Tiny tags give valuable data on Scilly’s spiny lobsters

A pioneering project in the Isles of Scilly has seen spiny lobsters streamer and electronic data storage tagged to monitor their seasonal movements.

Monitoring spiny lobsters is important for conserving their numbers.
Monitoring spiny lobsters is important for conserving their numbers.

Around the Isles of Scilly, spiny lobsters are being tagged with miniature data loggers to better understand where these animals go from their important summer area.

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The aim is to learn how spiny lobster disperse, overwinter and whether they return to the same spots.

Scientists from the Marine Biological Association (MBA) are adding to an ongoing tagging programme in spiny lobsters undertaken by the Isles of Scilly Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IOS IFCA).

Very little is currently known about the distribution and movement of spiny lobsters around Scilly, which hinders their management and conservation.

The tagging mirrors streamer tagging that has been done of the more familiar European lobster, and a reward has been offered for information on tagged lobsters found to increase the chances of data recovery.

Over three years 3,576 European lobsters have been tagged, and over the past two years 278 spiny lobsters have joined their ranks. 

The inclusion of a small number of electronic data storage tags takes the scientists’ research to a new level.

Dr Stephen Cotterell, of the MBA says: “This approach will give us a new dimension in our understanding of their movements, residency and migrations as the year progresses.

“We know that spiny lobsters are not generally caught in the IOS region after the autumn, and number tagging generates trends of release and recapture direction.

“Data recovered from the loggers allows daily positions to be estimated, turning release and recapture points into a journey.”

Douglas Holt of IOS IFCA says: “The European lobster and spiny lobster tagging projects are pioneering studies for the Isles of Scilly.

“The data they provides will act as a baseline for future monitoring allowing accurate management of the local fishery.

“We know very little about the spiny lobster in particular, so the findings from this work are crucial and should be of relevance and use to fisheries management across the country.”

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