Cornwall beach at sunset with surfers
The Marine Social Science Research Unit is an inter and transdisciplinary team part of the Marine Conservation Research Group at the University of Plymouth. 
Our expertise lies in applying social science research methodologies to directly inform marine environment governance at international, regional, national and local scales. We are changemakers and impact-focussed, co creating and delivering robust social science research in partnership with statutory nature conservation agencies, sea users, NGOs, government departments and international organisations to support the sustainable and fair use of marine ecosystems.
Please contact Dr Siân Rees or any of the team members if you have an enquiry. For more information please see


FISH INTEL researchers and stakeholders attend the project's final conference at the University of Plymouth Marine Station
Tagging programme enables scientists to begin identifying key habitats of English Channel’s critical fish species

The conclusion of the FISH INTEL project was marked with a conference at the University attended by many of its key stakeholders

7 March 2023




  • Ashley, M., Murillas, A., Muench, A., Marta-Pedroso, C., Rodwell, L., Rees, S., . . . Díaz, E. (2023). An evidence base of ecosystems services provided by diadromous fish in the European Atlantic Area. Ecosystem Services, 64, 101559. DOI Open Access
  • Morgera, E., Lennan, M., LaBianca, G., Niner, H.J., Harrould-Kolieb E., RecioPiva, E., Hills, J., Ntona, M., Lancaster, A., Strand, M.,  Snow, B., Erwin, K., Shannon, L, Rees, S.E. Hyder, K.,  Engelhard, G., Howell, K., Kulovesi, K. (2023). Ocean-based climate action and human rights implications under the international climate change regime, Int. J. Mar. Coast.
  • Morgera, E., McQuaid, K., La Bianca, G., Niner, H., Shannon, L., Strand, M., Rees, S., Howell, K., Snow, B., Lancaster, A. M. S., & Sauer, W. (2023). Addressing the Ocean-Climate Nexus in the BBNJ Agreement: Strategic Environmental Assessments, Human Rights and Equity in Ocean Science, The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law. DOI Open Access
  • La Bianca G., Rees S., Attrill M. J., Lombard A.T., McQuaid K. A., Niner H.J., van Rein H, Sink K.J., Howell K.L. (2023) A standardised ecosystem services framework for the deep sea. Frontiers in Marine Science 10.DOI Open Access 
  • Jacob C, DuPrey Diederichsen S, Fullbrook L, Lombard AT, Rees SE, Rivers N, Snow B, Strand M, Zuercher R & Niner HJ (2023) 'A two way process – Social capacity as a driver and outcome of equitable marine spatial planning' Marine Policy 149, , DOI Open access
  • Jaeckel, A., Harden-Davies, H., Amon, D. J., van der Grient, J., Hanich, Q., van Leeuwen, J., Niner, H.J., et al. (2023). Deep seabed mining lacks social legitimacy. npj Ocean Sustain. 2, 1. doi: 10.1038/s44183-023-00009-7 


  • Passmore, R. 2023 Aquaculture Enterprise Zones: Creating a repeatable, place-based model to accelerate sustainable aquaculture across English coastal communities. A report by Additive Earth with contributions and review from Rees; S.E. 
  • Rees, S.E., Ashley, M., Beaumont, K., Mullier, T. 2023. State of the Sound, Final Report - Using Natural Capital and Ecosystem Service Indicators to demonstrate the quality and quantity of natural assets in Plymouth Sound National Marine Park and the social and economic benefits provided to society. A report to Plymouth City Council by research staff at the University of Plymouth.
  • Hooper, G., Ashley, M., Mullier., Rees., S., 2022 Developing the Business Case and a Pilot Transaction for Seagrass Restoration: Plymouth Sound Seagrass Asset and Risk Register. A report by research staff at the University of Plymouth.



Blampied, S. R., Sheehan, E. V., Binney, F. C., Attrill, M. J. & Rees, S. E. (2022). Value of coastal habitats to commercial fisheries in Jersey, English Channel, and the role of marine protected areas. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 00, 1– 11.
Liconti, A., Pittman, S. J., Rees, S. E., & Mieszkowska, N. (2022). Identifying conservation priorities for gorgonian forests in Italian coastal waters with multiple methods including citizen science and social media content analysis. Diversity and Distributions, 00, 1– 15.
Williams, C., S. Rees, E. V. Sheehan, M. Ashley and W. Davies (2022). "Rewilding the Sea? A Rapid, Low Cost Model for Valuing the Ecosystem Service Benefits of Kelp Forest Recovery Based on Existing Valuations and Benefit Transfers." Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10.
Rees, S., Ashley, M., Cameron, A., Mullier, T., Ingle, C., Oates, J., Lannin, A., Hooper, T. and Attrill, M.J. (2022), A Marine Natural Capital Asset and Risk Register – Towards securing the benefits from marine systems and linked ecosystem services. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.14121
Niner, H.J., Barut, N.C., Baum, T., Diz, D., Laínez del Pozo, D., Laing, S., Lancaster, A.M.S.N., McQuaid, K.A., Mendo, T., Morgera, E., Maharaj, P.N., Okafor-Yarwood, I., Ortega-Cisneros, K., Warikandwa, T.V. & Rees, S. (2022). Issues of context, capacity and scale: Essential conditions and missing links for a sustainable blue economy. Environmental Science & Policy, 130, 25-35. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2022.01.001
Kleitou, P., Moutopoulos, D.K., Giovos, I., Kletou, D., Savva, I., Cai, L.L., Hall-Spencer, J.M., Charitou, A., Elia, M., Katselis, G., Rees, S. (2022). Interactions of non-indigenous species in commercial and recreational fisheries: A case study from the Mediterranean Sea. Fisheries Management and Ecology.
Giovos, I., Katsada, D., Spyridopoulou, R. N. A., Poursanidis, D., Doxa, A., Katsanevakis, S., Kleitou, P., ... & Hood, A. R. (2022). Strengthening Angel Shark Conservation in the Northeastern Mediterranean Sea. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, 10(2), 269. doi:10.3390/jmse10020269

Policy reports

Kleitou P., Hall-Spencer J.M., Rees S.E., Kletou, D. (2022) Guide to lionfish management in the Mediterranean. University of Plymouth, 62 pp.

Ashley, M., Rees, S., Mullier, T., 2021 Natural Capital Asset and Risk Register to Inform Marine Site Management Plans and Implementation of Plymouth National Marine Park. Part One: Introduction to Natural Capital Assets and Ecosystem Service Benefits within Plymouth Sound, Estuaries and Coastal Area. Report compiled by staff at the University of Plymouth.
Ashley, M., Rees, S., Mullier, T., 2021 Natural Capital Asset and Risk Register to Inform Marine Site Management Plans and Implementation of Plymouth National Marine Park. Part Two: Baseline Asset and Risk Register. A report by research staff at the University of Plymouth.
Ashley, M., Rees, S., Mullier, T., 2021 Natural Capital Asset and Risk Register to Inform Marine Site Management Plans and Implementation of Plymouth National Marine Park. Part Three: Implications of Tamar Estuary Management Plan Actions on the State of Natural Capital Assets and Flow of Ecosystem Services.



Kleitou, P., Hall-Spencer, J. M., Savva, I., Kletou, D., Hadjistylli, M., Azzurro, E., . . . Rees, S. E. (2021). The Case of Lionfish (Pterois miles) in the Mediterranean Sea Demonstrates Limitations in EU Legislation to Address Marine Biological Invasions. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, 9(3), 325. doi:10.3390/jmse9030325.

Rees, S. E., Ashley, M., Evans, L., Mangi, S., Sheehan, E. V., Mullier, T., . . . Attrill, M. J. (2021). An evaluation of the social and economic impact of a Marine Protected Area on commercial fisheries. Fisheries Research, 235, 105819. doi:10.1016/j.fishres.2020.105819.

Niner, H. J. and Randalls, S. (2021) ‘Good enough for governance? Audit and marine biodiversity offsetting in Australia’, Geoforum. Elsevier Ltd, 120 (January), pp. 38–45. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2021.01.009.

Niner, H. J. and Wassermann, S. N. (2021) ‘Better for Whom? Levelling the Injustices of International Conferences by Moving Online’, Frontiers in Marine Science, 8 (February). doi: 10.3389/fmars.2021.638025.

Kleitou, P., Crocetta, F., Giakoumi, S., Giovos, I., Hall-Spencer, J. M., Kalogirou, S., . . . Rees, S. (2021). Fishery reforms for the management of non-indigenous species. Journal of Environmental Management, 111690. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.111690.

Niner, H. J., Jones, P. J. S., Milligan, B. and Styan, C. (2021). Exploring the practical implementation of marine biodiversity offsetting in Australia. Journal of Environmental Management, 295. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.113062.

Policy reports

Stafford, R., Ashley, M., Clavey, L., Esteves, L.S., Hicks, N., Jones, A., Leonard, P., Luisetti, T., Martin, A., Parker, R., Rees, S., Schratzberger, M. & Unsworth, R. (2021) Marine and Coastal Systems. Nature based Solutions for Climate Change in the UK. British Ecological Society, London, UK.

Snow, B., Erinosh, B., Lajaunie, C., McGarr, D., Morgera, E., Niner, H., Hills, J., Howell, K., Sink, K., Merilainen, L., Lombard, M., Wahome, M., Mazzega, P., Wynberg, R., Febrica, S., Rees, S., Jeffrey, S., Pereira, T. & Sauer, W. (2021) How to enable transformative science during the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. A policy brief from the One Ocean Hub, UKRI.

Link to document



Rees, S. E., Sheehan, E. V., Stewart, B. D., Clark, R., Appleby, T., Attrill, M. J., . . . Solandt, J. -L. (2020). Emerging themes to support ambitious UK marine biodiversity conservation. Marine Policy, 103864. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2020.103864.

Peyton, J. M., Martinou, A. F., Adriaens, T., Chartosia, N., Karachle, P. K., Rabitsch, W., ...Hall-Spencer, J. M. ... Kleitou, P. ... & Roy, H. E. (2020). Horizon scanning to predict and prioritize invasive alien species with the potential to threaten human health and economies on Cyprus. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 8, 284.

Link to document

Niner, H. J. et al. (2020) ‘The pandemic push: can COVID‑19 reinvent conferences to models rooted in sustainability, equitability and inclusion?’, Socio-Ecological Practice Research. Springer Singapore, 2, pp. 253–256. doi: 10.1007/s42532-020-00059-y.

Policy reports

Hooper, T., Ashley, M., Mullier, T. and Rees, S. 2020. North Devon Marine Natural Capital Plan. Sustainability Assessment. February 2020. Report prepared for the North Devon Biosphere Reserve as part of the South West Partnership for the Environment and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP) and the Marine Pioneer programme.

Kleitou, P., Savva, I., Kletou, D., Antoniou, C., Chartosia, N., Christodoulides, Y., Christou, M., Hadjioannou, L., Hadjistylli, M., Hall-Spencer, J.M., Jimenez, C., Rees, S.E. 2020. Risk Assessment for the lionfish Pterois miles (Bennett, 1828) Prepared for the European Union in the framework of the EU LIFE project LIFE16 NAT/CY/000832.

Fisher, A., McGrath, E., Rees, S.E. 2020 - Perceptions of Green and Blue Space in Plymouth: baseline findings from the Plymouth City Survey 2020. A report for the Green Minds project by research staff at the University of Plymouth. pp24.

Ashley, M., Rees, S., Mullier, T., Reed, B., Cartwright, A., Holmes, L., Sheehan, E., 2020. Isles of Scilly Natural Capital Asset and Risk Register to Inform Management of Isles of Scilly Fisheries Resources. A report by research staff the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth.

Authored consultation responses

Selby, I., Rees, S.E., Lowther, J., Niner, H., Williams, M. 2020. Marine Institute Consultation Response to the South West Marine Plan. Pp8.

Rees, S.E. 2020 UN Decade of the Ocean consultation response.

Morgera, E., Rees, S.E., Febrica, S. 2020 Written Submission to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Biodiversity and Ecosystems. Pp14.



Johnson, D. E., Rees, S. E., Diz, D., Jones, P. J. S., Roberts, C., & Barrio Froján, C. (2019). Securing effective and equitable coverage of marine protected areas: The UK's progress towards achieving Convention on Biological Diversity commitments and lessons learned for the way forward. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 29(S2), 181-194. doi:10.1002/aqc.3065.

Parry-Wilson, H. M., Rees, S. E., Leather, H., Cole, R., Rugg, C., & Attrill, M. J. (2019). Assessing behavioural and social responses to an eco-mooring trial for Zostera marina conservation management in Torbay, Southwest England. Ocean and Coastal Management, 180, 104906. doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2019.104906.

Kleitou, P., Savva, I., Kletou, D., Hall-Spencer, J., Antoniou, C., Christodoulides, Y., . . . Rees, S. (2019). Invasive lionfish in the Mediterranean: Low public awareness yet high stakeholder concerns. Marine Policy. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2019.02.052.

Pittman, S., Rodwell, L., Shellock, R., Williams, M., Attrill, M., Bedford, J., . . . Rees, S. (2019). Marine parks for coastal cities: A concept for enhanced community well-being, prosperity and sustainable city living. Marine Policy. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2019.02.012.

Hooper, T., Börger, T., Langmead, O., Marcone, O., Rees, S. E., Rendon, O., . . . Austen, M. (2019). Applying the natural capital approach to decision making for the marine environment. Ecosystem Services, 38, 100947. doi:10.1016/j.ecoser.2019.100947.

Brennan, C., Ashley, M.C., Molloy, O. (2019) A Systems Dynamics Approach to Increasing Ocean Literacy. Frontiers in Marine Science. doi:10.3389/fmars.2019.00360

Ashley, M.C., Phal, S., Glegg, G., Fletcher, S. (2019). A Change of Mind: Applying Social and Behavioural Research Methods to the Assessment of the Effectiveness of Ocean Literacy Initiatives. Frontiers in Marine Science . doi:10.3389/fmars.2019.00288

Policy reports

Rees, S.E., Ashley, M., Cameron, A. 2019. North Devon Marine Pioneer Report 2: A Natural Capital Asset and Risk Register. A SWEEP/WWF-UK report.

Rees, S.E., Hooper, T., Heard, J., Lockett, J. 2019. Natural Capital Assessment Tools for the North Devon Marine Pioneer (Phase 1). SWEEP project 002 – End of Phase one report.

Ashley, M.C., Assessment of effectiveness of ocean literacy tools. A presentation at Ocean Dialogues conference, Brussels, March 2019.

Molloy, O., Ashley, M., et al. ResponSEAble Deliverable 5.10 A Practical Guide to the Development of Ocean Literacy Materials and Products. 2019.

Link to document



Elliott, L. R., White, M. P., Grellier, J., Rees, S. E., Waters, R. D., & Fleming, L. E. (2018). Recreational visits to marine and coastal environments in England: Where, what, who, why, and when?. Marine Policy. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2018.03.013.

Davis, K. J., Binner, A., Bell, A., Day, B., Poate, T., Rees, S., . . . Bateman, I. (2018). A generalisable integrated natural capital methodology for targeting investment in coastal defence. Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy, 8(4), 429-446. doi:10.1080/21606544.2018.1537197.

Rees, S. E. (2018). Mainstreaming marine biodiversity into the SDGs: The role of other effective area-based conservation measures (SDG 14.5). Marine Policy. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2017.08.019.

Rees, S. E., Pittman, S. J., Foster, N., Langmead, O., Griffiths, C., Fletcher, S., . . . Attrill, M. (2018). Bridging the divide: Social-ecological coherence in Marine Protected Area network design. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. doi:10.1002/aqc.2885.

Policy reports

Rees, S., Ashley, M., & Cameron, A. (2018). North Devon Marine Pioneer, links between the ecosystem and ecosystem services in the North Devon Marine Pioneer.

Link to document

Tillin, H.M., Langmead, O., Hodgson, B., Luff, A, Rees, S., Hooper, T., Frost, M. 2018. Feasibility study for a Marine Natural Capital Asset Index for Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage Research Report No. 1071.

La Bianca, Giulia., Hodgson, Ben., Erni-Cassola, Gabriel., Tillin, Heidi., Howell, Kerry., Rees S.E. 2018. A report for Ascension Islands-Natural Capital Assessment. South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI). 81pp.

Hooper, T., Langmead, O., Marcone, O., Rees, S., Rendon, O., Börger, T., Beaumont, N., Attrill, M. and Austen, M. 2018. Application of the natural capital approach to the marine environment to aid decision-making. Report prepared for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (project code ME5115).

Ashley, M., Rees, S.E., Cameron, A. 2018. North Devon Marine Pioneer Ecosystem Services Assessment Part 1: State of the art report of the links between ecosystem and ecosystem services in the North Devon Marine Pioneer. A report to WWF-UK by research staff the Marine Institute at University of Plymouth.

Authored consultation responses

Higgs, N., Thompson, R., Hutchinson, T., Hall-Spencer, J., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Embling, C., Rees, S., Sheehan, E. and Selby, I., (2018). Sustainable Seas Inquiry: Written Evidence from the University of Plymouth Marine Institute. University of Plymouth Marine Institute, Plymouth, UK, pp. 12.

Book chapters

Molloy, O., Ashley, M., Croosman, C., Glegg, G., Phal., S. (2018) A Framework for the Assessment of the Effectiveness of Ocean Literacy Initiatives in European Association of Geographers, Koutsopoulos, K.C., de Miguel Gonzalez, R.P, Schmeinck, D. Ocean Literacy: 21st Century Challenges. Key Challenges in Geography Series. Springer 2019 (in review).

Ashley, M., Austen, M., Rodwell, L., Mangi, S., Co-locating offshore wind farms and marine protected areas: a UK perspective, in Yates. C., and Bradshaw, C., (eds.) Offshore Energy and Marine Spatial Planning Taylor and Francis Ltd (2018).

Hooper, T., Austen, M., Ashley, M., Co-location of offshore wind farms and decapod fisheries in the UK in Yates. C., and Bradshaw, C., (eds.) Offshore Energy and Marine Spatial Planning Taylor and Francis Ltd (2018).



Rees, S. E., Foster, N. L., Langmead, O., Pittman, S., & Johnson, D. E. (2017). Defining the qualitative elements of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 with regard to the marine and coastal environment in order to strengthen global efforts for marine biodiversity conservation outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14. Marine Policy. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2017.05.016.

Foster, N. L., Rees, S., Langmead, O., Griffiths, C., Oates, J., & Attrill, M. (2017). Assessing the ecological coherence of a marine protected area network in the Celtic Seas. Ecosphere, 8(2). doi:10.1002/ecs2.1688.

Policy reports

Rees, S., Hall-Spencer, J., Savva, I., Antoniou, C., Kleitou, P., Christodoulides, Y., Chartosia, N., Hadjioannou, L., Jimenez, C., Petrou, A., Demetriou, A., Sfendourakis, S., Kletou, D. 2017. Stakeholder Consultation and Baseline Assessment of Social Awareness on Marine Invasive Species in the Mediterranean. Preparatory Action A.1. A Report for EU LIFE Nature and Biodiversity. Preventing a LIONfish invasion in the MEDiterranean through early response and targeted REmoval (RELIONMED-LIFE) - LIFE16 NAT/CY/000832.


Policy reports

Rees S., Clingham E, Rodwell L., Glegg G., and Collins M. 2016. Marine Ecosystem Services of St Helena. Part 2: Ecosystem Service Valuations, Future Development Thresholds and Management. A report for the Environment and Natural Resources Directorate, St Helena Government by Marine Institute Plymouth University. pp 70.

Rees S., Fletcher S., Clingham E., 2016. Marine Ecosystem Services Assessment of St Helena. A report for the Environment and Natural Resources Directorate, St Helena Government by the Centre for Marine and Coastal Policy Research, Plymouth University. pp 22.

Rees, S.E., Ashley, M., Evans, L., Mangi, S., Rodwell, L., Attrill, M., Langmead, O., Sheehan, E., Rees, A. 2016. An evaluation framework to determine the impact of the Lyme Bay Marine Protected Area and the activities of the Lyme Bay Consultative Committee on ecosystem services and human wellbeing. A report to the Blue Marine Foundation by research staff the Marine Institute at Plymouth University, Exeter University and Cefas. Pp139.

Rees S.E., Foster N.L., Langmead O., Pittman S., Johnson D.E. 2016. Defining the qualitative elements of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 with regard to the marine and coastal environment. A report to the Convention on Biological Diversity expert meeting complied by the Marine Institute at Plymouth University, UK. pp. 55.

Book chapters

Hooper, T., Langmead, O., Ashley, M., (2016) Ecosystem services in Marine Environmental Impact Assessment: tools to support marine planning at project and strategic scales. In Geneletti, D., (ed.) Handbook on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Impact Assessment. Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment Series Edward Elgar Publishing, Cambridge, 2016.


Meet the team



David Cox – MPhil Scallop Ranching
Periklis Kleitou – PhD Invasive species and lionfish in the Mediterranean
Sam Blampied – PhD The effectiveness and socio-economic value of MPAs in Jersey’s territorial waters
Eva McGrath – Research Fellow Green Minds
Guy Hooper – Research Assistant SWEEP/CRF/NEIRF
Jessica Cramp – Research Assistant SWEEP/NEIRF/Green Minds
Shion Reynell – Research Assistant SWEEP/CRF
Adam Fisher – Green Minds
Danielle Bridger – PhD Effects of Open Ocean Mussel Farming on Ecosystem Services