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Marine Research Unit Firemore

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Firemore Beach, 1999
Firemore Beach, and Marine
Research Unit beyond
© Gordon Hatton

A Marine Research Unit was located at Firemore, on the eastern shore of Loch Ewe, a sea loch in Wester Ross, Highlands. The unit occupied the former site of a World War II boom defence depot.

Operated by the Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries Department (SOAFD), which has since become the Scottish Office Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Department (SOAEFD), the research station appears to have been abandoned some time after 1992, the date of the last report issued which has been discovered online.

Several buildings remain on the site, on a rocky point to the east of the bay, together with a number of water tanks within a perimeter fence.


Little is known about the unit, although available reports appear to suggest it would have specialised in research involving crustaceans. Typical reports attributed to the unit involved the determination of EC (effective concentration) and LC (lethal concentration) figures for chemical contamination of the animal's environment.

An 1881 survey map showing two poles located on the point, marked "Pole showing direction of Telegraph Cable", one being close to the location of the unit, while the other lay to the north east side of the point. The cable is otherwise unidentified.

During World War II, Firemore Boom Depot was built on the site, to serve the anti-submarine boom defences which would have been deployed to protect the loch from underwater attack by U-Boats. Along the access road leading to the south, was the Firemore AA Battery, the Firemore Camp on the B8057 road to the southwest, providing accommodation for the two installations.

After the war ended, it would appear that the government retained the facilities, which developed into a marine research unit. Modern OS mapping depicts the point as An Fhaighear Mhoir, and shows the buildings as a "Government Research Station", with an "Anemometer" marked a few metres to the northwest, and a "Camp Site (disused)" shown a few metres to the south, although there is no record or evidence of a camp at this location, only the one on the B8057, which can still be clearly seen in the form of numerous concrete hut bases.

Typical research

The following extract from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Technical Memorandum in the public domain indicates the type of the work carried out at Firemore:

6. Eleftheriou and Robertson (1992) examined the incremental effects of repeated scallop dredge tows in Firemore Bay, a shallow sandy bay in Loch Ewe on the west coast of Scotland in July-August 1985. The depth at the study site was about 5 m, and the sediment was well sorted sand. It was a high-energy environment exposed to wave action. Fishing (divers and beam trawls) took place in the bay during the 1970s and 1980s.

A 1.2-m-wide, Newhaven-style scallop dredge with nine, 12-cm-long teeth was towed 25 times over the same track during a 7-day period (i.e., two tows on day 2, two on day 3, eight on day 4, and thirteen on day 8). The chain bag was removed from the dredge so that all organisms that passed through the mouth of the dredge were returned to the bottom for observation.

Grab samples were collected in the dredge track before and after each set of tows. Qualitative assessments of the epifaunal and large-specimen infaunal community were conducted by divers using still cameras. There was no control (undredged site) in this study, and thus no means to statistically evaluate the effects of location or natural changes on the abundance or composition of the benthic community in the bay that could have occurred during the course of this study.

Dredge teeth penetrated the bottom 3-4 cm. Dredging created furrows, eliminated natural bottom features, and dislodged large shell fragments and small stones. Sediments in this location are well-mixed by wave action to a depth below 3-4 cm, thus the dredge had no effect on the vertical distribution of grain size, organic carbon, or chlorophyll a. Grooves and furrows created by the dredge were eliminated shortly after dredging, the length of time depending on wave action and tidal conditions.

Infaunal invertebrates that were adapted to the stresses of a high-energy environment (e.g., amphipods and bivalve mollusks) were not affected in any significant way. Sedentary polychaetes declined in abundance after 12 tows, then increased after 25 tows. Small crustaceans -- mostly cumaceans - increased in abundance after the first two tows and between tows four and twenty-five. There were no significant changes in biomass of the different infaunal taxa.

Organisms such as small infaunal crustaceans, crabs, and starfish were attracted to, and fed on, dead and damaged organisms left behind the dredge. Visual counts of living, damaged, and dead epifaunal organisms before and after each dredging event indicated some damage and mortality to organisms such as sea urchins, starfish, scallops, and crabs. Razor clams were dug up by the dredge and lay partially buried with their valves gaping and large numbers of sand lances (Ammodytes spp.) were killed. The plowing effect of the dredge buried, damaged, or chased away organisms such as brittle stars, burrowing anemones, and swimming crabs.
- NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS NE 181. [1]


1 Characterization of the Fishing Practices and Marine Benthic Ecosystems of the Northeast U.S. Shelf, and an Evaluation of the Potential Effects of Fishing on Essential Fish Habitat, Section 5. Review of Literature on Fishing Gear Effects, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS NE 181. Print publication date January 2004 ; web version posted March 16, 2006

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Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-



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