Scottish Government – Marine Scotland – Marine Scotland Science | EMBRC

Scottish Government – Marine Scotland – Marine Scotland Science


The Scottish Government came into being following Devolution of Powers from the United Kingdom Government as a result of The Scotland Act 1998 (an Act of the UK Parliament) which created a Scottish Parliament and passed to it the powers to make laws on a range of issues. These powers were extended by the Scotland Act 2012.  In 2009, the Scottish Government created Marine Scotland through the bringing together of a Directorate of Scottish Government and two Executive Agencies – Fisheries Research Services and the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency.  A Directorate of Scottish Government, Marine Scotland is the Marine Management Organisation for Scotland.  It is a multi-faceted organisation of 700 staff operating through 27 sites across Scotland.  Marine Scotland operates 2 planes and 5 ships which undertake a combination of fisheries protection duties and scientific research and monitoring.  The main science facilities are at the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen and the Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory in Pitlochry.  The Marine Laboratory has had a presence in the south east of Aberdeen since 1894.   Although the Marine Laboratory has had a strong focus on fisheries (demersal, pelagic and shellfisheries), there has always been an environmental component to the science programme.  Both environmental and aquaculture science have become a significant area of research in the last 30 years.  Today, Marine Scotland Science is a multi-disciplinary organisation covering freshwater and marine science, from acidification, to marine mammals to zooplankton.


Mission and Research

Marine Scotland is a Directorate of the Scottish Government and is responsible for the integrated management of Scotland's seas. 

Marine Scotland's purpose is to manage Scotland's seas for prosperity and environmental sustainability, working closely with its key delivery partners, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

  • Work towards achieving good environmental status, through our marine planning, licensing and other functions, to help ensure a healthy and sustainable environment.
  • Promote sustainable economic growth from marine renewables industry and other marine and maritime industries through integrated planning and, where appropriate, streamlined regulatory frameworks.
  • Promote sustainable, profitable and well managed fisheries and aquaculture industries in Scotland.
  • Ensure sustainably managed freshwater fish and fisheries resources.
  • Ensure a sound evidence base to inform the development and delivery of marine policy, planning and services.
  • Ensure effective compliance and enforcement arrangements.
  • Continue to integrate our functions and resources, and to develop our organisational skills, competencies and capacity to ensure effective and efficient marine management arrangements in Scotland

Marine Scotland has a vision for 'Clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environments, managed to meet the long-term needs of people and nature'.

Marine Scotland Science has the vision: ‘To provide robust research and advice underpinning the management of Scotland’s marine and freshwater resource'.

The purpose of Marine Scotland Science is to:

  • Provide expert scientific, economic and technical advice and services on marine and freshwater fisheries, aquaculture, and the aquatic environment and its flora and fauna
  • Provide the evidence to support the policies and regulatory activities of the Scottish Government through a programme of monitoring and research
  • Perform regulatory and enforcement activities
  • Represent the Scottish Government at national and international meetings

Marine Scotland Science is organised into four networks, which in turn have specific Science Programmes which cover:

  • Environment, Monitoring and Assessment
  • Renewables and Energy
  • Planning and Environmental Advice
  • Sea Fisheries
  • Aquaculture and Fish Health
  • Freshwater Fisheries
  • Science Operations
  • Marine Analytical Unit

These are supported by the Business Operations and Information Technology Programme.

The science programmes monitor the aquatic environment and the life it supports, often setting this within a socio-economic context through collaboration with our Marine Analytical Unit.  Strategic research on topics related to Scottish seas, rivers and lochs and the fish and other wildlife that live there ensures we increase our understanding of marine and freshwater ecosystems. Our long-term time series (one dating back to 1893) are essential for understanding natural variation and, ultimately, human induced changes in our seas and rivers. Our science activities are enhanced by our engineering section which allows Marine Scotland Science to design and build specialist marine samplers and other equipment. Our net riggers allow us to test technical improvements to nets.

Research topics: 

Marine Facilities

Marine Scotland Science houses state of the art aquaria which can function at full or partial salinity.  Theses modern aquaria are suitable for a wide range of experimentation including challenge experiments due to the excellent containment facilities.  In addition to the two large ships, Marine Scotland Science operates several smaller ships, one of which is dedicated to our ecosystem monitoring site located 3 nautical miles from Stonehaven which is situated 15 miles south of Aberdeen.  This site has been sampled on a weekly basis since 1997 for temperature, salinity, nutrients, chlorophyll, phytoplankton and zooplankton.  More recently samples have been collected for the assessment of ocean acidification.  Marine Scotland Science operates a second ecosystem monitoring site at Loch Ewe on the west coast of Scotland and has other coastal monitoring sites, at which primarily temperature and salinity are measured, around the Scottish coast.



Shore-based activities at the Marine Laboratory are conducted in well-equipped laboratories and aquaria. These cover areas including analytical chemistry (contaminants, nutrients, ocean acidification, micro-plastics), biology, ecotoxicology, acoustics, virology, bacteriology, pathology, physics, ecology, plankton, otolith reading, fish scale reading and a fish house.   The freshwater field stations are backed up by modern laboratories at the Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory.

MSS has modern engineering and electronic workshops and is developing an integrated quality, data and information management system. Many areas of our science operate within an externally assessed accreditation system. Our statisticians ensure a sound statistical basis to our science which is fundamental when developing advice . The well-established libraries in both Aberdeen and Pitlochry hold some 20,000 volumes.



Our two marine research ships (MRV Scotia and MRV Alba na Mara) ensure that we have excellent platforms from which to study both our near shore and offshore ecosystems, including the deep waters to the west of Scotland.