The Marine Environmental Unit at Marine Services, Orkney Islands Council, was set up in 1974, based on the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed Oil Terminal planned for Flotta. Orkney Islands Council agreed that a monitoring programme should be established to assess the impact of the Terminal operations on the marine environment of Orkney, and to support the Harbours Department in its obligations to both the Port users and to the Orkney Islands Council as Port Authority and Local Authority.

The Environmental Unit's Aims are to provide:

  • Base line information on the marine environment in the event of changes in that environment due to the effect of the port or its users. Continuous monitoring of the marine and shoreline environment is undertaken to identify changes at an early stage; and
  • Sound, scientifically based advice to the Marine Services department on the state of and pressures on the Orkney marine environment. The environmental unit recognises that the aquatic environments in Orkney, both marine and freshwater, are a valued fundamental resource, and provides cost-effective advice and assistance to the Marine Services.

Non-native Species Monitoring

As part of Orkney Islands Council's Ballast Water Management Policy, adopted on 10 December 2013, a baseline survey for marine non-native species in Scapa Flow and Loch of Stenness was included. The 'Monitoring and Recording System for Marine Invasive Non-Native Species; Scapa Flow and Loch of Stenness' report outlined the survey methods to be used during the baseline survey and during the monitoring phase. The baseline survey was conducted in 2012/13 and the on-going annual monitoring was started in 2014.

Marine Intertidal Monitoring

The long term intertidal monitoring programme comprises of 13 sandy shore locations and 21 rocky shore sites.

Sandy shore surveys are carried out annually and include sites in Mainland Orkney, South Ronaldsay and on Hoy. Rocky shore sites are located throughout Orkney and surveys are conducted rotationally every two years.

Water Sample Collection

Since 2002, the Marine Services Environmental Unit has co-operated with Marine Scotland (Science) by collecting marine water samples from Scapa Pier and forwarding them to their laboratory in Aberdeen; this is to assist in the understanding of toxic phytoplankton and to provide samples for nutrient analysis as part of their Long Term Monitoring Programme.

Data from this sampling has been published in ICES Phytoplankton and Microbial Plankton Status Report 2009/2010 which can be accessed here:

Radiological monitoring

Since 1996 the Marine Environmental Unit has undertaken sampling for radiological monitoring on behalf of Orkney Islands Council. This has been conducted on a three-yearly basis and using the University of Southampton Geosciences Advisory Unit based at the Southampton Oceanography Centre, for the analysis and interpretation of the results.

Oil Spill Contingency Plan Environmental Database

Is an online database system for recording biological information, logistical information such as beach access options and recommended oil spill response options, based on the Ordnance Survey 1 kilometre grid squares for the entire coastline of Orkney.

Wind Data

Marine Services collects wind data from instruments located on the Barrel of Butter in Scapa Flow, the Harbour Authority Building at Scapa, and Kirkwall, Hatston, Stromness, Lyness and North Ronaldsay piers, along with the Sandy Hill radar building on South Ronaldsay.

Although the responsibility for physical maintenance of these has now passed to the maintenance team in Marine Services, the Marine Services Environmental Unit provides data and data analysis for Marine Services and other services within the Council. Live data feeds from the weather stations are provided over the internal network and on the Marine Services' website. The data is available for purchase by third parties.

Contract Work

Potable Water Testing
Testing of potable (drinking) water samples by the Marine Services Environmental Unit was started in 2011/12. Currently the Unit tests potable water from all Orkney Ferries vessels, Orkney Towage tugs, Marine Services pilot boats as well as from six piers on the Orkney Mainland.

Our Team

The Marine Environmental Unit is a small team of three, consisting of a Biologist and two Technicians.

Our Biologist at the Marine Environmental Unit, Dr Jenni Kakkonen, BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, is a member of:

International Centre of Explorations of the Seas (ICES) Working Groups on Ballast and Other Ship Vectors

ICES Working Group on Introductions and Transfers of Marine Organisms

Marine Invasive Non-Native Species, Scottish Working Group


Marine Environmental Unit Publications:


Kakkonen, J.E. (2019) Sandy beach monitoring to detect impacts against a background of long-term trends and variability in intertidal macroinvertebrate communities: an Orkney case-study (Doctoral dissertation, Heriot-Watt University).

Kakkonen, J.E., Worsfold, T.M., Ashelby, C.W., Taylor, A. and Beaton, K. (2019) The value of regular monitoring and diverse sampling techniques to assess aquatic non-native species: a case study from Orkney. Management of Biological Invasions 10(1): 46-79,


Blumenröder, J., Sechet, P., Kakkonen, J.E. and Hartl, M.G., 2017, Microplastic contamination of intertidal sediments of Scapa Flow, Orkney: a first assessment. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 124(1), 112-120,

Want, A., Crawford, R., Kakkonen, J., Kiddie, G., Miller, S., Harris, R.E. and Porter, J.S., 2017, Biodiversity characterisation and hydrodynamic consequences of marine fouling communities on marine renewable energy infrastructure in the Orkney Islands Archipelago, Scotland, UK. Biofouling 33(7): 567-579,

1990 - 1980

Atkins, S.M. & Jones, A.M., 1990, Studies on natural and anthropogenic influences on macrofauna of sandy shores at four sites in Orkney over a 15-year period. In Estuaries and Coasts: Spatial and Temporal Comparisons, Elliott M, Ducroroy JP (eds). ECSA Symposium, pp. 139-143, Olsen & Olsen, Fredensborg, Denmark.

Atkins, S.M., Simpson, J.A. & Jones, A.M., 1989, The importance of the seasonal component in sandy shore monitoring: Examples from low diversity habitats in Orkney. In J. McManus & M. Elliott (eds): Developments in Estuarine and Coastal Study Techniques, pp. 21-27, Olsen & Olsen, Fredensborg, Denmark.

Atkins, S.M., Jones, A.M. & Simpson, J.A., 1985, The fauna of sandy beaches in Orkney: a review. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 87B, 27-45.

Jones, A.M., 1980, Monitoring studies associated with an oil reception terminal. Rapports et Proces Verbaux des Reunions, 179, 194-200.

Publications with Marine Environmental Unit collaboration:


Bedford, J., Ostle, C., Johns, D.G., Atkinson, A., Best, M., Bresnan, E., Machairopoulou, M., Graves, C.A., Devlin, M., Milligan, A. and Pitois, S. (2020) Lifeform indicators reveal large‐scale shifts in plankton across the North‐West European shelf. Global Change Biology, 26(6), pp.3482-3497,


Bresnan, E., Fryer, R.J., Fraser, S., Smith, N., Stobo, L., Brown, N. and Turrell, E. (2017) The relationship between Pseudo-nitzschia (Peragallo) and domoic acid in Scottish shellfish. Harmful Algae, 63:193-202,


Angus, S. (2016) Monitoring and surveillance of a highly variable habitat: The challenge posed by Scottish saline lagoons. Regional Studies in Marine Science, 8: 20-26,

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