Seasearch divers discover giant rarity in the Orkney Isles

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 9 September 2011

Seasearch divers discover giant rarity in the Orkney Isles One of only fourteen live fan mussels to be found in UK at Scapa Flow.

Seasearch divers discover giant rarity in the Orkney Isles One of only fourteen live fan mussels to be found in UK at Scapa Flow. Although best known for its giant shipwrecks, a huge find of a different kind has been discovered in one of Scotland’s most historic stretches of water. An extremely rare fan mussel has been discovered at Scapa Flow and it’s twice the size of any other British sea shell. The 30cm specimen was spotted by Seasearch volunteer divers, in a horse mussel bed by one of the wrecks. Prior to this exciting find, only fourteen other giant fan mussels (Atrina pectinata) have been reported by divers to the Marine Conservation Society, who co-ordinate the Seasearch dive programme, over the past two decades from around the United Kingdom, including three from Scotland. Chris Wood, UK and Ireland Seasearch Co-ordinator, who was part of the team that found and photographed the living specimen in Scapa Flow said “The fan shell is another example of something, once abundant in UK coastal waters, which has declined rapidly since the advent of industrial trawl fishing. It is now so rare that it is one of very few marine species protected throughout the UK from being intentionally or recklessly killed, injured or taken. It is also one of the priority features in the different processes to identify new marine protected areas currently underway in Scotland, England and Wales.” MCS Scotland Programme Manager, Calum Duncan, says this latest sighting highlights the rarity of encounters with this giant shell, and paints a stark picture of our treatment of the seabed: “The Scottish Government’s own Marine Atlas recently revealed there were concerns or declines across almost the entire continental shelf seabed of Scotland. We therefore warmly welcomed the duties in the Marine (Scotland) Act to protect and enhance our seas and set up a network of marine protected areas (MPAs). Although not the whole solution, we also need marine planning and the use of other tools such as fisheries instruments - MPA’s are essential, not only to provide refuge for fragile marine life, such as fan mussels, but also to help recover more widespread habitats, bolstering the seas capacity to continue providing us with the food, energy and recreation it so generously has, for so long.”

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