs and lobsters tagged in Orkney spawning study

image captionFishermen said it was important to find ways to co-exist with new technologies

Researchers in Orkney are to fit tags to thousands of crabs and lobsters over the next four years as part of a study to ensure stocks remain high.

It will monitor spawning and examine how fishermen and the wave and tidal energy industry can work in harmony.

The research will also help establish that supplies are sustainable.

Crabs and lobsters caught in the cold, clean waters around Orkney are renowned for their quality and are popular with consumers across Europe.

The study is being conducted by The Crown Estate, along with Marine Scotland and Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd.

It will be undertaken by local fishing fleets and marine researchers, under the guidance of scientists at Heriot-Watt Orkney Campus.

The information gathered will also prove valuable to the developers of wave and tidal energy schemes, helping them to avoid the most sensitive sites when installing their devices.

Ronnie Quinn, The Crown Estate's head of energy and infrastructure for Scotland, said: "Knowledge is essential in understanding existing marine users and emerging energy industries.

"The Crown Estate is committed to working with the fishing industry and we are delighted to be embarking on this work, which will be vital in aiding our understanding of how the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters marine energy projects can be progressed in a way which gives a maximum benefit to the local communities of Caithness and Orkney."

'Environmental credibility'

Environmental body WWF Scotland said it was joining the efforts to support sustainable development and fishing in Scotland.

Director Lang Banks said: "This is a really exciting project that could deliver for the people of Orkney a double win of a profitable, sustainable fishery as well as clean, green marine power industry."

He added: "Alongside energy saving measures, marine renewables will have a critical role to play in helping Scotland reduce climate emissions.

"We believe that through careful planning and initiatives like the one on Orkney, we can harness Scotland's wave and tidal energy to help cut our climate emissions, while safeguarding the nation's tremendous marine environment."

As well as mapping the area, thousands of tagged brown crabs and juvenile lobsters will be released each year to allow monitoring of spawning migrations, which will also assist with the siting of marine renewables in the future.

Orkney Fisheries Association secretary Fiona Matheson said: "Fishermen recognise that they will need to find positive ways to co-exist with competitors for sea space and that on the broader front, accruing knowledge about the fishery will become an increasing part of the future sustainability of the inshore industry as environmental credibility takes greater hold among buyers and consumers."

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