Protection of the tiny sandeel
In November 2012, plans were announced to protect sandeels in a bid to halt the decline in seabird numbers.
A wide range of seabirds, including puffins, razorbills, shags, guillemots and kittiwakes, feed on shoals of sandeels around the coast, especially in the summer months off the Firth of Forth.
However, declining seabird numbers have been linked with over-fishing and the possible impact of climate change on their staple food (although it should be noted that the factors involved in the cause of declining seabird numbers is complex).
In a bid to tackle the problem, the Scottish Government's Marine Scotland agency is planning to include the sandeel in a new network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), where measures to limit fishing are expected to be imposed.
The move could see an end to industrial-scale fishing for sandeels, which are used in fishmeal feed and fertiliser, in the hope that this action will help increase the protection of important seabird populations.
• They are not true eels! Sandeels are, in fact, are small, eel-like fish which swim in large shoals and are an abundant and important part of the food chain in the North Atlantic
• They live for less than 10 years and are 4cm to 5cm in length, but can reach 10cm
• Their preferred habitat is the seabed, where they burrow in sand to escape predators
• They are important prey for seabirds and fish, including most species of white fish.