Bute’s marine fish – a checklist

A checklist of the Marine Fishes of Bute

Fish comprise a diverse group of some 32,000 species of limbless vertebrates and are found in aquatic habitats around the world (Everard 2013). The majority of these are marine fish that inhabit a range of habitats defined essentially by water depth and salt content of the water (salinity). Seawater becomes diluted in estuaries and also in enclosed shallow seas, where low salinity is an ecological barrier for many marine species. In terms of depth, there is a primary division between waters over the continental shelf, and those of the open ocean basins (Miller & Loates 1997).

The undersea world that surrounds Bute, is home to a wonderful array of marine animals. Not only are many of these animals amazingly colourful, they also lead remarkable lives. This tremendous variety of marine life, includes more than one hundred species of fishes. The classic fish shape is represented by species such as Bass, mullet and Pollack; but many species are adapted for a lifestyle dwelling on the sea bottom, like seascorpions and Angler; others have become elongated so they can hide amongst seaweed, such as pipefish; or slip into narrow crevices, such as Conger Eels; and still others have thin plate-like bodies to sneak up on prey, such as John Dory; or lie on their sides on the sea bed, such as Plaice and sole (Naylor 2003).

Bute is situate in the upper Clyde estuary (Firth of Clyde) and Bute waters can be defines as being that within the median line between Bute (including Inchmarnock) and neighbouring land (excluding Burnt Islands). It therefore extends no more than 200m at the narrowest point, between Rhubodach and Colintraive (in the East Kyle of the Kyles of Bute), but 5km into the Firth of Clyde due east of Ascog, to 4.5km due west of Inchmarnock, to 5km into the Sound of Bute between Garroch Head and Arran, and 7.5km into the Firth of Clyde due south of Garroch Head.

The depth of the waters surrounding Bute varies considerably. In the East Kyle, the depth never exceeds 38 meters and the majority is less than 30 meters. The West Kyle reaches 55 metres opposite Glecknabae and 59 metres in the narrows between Torran Turach and Rubha Bàn (the peninsula just north of Tighnabruaich). The waters between Bute and Inchmarnock, and that enclosed by a line extending from the south tip of Inchmarnock to Garroch Head are shallow, rarely exceeding 30 metres. Most of the Bute waters within the Sound of Bute are within the range 60-100 meters deep, but a depth of 116 metres is reached 6km south of Garroch Head, and the sea to the west of Inchmarnock slopes deeper, reaching 158 metres 4.5km to the west of the south tip of Inchmarnock. The sea between Bute and the Cumbraes reaches a depth of 114 metres 1 km east of Rubh an Eun, but the channel mostly falls within the range of 60-80 metres and the water in Kilchattan Bay never exceeds 50 metres. The sea reaches a depth of 63 metres at a point 2.5km due east of Ascog, but then slopes up to a bank, 2-3km wide, that extends from Great Cumbrae north to Toward Point and which is in many places no more than 25 metres deep. The sea from Bogany Point to Toward is 39 metres at its deepest point. Rothesay Bay, that area of water enclosed by a line drawn from Bogany Point to Ardbeg Point, does not exceed 20 metres in depth.

Fringing the land, intertidal habitats, usually referred to as seashores, comprise the area between low and high spring tides. Most seashores relate to one of four types: rocky, shingle, sandy or muddy. Plant and animal life between the high and low tide marks are determined by the shore substrate, and are subjected to extremes of temperature, varying levels of oxygen content in the water, light, risk from desiccation and are affected by wave action (Miller & Loates 1997). These factors therefore determine the type of flora and fauna to be found.

The shallow seas extend outwards from the lowest point to which the tide ebbs, beyond Bute waters to the edge of the continental shelf. By comparison with the seashores, the shallow seas provide a more constant environment, and consequently are populated by a greater diversity of animals. Plants on the other hand are less evident, because sunlight, on which they depend, cannot always penetrate sufficiently through the overlying water (Campbell & Nicholls 1976).

 

Bute waters (indicated by the red line surrounding Bute)

Bute waters (indicated by the red line surrounding Bute)

 

Just as there are different types of shore, so there are different types of seabed. The texture of the substrate will to a large extent dictate what types of organisms live on it, and to a lesser extent the species which live in the water above the substrate, since they may be dependent upon the seabed for food. Sandy bottoms are characterised by a variety of burrowing invertebrates and the well-known flatfishes. Rocks provide variety of niches for different species, and shell-gravel and muddy bottoms also have their characteristic animal life. Once clear of the low-tide line, the sea bottom around Bute is almost entirely composed of sand and mud, although there is an extensive area of rock to be found to the south-west of Garroch Head, extending to the edge of Bute waters.

As would be expected the waters of the Firth of Clyde are warmer and less saline than the North Channel or Atlantic Ocean, although the level of salinity fluctuates from time to time and the temperature in the relatively shallow waters are subject to considerably more change than are deeper waters beyond the continental shelf. The waters surrounding Bute are also rich in a variable level of nutrient from the land. Light penetrates the entire water column, unless the water is turbid. The waters are highly productive, especially in the tiny invertebrates and algae living on or in the bottom sediments.

Shelf fishes associated with the sea bed can be divided roughly into two kinds. ‘Epibenthic’ forms live on the bottom but feed to a varying extent in the overlying watercolumn. These include gobies, scorpaenids, sea-poachers, dragonets and small dogfish. Bottom-dwelling fish are more or less adapted to a two-dimensional environment and their bodies tend to be flattened (e.g. Plaice and Sole) or elongated (e.g. Conger Eel), with cryptic coloration for concealment. Living immediately above the sea bed or its associated vegetation are marine sticklebacks, pipefish, wrasse and some gadoids, while grey mullet, although schooling in midwater, are bottom feeders. The other division comprises fishes which lead more secretive ‘cryptobenthic’ lives, normally hiding under stones or in other structures or burrows. These include blennies, various gobies, rockling, eels and clingfish.

Fishes which live in the shelf watercolumn and the surface layers are more adapted for efficient swimming, by body streamlining. Schooling is common among fishes in the three-dimensional habitat of the water mass, and trawler landings, have shown Cod, Haddock, Hake, Plaice, Saithe and Whiting to be the principal demersal fish species caught in Clyde waters since 1960, with Herring remaining an important commercial pelagic fish in the lower reaches of the Clyde, but in considerably lower numbers than formerly. A ‘Clyde Ecosystem Review’ by F McIntyre, P G Fernandes and Dr Bill Turrell showed that although extremely heavy fishing pressure has resulted in a considerable reduction in the number of large fish within the Clyde during this period, the total biomass has probably increased, but with predominantly small fish now being present.

As recently as 2004, Jack Gibson wrote a checklist of ‘Marine Fishes of the Island of Bute’ published in the Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society, which he believed to be the first ever publication listing the marine fishes from the vicinity of Bute. That paper was used as the basis for this webpage.

Jack Gibson appreciated the difficulties of compiling an accurate list of species recorded within the waters surrounding Bute, and acknowledged that his list of 133 species probably included not only fishes occurring within Bute waters, but also those ‘caught elsewhere in Clyde (exact locality not always known) and landed at Bute’. In fact, there are eight species of fishes on his list which have not been accurately recorded within Bute waters, and which are now shown in an Appendix. There are four species of fishes that were not recorded by Jack Gibson, but which are now included Smooth Hound Mustelus mustelus, Starry Smooth Hound Mustelus asterias, Blue Shark Prionace glauca and Undulate Ray Raja undulate. There are therefore 129 fishes currently known to have occurred within Bute waters.

Andrew McDonald, from Bute Angling & Outdoor Centre, and two local fishermen Ivan Cowie and John McInairnie have very kindly provided most of the information about current status, seasonal changes and distribution within Bute waters.

 

Pictorial representation of the change in the species mix making up 95% of the demersal fish biomass between 1920-1959 and 2005-2009 in the Clyde Sea (‘Clyde Ecosystem Review’ by F McIntyre, P G Fernandes and Dr Bill Turrell)

Pictorial representation of the change in the species mix making up 95% of the demersal fish biomass between 1920-1959 and 2005-2009 in the Clyde Sea (‘Clyde Ecosystem Review’ by F McIntyre, P G Fernandes and Dr Bill Turrell)

 

As with most other fauna, the taxonomical classification of fishes has been subject to much change in recent years and although Gibson based his list on Wheeler (1969), we here usually follow Miller & Loates (1997), who in turn followed the general arrangement of Nelson (1994). We have also used the nomenclature from Miller & Loates (1997). Commonly used alternative English names are shown in parentheses.

 

Classification

Fishes belong to:-

Phylum: Chordata

and are subdivided into three classes:-

Class: Agnatha – jawless fishes (c.50 species worldwide)

Class: Chondrichthyes – cartilaginous fishes (c.600 species worldwide)

Class: Osteichthyes – bony fishes (c.30,000 species worldwide)

Subclass Actinopterygii (Ray finned group)

Subclass Sarcopterygii (Fleshy or lobe finned fishes)

Within Bute waters, two species have been recorded that belong to Class Agnatha, 17 to Class Chondrichthyes and all other species to Class Osteichthyes.

 

The current checklist covers all marine fishes recorded within the waters surrounding Bute and Inchmarnock.

Species Systematic List

CLASS: AGNATHA Jawless fishes

Order Hyperotreta

Family Myxinidae

Hagfish Myxine glutinosa

Habitat and habits: Cooler waters of shelf; burrows into mud; feeds on invertebrates and dead fish.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon. A few recent records including at Balnakailly Bay.

 

Order Hyperoartia

Family Petromyzonidae

Sea Lamprey Petromyzon marinus

Habitat and habits: Bottom living, inshore and estuaries, entering freshwater to breed. Feeds semi-parasitically by attaching to the body of a fish, from which they suck blood.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

CLASS: CHONDRICHTHYES Cartilaginous fishes

Order Pleurotremata

Family Cetorhinidae

Basking Shark Cetorhinus maximus

Habitat and habits: Moves over shelf waters in summer; feeds on plankton.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common. Recorded annually, with most records May – September. Basking Sharks favour coastal shallow waters during summer, but they migrate to deeper offshore waters for the winter. Those Basking Sharks occurring in Scottish waters during summer are believed to mostly move to the Bay of Biscay during winter, although one was seen near Skelmorlie, Ayrshire on 28th December 2015 and subsequently found dead on Skelmorlie shore (per Paul McTaggart), possibly having been affected by gales and rough sea conditions.

After a period of several years with no more than occasional sightings in Bute waters, mainly of ones or twos, an extraordinary series of events occurred during October 2015. First, one was seen 5 km west of Garroch Head on 20th September (Shark Trust); then two at Scalpsie Bay on 29th September (Shark Trust) with five there on 3rd October (M Stalker); followed by several sightings during the following week, peaking at 20, recorded by a fisherman Roy Middleton ‘all down the west side of Bute’ on 10th. That same day from the shore Ian Hopkins saw 14 off Scalpise Bay and 3 were seen recorded in Kilchattan Bay (The Shark Trust), probably part of the total seen by Roy Middleton. On 13th October seven were seen at Dunagoil (P McTaggart), but a kayaker, Alice McInnes counted no less than 22 down the west side of Bute on 14th October. The final sighting was of nine at Garroch Head on 17th October (Shark Trust).

On 10th October 2015 Martin Ferguson shot a superb short video (it lasts 3 minutes) of the Basking Sharks in Scalpsie Bay, which can be viewed at http://youtu.be/gaHXEjvubHw  – this was taken from a camera mounted on a (drone) quadcopter.

Basking Shark off Ardscalpsie 10th October 2015 © Martin Ferguson

Basking Shark off Ardscalpsie 10th October 2015 © Martin Ferguson

 

In addition to reporting sightings of Basking Sharks to Bute Museum please also send your records to Shark Trust www.sharktrust.org who are also interested in sightings of other species of shark.

 

Family Lamnidae

Porbeagle Shark Lamna nasus

Habitat and habits: Often occurs near surface, coming into shelf-waters during summer; feeds on fish.

Status in Bute waters: Rare. Usually recorded in the Clyde during summer/autumn when following shoals of Mackerel.

 

Family Scyliorhinidae

Lesser-spotted Dogfish (Common Dogfish) Scyliorhinus canicula             

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living, on sandy or muddy grounds; nocturnal; inshore chiefly November-July.

Status in Bute waters: Common and widely distributed, throughout the year.

 

Greater-spotted Dogfish (Nurse Hound, Bull Huss) Scyliorhinus stellaris              

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living, prefers offshore coarse ground.

Status in Bute waters: Rare/uncommon.

 

Black-mouthed Dogfish Galeus melastomus

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living, chiefly from 55-200m.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Triakidae

Tope (Tope Shark) Galeorhinus galeus

Habitat and habits: Inshore on gravel or sand, but in deeper water during winter; often caught by anglers; feeds chiefly on fish, especially gadoids such as whiting.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon during summer/autumn, when it follows shoals of prey fish. Prefers the strong tides that occur between Bute and Cumbrae.

 

Smooth Hound (Common Smooth Hound/Common Smoothhound) Mustelus mustelus

Habitat and habits: Coastal, bottom-living, feading on small invertebrates and small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Common during period July-September.

[Note. Henderson (2014) advised that there is little evidence that Mustelus mustelus occurs in British waters and that regardless of whether they have stars, all are Starry Smooth Hounds. However, we here follow the traditional view that both species occur commonly in west of Scotland waters.]

 

Starry Smooth Hound (Starry Smoothhound) Mustelus asterias

Habitat and habits: Feeds especially on crabs.

Status in Bute waters: Rare during period July-September.

 

Family Carcharinidae

Blue Shark Prionace glauca

Habitat and habits: Highly voracious, oceanic, diving down to 600m or more, but often cruising at surface, and also occurs more inshore. They occur worldwide in temperate and tropical waters of sufficient depth, migrating into Northern European waters during summer.

Status in Bute waters: Although only recorded in Bute waters during recent years, now recorded annual in small numbers during August and September, when it follows shoals of Mackerel. One was washed up on the shore at Ettrick Bay in c.2013.

 

Family Squaloidae

Spurdog Squalus acanthias

Habitat and habits: The common dogfish of more northerly waters around the British Isles, with commercial landings (sold as Rock Salmon or Flake); often schools; seasonal migration between inshore and deeper waters; feeds on fish and invertebrates.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon. It is uncommon throughout the Clyde.

 

Family Squatinidae

Angel Shark (Angel Ray, Monkfish) Squatina squatina

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living; inshore from about 5m to more off-shore (70-90m) in winter; nocturnal; feeds on fish, especially flat fish, whelks and crabs.

Status in Bute waters: One c.1978 caught by Ivan Cowan when trawling and sent to Kelvingrove Museum. It was probably caught in Rothesay Bay, but the boat travelled several miles before the nets were ‘hauled-up’.

 

Order Rajiformes

Family Rajidae

Cuckoo Ray Raja naevus

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living.

Status in Bute waters: Previously fairly common, but has decreased and is probably now uncommon with no recent confirmed records.

 

Spotted Ray Raja montagui

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living; inshore and coastal-shelf.

Status in Bute waters: Previously fairly common, but has decreased and is now rare with no recently confirmed records.

 

Thornback Ray Raja clavata

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living; found from inshore to uppermost slope.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common/common, except during winter. It occurs right around Bute on muddy and sandy bottom.

 

Undulate Ray Raja undulata

Habitat and habits: Lives on shelf, on finer deposits.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Common Skate Raja batis

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living; mostly in shelf-waters less than 200m.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon. It is common in the Hebrides, but Clyde waters are to the south of its main range.

 

Family Dasyatidae

Common Stingray (Sting Ray) Dasyatis pastinaca

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living; shelf, on sand and muddy ground; sometimes partially buried in substrate; feeds on fish and invertebrates.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

CLASS: OSTEICHTHYES bony fish

Order Chondrostei

Family Acipenseridae

Atlantic Sturgeon Acipenser sturio

Habitat and habits: Now an endangered species, rare in British waters; feeds on invertebrates and small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Rare. One Bute record, c.1969, over 6ft long, caught in Bute waters south of Toward. This is one of possibly only three caught in the Clyde since World War II.

 

Order Anguilliformes

Family Anguillidae

European Eel Anguilla anguilla

Habitat and habits: Often in estuaries and enters fresh water, but can occur to considerable depths; usually near sea-bed when in shallower waters; feeds on invertebrates and small fish. There has been a considerable decline in numbers in recent years.

Status in Bute waters: Remains fairly common, although heavily overfished. It is generally found near freshwater outlets.

 

Family Congridae

Conger Eel Conger conger

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living on rocky or coarse ground; from intertidal pools or under stones on muddy shores to shelf at 180m; adults migrate from shelf to breed during summer in warmer Atlantic waters.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common from May to November, preferring heavy rocky ground and near piers and groynes (stone/cement projections into sea to prevent erosion, minimise wave action etc.).

 

Order Isospondyli

Family Clupeidae

Atlantic Herring Clupea harengus

Habitat and habits: Abundant schooling fish, stocks now considerably depleted, but recovering; migrates; feeds on plankton and small swimming animals of the water column over the continental shelf. Once the centre of a major Herring fishing industry in the Clyde, numbers reduced dramatically during the 20th century, but although the stock is now comparatively low, there are indications that the downtrend has probably ceased.

Status in Bute waters: Remains fairly common, mostly November to February. Heavily overfished in the past.

 

Sprat Sprattus sprattus

Habitat and habits: Abundant schooling fish, less important as food source, but considerable industrial usage; in coastal and estuarine waters during late autumn and winter; migrates to open seas for breeding in March-August; feeds chiefly on planktonic copepods.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common and widely distributed during the period from spring to autumn.

 

Pilchard (Sardine) Sardina pilchardus

[Young pilchards are the sardines found in tins.]

Habitat and habits: Schooling fish of the inshore shelf, schools from near surface at night to 55m during day; young may enter estuaries; feeds on plankton and small swimming animals.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon, usually found mixed with shoals of Herring.

 

Allis Shad Alosa alosa                                                                                   

Habitat and habits: Schooling fish of the inshore-shelf, now protected in British waters, where it no longer breeds.

Status in Bute waters: Previously occurred, but now rare, with no recent reports.

 

Twaite Shad Alosa fallax                                                                             

Habitat and habits: Schooling fish; found on the inshore shelf and in estuaries.

Status in Bute waters: Previously occurred with some regularlity, but now rare, with no recent reports.

 

Family Salmoniformes

Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar

Habitat and habits: Important to marine and estuarine net fisheries and freshwater game angling; migrates from deep off-shore waters to enter estuaries from spring onwards, ceasing to feed thereafter, and ascends unpolluted rivers to spawn November-December; only minority of adults survive first breeding season, regaining sea in an emaciated state to recover on marine feeding grounds; farming in cages now produces 20 times yield from fisheries, but escapes may cause genetic change in wild stock.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common from spring until autumn, usually close to shoreline.

 

Sea Trout Salmo trutta

Habitat and habits: Migrates from deeper water to inshore shelf, before ascending rivers to spawn in September-December; feeds on invertebrates and fish.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common from spring until autumn, usually close to shoreline.

 

Family Osmeridae

Smelt Osmerus eperlanus

Habitat and habits: Migrate to inshore shelf and ascend rivers in schools for spawning February-May before returning to sea after a few months; feed on plankton, crustaceans and small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Argentinidae

Argentine Argentina sphyraena

Habitat and habits: Shelf to upper slope, 35-450m, rarely in as little as 10m, probably schooling above bottom.

Status in Bute waters: Rare

 

Order Gadiformes

Family Gadidae

Cod Gadus morhua

Habitat and habits: A primary component of fisheries, it has greatly decreased in number. Migrates to spawning grounds February-April, after which it moves to feeding areas associated with herring abundance. A very important commercial fish, overfishing has caused a very significant reduction to the population since the 1980s.

Status in Bute waters: Remains fairly common, although heavily overfished and still declining on the west coast of Scotland. There are spawning grounds at The Gantocks and in Loch Long, so regular throughout the year in Bute waters.

 

Haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Habitat and habits: Important economic species; usually frequents off-shore shelf at 80-200m; feeds in schools, mainly on bottom-living invertebrates such as worms, shellfish and echinoderms.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common throughout the year, it prefers deeper water.

 

Bib (Pouting) Trisopterus luscus

Habitat and habits: Common inshore, but more important to sea angling than fisheries; lives near the seabed at 30-100m on off-shore shelf; feeds chiefly on crustaceans.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common, particularly during winter. Often frequents piers and groynes (stone/cement projections into sea to prevent erosion, minimise wave action etc.).

 

Poor Cod Trisopterus minutus

Habitat and habits: Lives on off-shore shelf and uppermost slope, 30-300m, but young are more inshore; feeds chiefly on shrimp-like crustaceans and small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common, particularly during winter. Often frequents piers and groynes (stone/cement projections into sea to prevent erosion, minimise wave action etc.).

 

Norway Pout Trisopterus esmarkii

Habitat and habits: Less frequent inshore than Bib or Poor Cod, usually occurring on offshore shelf on muddy grounds in 100-200m of water; schooling; feeds chiefly on planktonic crustaceans.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Pollack (Lythe) Pollachius pollachius

Habitat and habits: Common near the shore and frequently caught by sea-anglers; inshore, near seabed or in midwater, over coarser ground, schooling in breeding season (January-May); feeds on small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common from May until November, preferring rocky ground and kelp beds.

 

Saithe (Coalfish) Pollachius virens

Habitat and habits: Fished commercially; shelf; schooling.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common from April or May until November, often in small shoals. Regularly frequents piers. Occurs regular in the Kyles.

 

Whiting Merlangius merlangus

Habitat and habits: Common in coastal fisheries; usually inshore, midwater to surface; feeds on fish, especially sandeels. In biomass terms, Whiting is now the commonest fish within the Clyde; since 2005, making up 72% of the demersal fish biomass.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common throughout the year and widely distributed.

 

Ling Molva molva

Habitat and habits: Taken by anglers in deeper coastal waters, as well as commercial fisheries; offshore shelf and upper slope, usually 100-400m, but young more inshore on rocky ground; feeds mostly on fish.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon throughout the year. It generally prefers rough ground and wrecks etc in deep water.

 

Three-bearded Rockling Gaidropsarus vulgaris

Habitat and habits: Intertidal rocky or mixed ground, where it often hides in crags and gaps between rocks, coming out to scavenge on the seabed; feeds mainly on marine worms, prawns, shellfish and crustaceans.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common in most areas throughout the year.

 

Four-bearded Rockling Enchelyopus cimbrius

Habitat and habits: Although occasionally found in shallow water, it prefers the shelf and upper slope to 550m; on soft deposits.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon, although widely distributed, throughout the year.

 

Greater Forkbeard Phycis blennoides

Habitat and habits: Frequents offshore shelf on softer deposits, usually at 150-300m, sometimes in shallower water (to 10m).

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Tadpole Fish (Lesser Fork-beard) Raniceps raninus

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living, solitary, inshore shelf to 20m, rarely deeper; young sometimes intertidal.

Status in Bute waters: Rare, Ivan Cowan says that he has seen a few.

 

Family Merlucciidae

Hake Merluccius merluccius

Habitat and habits: Important commercial fish; offshore shelf and upper slope 70-400m; bottom-living by day, feeding in midwater at night; moves into shallower water during summer; eats fish.

Status in Bute waters: Formerly commoner, but now becoming rare. It occurs throughout the year, but is more often caught during the summer months. It inhabits deep water.

 

Order Ophidiiformes

Family Zoarcidae

Viviparous Blenny (Eelpout) Zoarces viviparus

Habitat and habits: Common between tidemarks on Scottish shores and immediately below the low water mark to 40m, especially near freshwater drainage and in estuaries; bottom-living, under stones.

Status in Bute waters: Common throughout the year.

 

Order Lophiiformes

Family Lophiidae

Angler (Monkfish) Lophius piscatorius

Habitat and habits: A large, well concealed predator, waiting on sea-bed for fish or larger invertebrates; bottom-living, from inshore shelf to upper slope as deep as 500m.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

Order Beloniformes

Family Belonidae

Garfish Belone belone

Habitat and habits: Usually shelf and more oceanic, but during summer can move into inshore waters and estuaries; surface dweller; feeds on fish.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Order Atheriniformes

Family Atherinidae

Sandsmelt (Atherine) Atherina presbyter

Habitat and habits: Coastal, sometimes into brackish water; schooling; plankton-feeding.

Status in Bute waters: Probably present in small numbers, but due to it having no commercial value it is not targeted by trawlers and if caught is not recorded.

 

Order Lampriformes

Family Lamprididae

Opah Lampris guttatus

Habitat and habits: Mainly oceanic, living in the uppermost 200m of the sea beyond the continental shelf; feeds mostly on squid; occasionally inshore and stranded.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Order Zeiformes

Family Zeidae

John Dory Zeus faber

Habitat and habits: Usually inshore to 100m; stalks fish which are sucked in by sudden protrusion of mouth.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Order Syngnathiformes

Family Syngnathidae

Deep-snouted Pipefish   Syngnathus typhle

Habitat and habits: Inshore and estuaries, among sea-grass, and in brown algae on rocks.

Status in Bute waters: Pipefish are caught regularly by trawlers, but have no value and they are not specifically identified before being returned to the water.

 

Greater Pipefish Syngnathus acus

Habitat and habits: Below the tide mark to about 12m on sheltered coastline; prefers sandy and muddy substrate.

Status in Bute waters: Pipefish are caught regularly by trawlers, but have no value and they are not specifically identified before being returned to the water.

 

Snake Pipefish Entelurus aequoreus

Habitat and habits: Shelf, among weed or in midwater, to 165m, but also pelagic; eats small invertebrates, mostly crustaceans.

Status in Bute waters: Pipefish are caught regularly by trawlers, but have no value and they are not specifically identified before being returned to the water.

 

Order Gasterosteiformes

Family Gasterosteidae

Fifteen-spined Stickleback (Sea Stickleback) Spinachia spinachia

Habitat and habits: Mainly small fish occur inshore and intertidal rock pools, larger fish tend to remain in deeper water, except when breeding; among seaweed and sea-grass; they eat worms and crustaceans.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Order Scorpaeniformes

Family Scorpaenidae

Redfish (Norway Haddock, Ocean Perch) Sebastes marinus

Habitat and habits: Schools; mainly pelagic, over offshore shelf and slope 100-1,000m, but young more inshore.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Triglidae

Grey Gurnard Eutrigla gurnardus

Habitat and habits: Inshore, typically on sand, to 140m, but may approach surface at night; enters estuaries in summer.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Red Gurnard Aspitrigla cuculus

Habitat and habits: Shelf, sandy to rocky grounds, 20-250m.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Tub Gurnard (Sapphire Gurnard) Trigla lucerna

Habitat and habits: Shelf, chiefly 50-150m; on gravel or mud.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

Streaked Gurnard Trigloporus lastoviza

Habitat and habits: Typically inshore; on rocky ground or adjacent sand; 30-150m.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

Family Cottidae

Short-spined Seascorpion (Father Lasher) Myoxocephalus scorpius

Habitat and habits: Inshore to 50 m, and intertidal on cooler shores

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Long-spined Seascorpion Taurulus bubalis

Habitat and habits: Inshore to 30m; also intertidal rock pools on sheltered weedy shores.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Norway Bullhead Microenophrys lilljeborgi

Habitat and habits: found from immediately below the low water mark to 90m; prefers course ground.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

Moustached Sculpin (Murray’s Sea-scorpion) Triglops murrayi

Habitat and habits: Offshore and slope.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Agonidae

Pogge (Hook-nose) Agonus cataphractus

Habitat and habits: Inshore and in estuaries, but to edge of shelf in winter; amongst seaweed, on sand and muddy bottoms; eats bottom living creatures, such as, worms, crustaceans and brittle stars.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Family Cyclopteridae

Lumpsucker (Sea Hen) Cyclopterus lumpus

Habitat and habits: Inshore to uppermost slope (400m), typically living in top 50-60m, under floating seaweed, feeding on comb jellyfish, worms, crustaceans, fish eggs and young; breeds January-May, moving inshore to spawn, when males establish territories.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Common Seasnail Liparis liparis

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living, inshore to 300m, and estuaries in winter.

Status in Bute waters: May occur along with Montagu’s Seasnail, but none specifically identified.

 

Montagu’s Seasnail Liparis montagui

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living; usually lives in inter-tidal zone to 30m deep, where it hides under stones or algae; mainly feeds on small invertebrates, such as small crabs, shrimps and amphipods.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommonly caught, but may be more abundant than this would indicate.

 

Order Perciformes

Family Moronidae

Bass Dicentrarchus labrax

Habitat and habits: Active sport fish especially in estuaries, and also important commercially, trawled at sea; shelf, in schools, entering estuaries from spring to autumn; feeds on fish, crustaceans and squid.

Status in Bute waters: Rare, occurring during the period May to October.

 

Stone Bass (Atlantic Wreckfish) Polyprion americanum

Habitat and habits: Bottom-living; a deep-water fish of shelf and over slope, 40-600m.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

Family Carangidae

Atlantic Horse-Mackerel (Scad) Trachurus trachurus

Habitat and habits: Fished commercially, especially by trawling for industrial use; shelf, mid-water; congregates in large schools, deeper in winter; migrates to Scottish coastal waters in summer; feeds on crustaceans, squid and other fish.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common during summer.

 

Family Bramidae

Ray’s Bream (Ray’s Sea-bream) Brama brama

Habitat and habits: Pelagic in small schools; migrates north to Scottish waters during summer, usually uncommon, but occasionally exceptional numbers occur, such as in 1952; feeds on small fish and squid.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

Family Centrolophidae

Blackfish (Rudderfish) Centrolophus niger

Habitat and habits: Usually occurs in deep off-shore waters, but occasionally over shelf; feeds on fish and pelagic invertebrates.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

Family Sparidae

Gilthead Sparus auratus

Habitat and habits: Inshore, over sand and sea-grass and into brackish waters; feeds on fish, invertebrates and vegetable matter.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon/rare.

 

Red Seabream Pagellus bogaraveo

Habitat and habits: Shelf and upper slope, to 700m; feeds on invertebrates and fish.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Black Seabream Spondyliosoma cantharus

Habitat and habits: Inshore shelf, often on schools, feeding on seaweed and invertebrates.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Bogue Boops boops

Habitat and habits: Shelf, usually inshore, midwater, at night towards surface.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Mullidae

Striped Red Mullet Mullus surmuletus

Habitat and habits: Inshore, typically on coarse grounds, feeding on benthic invertebrates and small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Cepolidae

Red Bandfish Cepola rubescens

Habitat and habits: Shelf, lives in vertical burrows in mud at depths from 7 to 200m, but may swim above bottom; eats small crustaceans and arrow worms. The Clyde estuary is one of the few regular Scottish sites.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Family Mugilidae

Thick-lipped Grey Mullet Chelon labrosus

Habitat and habits: Inshore.

Status in Bute waters: Very common.

 

Thin-lipped Grey Mullet Liza ramada

Habitat and habits: Often more estuarine habitat than other mullets.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Family Labridae

Cuckoo Wrasse Labrus mixtus

Habitat and habits: Shelf, over rocks and rough ground, feeding mostly on crustaceans.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Ballan Wrasse Labrus bergylta

Habitat and habits: Inshore over rocks and weed, feeding on molluscs and other invertebrates.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Rock Cook (Small-mouthed Wrasse) Centrolabrus exoletus

Habitat and habits: Inshore weed beds and over rocks. This species and Goldsinny both now fished for use as ‘cleaners’ of fish-lice from farmed salmon.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

Goldsinny Ctenolabrus rupestris

Habitat and habits: Inshore rocky areas.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Family Trachinidae

Lesser Weaver Echiichthys vipera (Trachinus vipera)

Habitat and habits: Inshore sand, feeding chiefly on crustaceans and fish.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Greater Weaver Trachinus draco

Habitat and habits: More offshore in northern waters (30-100m).

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Family Blenniidae

Shanny Lipophrys pholis (Blennius pholis)

Habitat and habits: Inshore on rock faces and intertidal region, in higher pools and crevices, especially on exposed shores, feeding on barnacles and other invertebrates, and on green seaweed.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Family Stichaeidae

Yarrell’s Blenny Chirolophis ascanii

Habitat and habits: Shelf (to at least 175m), on coarse ground and among algae, rarely on lower intertidal zone; feeds on molluscs, worms and sessile organisms.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Family Lumpenidae

Snake Blenny Lumpenus lumpretaeformis

Habitat and habits: Shelf, on soft substrates and perhaps burrows; eats small crustaceans, molluscs and starfish.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Family Pholidae

Gunnel (Butterfish) Pholis gunnellus

Habitat and habits: Inshore (to 40m) and intertidal, under stones and flapping vigorously when disturbed; eats small invertebrates (mainly worms and crustaceans) and fish eggs.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Family Anarhichadidae

Wolf-fish (Catfish) Anarhichas lupus

Habitat and habits: Offshore; a bottom feeder feeding on starfish, crabs and molluscs, usually at depth of 100-300m.

Status on Bute: The only known Bute records are one caught by Andrew McDonald at Dunagoil in the 1970s and another he witnessed being caught at the same locality.

 

Family Ammodytidae

Lesser Sandeel Ammodytes tobianus

Habitat and habits: Inshore.

Status in Bute waters: Common during the period April to October.

 

Greater Sandeel Hyperoplus lanceolatus

Habitat and habits: Inshore to about 60m, feeding on plankton and small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Common during the period April to October.

 

Family Gobiidae

Black Goby Gobius niger

Habitat and habits: Inshore on sand or mud, and seagrass, into estuaries and lagoons; feeds on benthic invertebrates and small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Rock Goby Gobius paganellus

Habitat and habits: Inshore rocks and rock pools on sheltered, weedy shores.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Sand Goby Pomatoschistus minutus

Habitat and habits: Inshore sand and muddy sand, eating worms and small crustaceans.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Common Goby Pomatoschistus microps

Habitat and habits: Inshore estuaries, and brackish pools and lagoons; feeds on small crustaceans and worms.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Painted Goby Pomatoschistus pictus

Habitat and habits: Inshore, on gravel and sand, sometimes in shore pools.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Two-spotted Goby Gobiusculus flavescens

Habitat and habits: Inshore, in schools above weed, and in weedy shore pools, feeding mostly on plankton.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Jeffreys’s Goby Buenia jeffreysii

Habitat and habits: Shelf to upper slope, on coarse to muddy ground.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Fries’s Goby Lesueurigobius friesii

Habitat and habits: Shelf, burrowing in muddy ground and often with Dublin Prawn (Scampi) Nephrops norvegicus.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Family Callionymidae

Common Dragonet Callionymus lyra

Habitat and habits: Shelf, typically inshore, young occasionally in sandy shore pools; eats benthic invertebrates.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Spotted Dragonet Callionymus maculatus

Habitat and habits: More offshore, shelf to upper slope.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Order Xenopterygii

Family Gobiesocidae

Cornish Sucker (Shore Clingfish) Lepadogaster lepadogaster

Habitat and habits: Intertidal and sublittoral, under stones or sheltered, weed covered shores.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Connemara Sucker (Connemara Clingfish) Lepadogaster candollei

Habitat and habits: Sublittoral, in weedbeds, and sometimes intertidal at extreme low waters of spring tides.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Small-headed Sucker (Small-headed Clingfish) Apletodon dentatus [Apletodon microcephalus]

Habitat and habits: Inshore weedbeds and under stones at low water of spring tides.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Two-spotted Sucker (Two-spotted Clingfish) Diplecogaster bimaculatus

Habitat and habits: Shelf, offshore, on coarser and shelly grounds.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Scombridae

Blue-finned Tuna (Long-finned Tunny) Thunnus thynnus [Thunnus alalunga]

Habitat and habits: Oceanic, epipelagic, undertaking long migrations, transoceanic and adults into northern waters in summer, feeding on fish, squid and crustaceans, and attacking fish schools in packs. Heavily commercially fished, which has greatly depleted stocks.

Status in Bute waters: Rare. One was washed up at Ettrick Bay on 9 December 1984 and another was found dead at Garroch Head on 27 September 1987 (Gibson & Hopkins 1990).

 

Bonito (Pelamid) Sarda sarda

Habitat and habits: Typically inshore.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Mackerel Scomber scombrus

Habitat and habits: Shelf, in schools near surface in warmer months, but forming more compact aggregations near sea-bed in winter, from inshore areas to deeper water near edge of shelf; eats neritic (relating to a water-column habitat) crustaceans and small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Very common. A few throughout the year, but shoals occur from April to December, with larger shoals during the period May to September.

 

Order Pleuronectiformes

Family Citharidae

Turbot Psetta maxima (Scophthalmus maximus)

Habitat and habits: Inshore shelf to 80m, on sand and gravel, young in shallows; feeds on fish (especially sprats and sandeels).

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Brill Scophthalmus rhombus

Habitat and habits: Shelf, feeding on fish and favouring waters less than 50m deep, moving offshore in winter.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Megrim Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis

Habitat and habits: Offshore shelf, on muddy grounds, feeding chiefly on shrimps and fish. Usually at depths in excess of 100m.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Norwegian Topknot Phrynorhombus norvegicus

Habitat and habits: Shelf, on rough ground, favouring rocky habitat.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Eckstrom’s Topknot Phrynorhombus regius

Habitat and habits: Shelf. This is a rare fish in British waters, occurring mainly over rocky bottoms.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Topknot (Common Topknot) Zeugopterus punctatus

Habitat and habits: Inshore rocky grounds, able to cling to flat surfaces by suction from underside; eats small fish and crustaceans.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Scaldfish Arnoglossus laterna

Habitat and habits: Shelf, typically inshore, on sand or muddy grounds. Probably moves offshore during the coldest months.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Pleuronectidae

Plaice Pleuronectes platessa

Habitat and habits: Shelf, typically inshore, to over 100m, but more commonly from 10-50m, on sandy or muddy grounds; young in shallows, larger fish in progressively deeper water; from March-October, feeds chiefly on crustaceans, worms and bivalves, the last especially for larger plaice which may also eat fish, before migrating southward to spawning grounds. The most important flatfish in British fisheries. Hybridises with Flounder and Dab.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Dab Limanda limanda

Habitat and habits: Widely distributed, it moves inshore in summer, usually on sand; feeds on benthic invertebrates, especially crustaceans and small fish.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Flounder Platichthys flesus

Habitat and habits: Inshore shelf and estuaries, ascending rivers, and feeding on aquatic stages of insects. A game flatfish for anglers, usually right side up, but more frequently reversed than other species. Adults move offshore to deeper waters in winter.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Lemon Sole Microstomus kitt

Habitat and habits: Shelf, typically more offshore gravel, feeding chiefly on polychaete worms. An important commercial fish.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Witch Glyptocephalus cynoglossus

Habitat and habits: Offshore shelf and uppermost slope, on muddy grounds, eating benthic invertebrates.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Long Rough Dab Hippoglossoides platessoides

Habitat and habits: Shelf, more offshore in warmer areas, favouring sand, mud and finer deposits, eating chiefly brittle stars, urchins and crustaceans.

Status in Bute waters: Fairly common.

 

Halibut Hippoglossus hippoglossus

Habitat and habits: Shelf and slope, to 1,500 m, in cold water feeding on fish, especially redfish. This is an Atlantic deep water species and is therefore infrequent in the Clyde.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Soleidae

Common Sole (Dover Sole) Solea solea

Habitat and habits: Shelf, on sand and mud, nocturnal, eating benthic invertebrates. Commoner in southern North Sea than as far north as the Clyde estuary.

Status in Bute waters: Uncommon.

 

Solenette Buglossidium luteum

Habitat and habits: Shelf and uppermost slope, typically 10-40m, feeding on small invertebrates. Warmer sea temperatures since the 1980s have increased its northerly range, so it may in future be recorded more frequently within Bute waters.

Status in Bute waters: Common.

 

Thick-backed Sole Microchirus variegatus

Habitat and habits: Offshore shelf and upper slope. The Clyde estuary lies at the northern end of its range.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

Family Molidae

Ocean Sunfish Mola mola

Habitat and habits: These exceptionally large fish (up to 1.5 tonnes), are sluggish swimmers and drifters; epipelagic (beyond the continental shelf and below uppermost 200 m) and down to 350 m; feed on invertebrates and possibly seaweed. They are oceanic fish that are mainly observed in British waters during summer.

Status in Bute waters: Rare.

 

 

Appendix

There are eight species of fishes which were included in Jack Gibson’s (2004) list, for which there are no known confirmed records within Bute waters:-

Thresher Shark Alopias vulpinus

Greenland Shark Somniosus microcephalus

Electric Ray Torpedo nobiliana

Sandy Ray Raja circularis

Shagreen Ray Raja fullonica

Anchovy Engraulis encrasicholus

Northern Rockling Ciliata septentrionalis

Long-snouted Sea-horse Hippocampus ramulosus

 

 

References

Campbell, A.C. & Nicholls, J. 1976. The Hamlyn Guide to the Seashore and Shallow Seas of Britain and Europe. Hamlyn, London.

Everard, M. 2013. Britain’s Freshwater Fishes. WildGuides Ltd., Old Basing, Hampshire.

Gibson, J.A. 1967. Fishes. In: A List of Clyde Vertebrates. First edition. Paisley: Renfrewshire Natural History Society.

Gibson, J.A. 1980. Fishes. In: A List of Clyde Vertebrates. Second edition. Glasgow: Clyde Area Branch, Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Gibson, J.A. 2004. The Marine Fishes of the Island of Bute. Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society 26: 93-98.

Gibson, J.A. & Hopkins, I. 1990. The occurrence of the Long-finned Tunny on the Island of Bute. The Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society 23: 61-63.

Henderson, P.A. 2014. Identification Guide to the Inshore Fish of the British Isles. Pisces Conservation Ltd., Pennington, Hampshire.

Miller, P.J. & Loates, M.J. 1997. Collins Pocket Guide: Fish of Britain and Europe. Harper Collins, London and Edinburgh.

Naylor, P. 2003. Great British Marine Animals. Sound Diving Publications.

Nelson, J.S. 1994. Fishes of the World. 3rd edition. John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Wheeler, A.C. 1969. The Fishes of the British Isles and North-West Europe. Macmillan, London.

 

12.12.15 (RWF)