THE NATIONAL Environment Research Council's sea mammal research unit, which recently moved from Cambridge to St Andrews University, is to be a key player in a study of the impact of a nearby sand-eel fishery on other fish, seabirds and seals.
Conservation groups and fishermen are concerned that the sand-eel fishery is removing a vital source of food from the area around the Wee Bankie, a sandbank off the Firth of Forth, used mostly by Danish boats.
There are fears that the fishery could be damaging stocks of fish as well as seals and birds. The three-year, Pounds 1.2 million project will study the impact of a reduction in sand eels on the diet of cod, haddock and whiting, and on the breeding patterns of seabirds and seals.
Half of the funding is coming from the European Commission, with major contributions from other bodies including the Scottish Office, NERC, and the Danish Institute for Fisheries Research.
The grey seals will be monitored using transmitters, which send information back to the laboratory via satellite. Radio transmitters will find out where the seabirds that breed at the Isle of May are feeding and breeding.