University awarded £1.6 million to support sustainable fishing of critical species
The University of Plymouth has been awarded almost £1.6 million to fund two projects assessing how commercially important fish species can be managed more sustainably.
The funding, from the government’s £100m UK Seafood Fund, will focus on a number of species vulnerable to overfishing along the English Channel.
They include pollack, sharks and skates, species that support local fishing communities but about which there is currently limited data.

Studying pollack abundance and habitats in Devon and Cornwall

The pollack industry is economically and socially important to communities along the Devon and Cornwall coast, but has experienced a 72% decline in commercial landings in recent years.
Supported by £859,400 of funding, scientists from the University will work in partnership with the Professional Boatmans Association, the University of York and the Angling Trust.
Charter skippers operating in the region will help them tag and track 50 pollack, while also collecting abundance and biomass estimates that will enable scientists to identify spatial and temporal trends.
They will also collect information on the species’ life history traits, and use acoustic tracking to identify migration routes and evidence essential fish habitats.
The work will inform the sustainable management of pollack fisheries and provide an improved understanding of essential habitats, but also increase engagement with commercial and recreational fishers that will build trust in science.

Assessing sharks, skates, rays, and black bream in Dorset and the Solent

In a separate project, researchers will work with fishing communities to assess the habitats and movement of species including sharks, skates, rays, and black bream.
To ensure the sustainability and survival of their industry, charter boat owners and regulators will help to fill the gaps in data needed for effective, informed management.
They will establish a network of acoustic receivers across the region, tagging and tracking 200 black bream and 100 sharks, skates and rays.
The research will focus on fishing hotspots and three Marine Conservation Zones, helping to establish migration patterns, site fidelity and the effect of angler disturbance during nesting.
The £738,175 project will be delivered in partnership with the Professional Boatman’s Association, Natural England, the Southern Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority, and the Angling Trust.
The two projects will complement a number of ongoing research programmes at the University.
Dr Emma Sheehan, Associate Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Plymouth, said:
“The UK’s coastal waters are rich and diverse environments home to a huge range of important species. However, many of them are vulnerable to overfishing and exploitation which poses real challenges from both a conservation and an economic perspective. These projects will build on our previous work alongside fishing communities and authorities and gather much needed data about critically important species such as pollack, black bream, sharks and rays. By studying where they live and why they live there, we can develop more effective ways of managing their habitats sustainably now and in the future.”
<p>Dr Emma Sheehan</p>

Dr Emma Sheehan

The projects are two of five to be awarded over £3.5 million in the third round of the Fisheries Industry Science Partnership (FISP) scheme. It is part of the UK Seafood Fund and aims to gather vital evidence to inform how the UK manages its fisheries and protects marine habitats.
Fisheries Minister, the Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP, said:
“A proper understanding of important marine species is vital if we are to manage our fisheries sustainably and safeguard the fishing and seafood sector for future generations. By drawing on the expertise of the fishing community and combining this with our world class researchers, we can discover new ways to manage our stocks and protect vulnerable fisheries.”