James A Mackie Memorial Trust

February 2017

The James A Mackie Memorial Trust was set up in January, 2014, and named after a Burghead ships engineer lost overboard from a herring drifter of Skye in December, 1922.

Its formation followed a period of excessive coastal erosion of the Moray Firth Coast immediately west of the mouth of the River Spey.   In the space of some 3 ½ years the gravel beach head moved inland approximately 85 metres.    It has been calculated that in the last 25 years or so some six million tonnes of gravel have been washed away from approximately 6 miles of coast line in that area.    A village of some 120 households is now under serious threat from the sea.


Observation of that part of the coastline led the directors to believe that there were and are a number of aspects of the coastal erosion that are not understood.   Coastal erosion occurs in other parts of the Moray Firth coastline with similar ferocity.      The eroded material was not showing up on other areas of the coastline.      Local observations suggested that the eroded material is being washed offshore.     It has been noticeable that there has been a total collapse in sea bird numbers in the areas of the worst coastal erosion.     Seals rarely visit such areas of coastline and Dolphins tend to stay further offshore.   Shore angling has collapsed over the years and all coincidental to the coastal erosion.


The aims of the Trust are to co-ordinate and stimulate research into the environmental, economic and social impact of coastal erosion within the Moray Firth.     Research projects should and would include: -

Understanding and mapping of tidal currents both offshore and close to shore within the Moray Firth;

Monitor seabed transportation of eroded materials.   Within that study to ascertain if seabed transportation of eroded material is sterilising and/or having a major negative impact on the seabed;

Study the marine food chain and environment close to the shore of the worst eroded beaches;

Study of Marine Scotland sample and reported fish catches over a 20 to 40 year period in the whole of and key areas of the Moray Firth.   Such research to look at numbers of species, density of each species and average weights/sizes recorded over the study period data;

Study of seabird numbers and species together with logging feeding areas for different species;

Monitor behaviour and feeding or non-feeding areas of marine animals in the Moray Firth together with any changes in their numbers and  pull ashore sites for seals;

Monitor the relationship between weather and tides on coastal erosion and seabed transportation of eroded materials;

Study the economic impact of coastal erosion on coastal communities and communities upstream on former well known salmon fishing rivers;

Ascertain if coastal erosion is actually having an impact on salmon and sea trout numbers in rivers flowing into the Moray Firth, especially on the southern shore;

Study the impact of low numbers of returning salmon and sea trout on the angling tourism industry in the head waters of former salmon fishing rivers together with the financial impact on both fishing estates and local communities where angling tourism was a major economic and social activity;

Monitor if coastal erosion has an adverse effect on inshore tidal currents, changing their flow and causing coastal erosion in other areas;

Ascertain if offshore reef construction would reduce coastal erosion while creating a marine nursery environment for fish and other marine life;

Ascertain if coastal erosion and the seabed transportation of eroded material is one of the causes of the apparent major decline in the commercial sea fishery and associated shore side industries;

A recent Trust commissioned study of fish and crustaceans to identified plasticisation of their digestive system caused by the failure to remove plastics from waste plants as well as other sources. Further research now needs to be commissioned to ascertain if this would lead to slower growth and possible mortality.   If such evidence is found what impact would such gut plasticisation have on marine animals and sea birds?    In the same research program it was noted that both salmonids and marine species had a high level of internal parasites.     Research now needs to be done to identify the different parasites and determine what impact they have on fish numbers as well as tracking to see if parasites are now moving to different areas as a result of the warming of the seas.


Since the inception of the Trust, the directors have built up a library of published papers on previous and current scientific papers, a collection of photographs monitoring coastal erosion in the Spey Bay area over the past 4 to 5 years together with photographs of the lower stretches of the River Spey to the point where it enters the Moray Firth.    Investment has been made in a remote weather station situated close to the high water mark of the Moray Coast near to the mouth of the River Spey.   That weather station has the capacity to record wind speeds and direction, air pressure and rainfall up to 6 times an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.       The Trust has also been granted copies of beach movement data as monitored by Moray Council.