Reserve Effects Tested and Understood to validate Return (RETURN)
The Lyme Bay Experimental Potting project
Protected Area Network Across the Channel Ecosystem (PANACHE)
Offshore mussel farm ecology
Seabed Disturbance Project
Response of Predators to Protection and Enhancement (ROPE)
These projects have been supported by a number of funding bodies and charities
See how our research is influencing regional and national policies
- Informing the Benyon Review into Highly Protected Marine Areas: Members of the Marine Conservation Research Group were asked to give evidence directly to the review panel
- Featuring in the UK Government's 25-Year Environment Plan: The research model developed by the University in Lyme Bay received explicit and implicit backing from the Department for the Environment, Fishing and Rural Affairs
- Supporting a byelaw to protect inshore waters: Our research enabled the Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority to introduce a Nearshore Trawling Byelaw with the aim of protecting 117 square miles of coastal seabed
- Producing a report on pot fishing for Defra: The University led the Lyme Bay Experimental Potting Project, which assessed the ecological and socio-economic impacts of the ban on bottom towed fishing gear
- Highlighting the challenges facing UK fisheries: Dr Emma Sheehan was among the contributors to a review for the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology into UK Fisheries Management
A shining example of climate action
Read about our research in Lyme Bay
Marine Protected Area status can boost fish populations by almost 400%
Seabed recovers more quickly following extreme storms than from the impacts of bottom-towed fishing
Managing crab and lobster catches could offer long-term benefits to fishermen and the environment
Scientists release previously unseen footage showing environmental impacts of pot fishing
Cats of the sea – ‘laser chasers’ offer insights into territorial behaviour of wild fishes
Limits on pot fishing can result in win-win for fishermen and marine wildlife
See some of our research in action
Timeline – how our research and activities have evolved since 2008
With 200 sq km protected from bottom towed fishing gear, the University of Plymouth forms a consortium with the Marine Biological Association and Plymouth Marine Laboratory to undertake an interdisciplinary study about the recovery of the Lyme Bay reefs. It also begins its first monitoring towed video survey.
An annual baited video survey is commenced to complement the towed video survey, ensuring that shy and cryptic species resident in Lyme Bay are also counted. The Lyme Bay project also features for the first time on the BBC’s Countryfile.
A research paper outlining the methods being used in monitoring Lyme Bay is published in PLOS One, but there are still no detectable signs of seabed recovery.
Researchers start to see the first signs of noticeable recovery. Significantly more sponges and ross corals are observed, and reef-associated species are observed for the first time growing from sediment habitats, which raises alarms about feature-based management. There is an explosion of small black sea cucumbers and the first sightings of thornback rays and greater pipefish.
Tooni Mahto, from the BBC's Oceans series, joins researchers on one of their monitoring expeditions in Lyme Bay, and researchers and communities begin to work with the Blue Marine Foundation.
The first research paper detailing Lyme Bay reef recovery is published in PLOS One, at the same time as Dr Adam Rees begins his PhD working with the Blue Marine Foundation and local fishers to study the impacts of the potting industry. Important papers regarding site versus feature based management, and the sediment veneer reef associated species, are published in Marine Pollution Bulletin. Researchers also get their first sighting of a sea mouse.
The team receives significant funding to carry out an emergency survey following a tumultuous series of winter storms, and it reveals significant reductions in species diversity and abundance. Large numbers of sea fangles are also washed up on Chesil Beach.
There is a second appearance for the team on the BBC’s Countryfile, with Adam Rees working alongside presenter Tom Heap.
Researchers see huge numbers of juvenile pink sea fans returning to the seabed. They also record their first sightings of a monkfish and a ling.
The team is award funding for the RETURN project, which allows them to continue Lyme Bay long-term monitoring for more years. They also record sightings of common dolphins on their first day of annual surveys.
Harnessing the successes in Lyme Bay, funding is awarded by the Blue Marine Foundation which aims to identify the tools through which fishermen across the country can secure a sustainable income while endeavouring to meet national and international conservation goals.
A major report funded by Defra and the Blue Marine Foundation shows that restricting the amount of inshore potting for crab and lobster within marine protected areas (MPAs) can generate a “win-win” for both fishermen and the marine environment. Work also begins on the ROPE project, using acoustic tracking technology to explore the importance of offshore aquaculture and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to commercially important species.
The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns pose a number of challenges for researchers, but the team still successfully carries out its annual monitoring which ensured there was no gap into the continuous dataset. The work in Lyme Bay also featured as a case study in a publication in the Marine Policy journal, in which it was cited as “the only socio-economic evaluation of an MPA that links socio-economic outcomes with ecological recovery".
The team is awarded funding to lead the €4million FISH-INTEL project, which will use cutting edge technology to enhance the habitats of key fish species on both sides of the English Channel. It is also prolific year for research publications with a paper on pot fishing published in the high impact journal Scientific Reports. There is also a paper highlighting the seabed’s resilience in the face of extreme storms, which is published in August in Frontiers in Marine Science. And just two weeks later, there is an article in the Journal of Applied Ecology which shows Marine Protected Area status can boost fish populations by almost 400%.
Research publications based on our work in Lyme Bay
Davies P, Sheehan EV (2019) Laser chasing behaviour of wild fishes exploited as a tool to compare space use between size, sex and species. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 35: 1225-1233. doi: 10.1111/jai.13982
Rodríguez-Rodríguez D, Rees S, Mannaerts G, Sciberras M, Piried C, Black G, Aulert C, Sheehan EV, Carrierb S, Attrill MJ (2015) Status of the marine protected area network across the English channel (La Manche): Cross-country similarities and differences in MPA designation, management and monitoring. Marine Policy 51: 536–546. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2014.09.021
Stevens TF, Sheehan, Gall SC, Fowell SC, Attrill MJ (2014) Monitoring benthic biodiversity restoration in Lyme Bay marine protected area: Design, sampling and analysis. Marine Policy 45: 310-317. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2013.09.006
Dr Emma Sheehan
Associate Professor of Marine Ecology (Research)
Professor Martin Attrill
Professor of Marine Ecology
Dr Sian Rees
Associate Professor of Social-Ecological Systems (Research)
Project Support Officer
Dr Sarah Gall
Teaching and Research Associate in Marine Conservation
Dr Alun Morgan
Lecturer in Education
Miss Llucia Mascorda Cabre
Dr Adam Rees
Dr Lynda Rodwell
Associate Professor in Ecological Economics
Dr Thomas Stamp
Post Doctoral Research Associate
The University’s Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK.
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