The 16ft all-aluminium craft, with its distinctive landing-craft shaped hull, is named ‘Scathros’ –  the Cornish word for seine boat – and has already proved its worth during fish survey work on the Fal and Camel estuaries. Its shallow draft also makes it an ideal craft for anti-poaching patrols in shallow waters.

The Environment Agency has a duty, under the European Water Framework Directive, to carry out ecological appraisals of estuaries. This work includes fish surveys and monitoring of saltmarsh plants and other estuary organisms.

Fish are collected using a fine mesh seine net deployed from the boat’s bow using a specially designed netting tray. ‘The net picks up everything – it’s fascinating with potentially hundreds of different species to see,’ said Alan Cole for the Environment Agency.

This type of survey work is new to the ecological appraisal team and while they are familiar with seine netting, they have had to swot up on their fish identification skills at the National Marine Aquarium at Plymouth and local fish markets.

The work has already produced some surprises with fish such as Gilt Head Bream, a species normally found in warmer waters, netted during recent sampling trips.

Scathros has received a big thumbs up from her crew, ‘The boat is ideal for the shallow shifting sand bars of our estuaries. It only needs a welly boot depth of water to operate and, if necessary, we can even get out and push to reach more inaccessible sites.’ said Alan Cole.

The Agency’s fleet operations staff made a number of modifications to Scathros to prepare the craft for its new role. These included fitting a console and installing light brackets and mountings to hold special lighting equipment used during anti-poaching patrols. The boat is equipped with a small, low emission, fuel-efficient engine.