International fisheries science working group opens its doors to Plymouth students

A gathering of scientists from across Europe has met at the University of Plymouth to discuss current issues in fisheries science – and welcomed enthusiastic student participation as a promising sign for the ‘next generation of research’. 

The annual meeting of the ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) Working Group on Small Pelagic Fish, their Ecosystems and Climate Impact (WGSPEC), took place over three days at the Marine Station, with presentations, networking sessions and round-table discussions about how environmental change and human activities are influencing stocks of small pelagic fishes.

Organised by the University and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, it attracted students, early career scientists and established researchers from institutions both here in the city – including the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science and the Marine Biological Association – and across Europe and the Mediterranean region. 

Dr Ben Ciotti, Lecturer in Marine Biology, and co-organiser of the event, said that the Annual Meeting provided an opportunity to bring together the fisheries science community in Plymouth to facilitate a better understanding of fluctuations in the fisheries resources that form such an important component of the local economy. A key focus was to engage the next generation of marine scientists in this important work. He said: 

“It was a great pleasure to welcome a wide range of participants from across Plymouth and overseas. The active participation and energetic interaction across expertise levels, from foundation-year undergraduates to world-leaders in fisheries science, made this a particularly valuable and memorable event.” 

The meeting began with an introduction to ICES from Priscilla Licandro, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and co-chair of the ICES WGSPEC, highlighting opportunities for training, funding and involvement in the work of ICES available to students and early career researchers.

ICES is the oldest intergovernmental organisation in the world concerned with marine and fisheries science, and has more than 5,000 scientists from 690 marine institutes affiliated with it. One of its major roles is to provide the scientific advice that underpins fisheries management.

Dr Priscilla Licandro said: 

“We were impressed by the turnout, engagement and enthusiasm of the students. Their interest in the opportunities offered by the ICES and in the activity carried out by our working group was rewarding. The lively discussions that took place during the talks were challenging and invigorating for both sides. The future of marine science is promising and ICES will certainly benefit from the next generation of scientists.”

Among the topics discussed over the three days included natural and human-induced fluctuations in fish stocks in the Plymouth area and globally, the implications of current harvesting strategies and approaches to identify and protect the habitats necessary to sustain fisheries resources.

Donna Dimarchopoulou, a PhD student in Fisheries Biology and Management, at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, was one of students who benefitted from the meeting. She said: 

“Coming from the Mediterranean, I was impressed by the extent of marine research being conducted in Plymouth and across the north east Atlantic in general. Judging from the students’ enthusiastic participation as well as the scientists’ supportive involvement, it seems that there are considerable opportunities for a student or young researcher here.”