Bay Sampling

Bay sampling

CNM collaborates with Aberdeen University and Loch Duart Ltd in ongoing sampling of Lochmaddy Bay. Copyright Susy Macaulay 2010.

By Susy Macaulay
Appeared in Press and Journal, Stornoway Gazette, Dec 2009

A Sutherland-based salmon farm operation has agreed to provide vital sea-water sampling services in North Uist for Scottish Government agency Marine Scotland, formerly known as Aberdeen Fisheries Research Services Marine Lab.

Loch Duart Ltd currently produces around 1800 tonnes of salmon from its sites in the Uists. Their Lochmaddy-based staff will now take water samples from Lochmaddy Bay for two long-term monitoring programmes being carried out by Marine Scotland.

The collaboration came about after the sudden death of Dr John MacLeod, chairman of North Uist marine society, Comann na Mara (CNM).

Dr MacLeod had been carrying out the sampling for the lab on behalf of CNM from 2003 until his death three months ago.

CNM’s new chairman Gus Macaulay said he was determined that the society should continue to help the researchers and sounded out Loch Duart staff about taking on the task.

He said: “Lochmaddy Bay is a marine special area of conservation and one of the Scottish Government’s long-term monitoring sites. We felt it was vital for the research to continue.”

Marine Scotland researchers Matt Geldart and Sheila Fraser visited Lochmaddy to talk Loch Duart’s local site manager John Paul Walker, Hebrides director Alan Anderson and fish biologist Alicia MacDonald through the sampling process.

The staff will now ensure samples of seawater are taken from the same GPS location in the bay each week.

The samples will be sent to Marine Scotland’s Aberdeen lab on a monthly basis.

At the lab, Mr Geldart, an oceanographic engineer, will monitor the water’s salinity and the presence in it of nutrients.

Mrs Fraser is monitoring levels of phytoplankton, tiny marine organisms, in samples taken from a 30ft water column.

Loch Duart staff will also take responsibility for looking after a temperature recording device which is suspended from Lochmaddy pier.

Loch Duart director Andy Bing said: “Loch Duart is delighted to help out in any way. Fish farms are often useful eyes and ears out at sea. We are very excited to learn about the marine environment in which we work, and Loch Duart has always recognised its responsibilities to the community and environment.”

Mr Geldart said: “We are pleased that the long-term monitoring work can continue. It will take a good ten years before anything meaningful can be drawn from the research findings.”

Mrs Fraser said: “Phytoplankton are indicative of the health of marine environment and it is essential to monitor what is happening in an environmentally sensitive area like Lochmaddy Bay.”

Trip round the Bay

Trip round the Bay

Marine scientist Andrew Rodger talks to Comann na Mara members on their trip round Lochmaddy Bay. Copyright Susy Macaulay 2010.

By Susy Macaulay
Appeared in Stornoway Gazette, West Highland Free Press, Oban Times April 15, 2010

Members of the Uists’ Society of the Sea, Comann na Mara (CNM) took a trip round Lochmaddy Bay at the weekend to learn more about the unique qualities of the habitat.

The trip was the first of a series being planned to invite members of the public to explore Lochmaddy bay over the summer.

The bay holds Marine Special Area of Conservation status, and is considered one of the finest sites in Europe for the diversity of eco-systems, flora and fauna within its waters.

Piloted by Niall Johnson of Uist Outdoor Centre, the group spent more than two hours visiting different areas of the loch.

Marine scientist Andrew Rodger of Berneray was aboard to guide the tour and answer members’ questions. He also used an underwater camera to show CNM members the richness of the wildlife beneath the surface.

Expertise was also added by naturalists Joanne Ferguson of SNH and Steve Duffield, of Western Isles Wildlife Tours.

CNM chairman Gus Macaulay said: “This was a fact-finding trip to give CNM a greater understanding of the loch and evaluate what we can do in future to offer opportunities for the public to learn more about Lochmaddy Bay.

“In collaboration with Niall Johnson and other parties we are looking at offering a series of educational trips to schools and the public over the summer.”

He added: “CNM members have a great pool of knowledge among them about marine matters but were astounded by the riches of Lochmaddy Bay.”

Piping Competition

Piping competition

Norman Johnson, left, and Gus Macaulay, right, instigators of the Comann na Mara Piping Competition. Copyright Susy Macaulay 2010.

By Susy Macaulay
Appeared in Press and Journal, West Highland Free Press, Oban Times, Stornoway Gazette, January 2010

A prestigious new piping competition has been announced from North Uist.

The Comann na Mara International Open Invitation Piping Competition will invite entries this summer, and culminate in a prize-giving ceremony and concert at Piping Live at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow in August 2011.

Comann na Mara (CNM) is the Western Isles’ marine society, based in Lochmaddy, North Uist. Board chairman Gus Macaulay came up with the idea of the piping competition to raise awareness of the society and its work around Loch Maddy Bay Marine Special Area of Conservation.

He said: “CNM’s board of trustees have agreed to the idea of an international, open invitation competition, with all compositions related to the sea.

“We are delighted that the National Piping Centre, through its principal Roddy MacLeod, has agreed to collaborate with us by organising and administering the competition.”

Mr Macaulay and CNM vice chairman Norman Johnson, a well-known North Uist piper, met Mr MacLeod in Glasgow to discuss the idea.

Mr Johnson said: “This competition will help strengthen the bond between the Uists and piping. There have been many prize-winning pipers from here, and several tunes named after the people and places of the Uists, and composed by people from the islands, but no international competition set up from Uist.”

The competition, along with a submission timetable and prize money information will be formally announced at Piping Live this August. Entries will be invited up to a date next spring, and the winners will be announced at Piping Live 2011.

The winners, or their designated pipers will play in concert at Piping Live, and there are also plans for a similar concert to take place in Lochmaddy.

Mr Macaulay said he is currently seeking competition sponsors.

He added: “We hope to publish the winning manuscripts and are looking at the possibility of a CD.”