Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

PhD studentship: Sustaining inshore fisheries in the context of changing governance arrangements

Great opportunity for fisheries related research in the South West:

Studentships will be awarded on the basis of merit and will commence in September 2015. For eligible students the award will cover UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend (in 2014/15 this was £13,863 for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students) for three and a half years.

Project description:

Globally, many fisheries have experienced decline due to historical overexploitation and anthropogenic impacts to marine ecosystems. In response to a decline in finfish stocks there has been a shift to lower trophic level species, including shellfish such as lobster and crab. In UK fisheries, where over three-quarters of the fleet comprise vessels of 10m and under, trends have shown a dramatic increase in the importance of shellfish in national fisheries landings. UK fisheries research has historically focused predominantly on finfish, and knowledge of the temporal patterns of fishing effort and stock distribution and their spatial distribution is limited for many shellfisheries1. Threats to the sustainability of these fisheries exist, yet management measures are currently limited and often rely on self-regulation within fishing communities. Furthermore, during the past decade there have been substantial shifts in governance arrangements for inshore marine environments. New Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) have greater responsibilities with respect to marine conservation, as well as powers for inshore fisheries management, creating challenges in balancing social and ecological objectives for sustainability 2. However, with limited capacity for enforcement and monitoring of inshore fisheries, fishers’ perceptions of the legitimacy of new governance arrangements may be central to achieving support for fishery management measures, voluntary compliance, and positive environmental outcomes. The aim of this project is to advance the knowledge base for management of these socially and economically important fisheries, and explore how governance arrangements can help support a balance of multiple objectives. This will be achieved by employing an interdisciplinary approach and mixed methodology to address the following objectives: (1) Characterise the spatial and temporal dynamics of fishing effort and shellfish landings in the southwest UK using a combination of primary and secondary data. (2) Investigate the impacts of recent shifts in governance arrangements on fishers’ attitudes towards natural resource management measures. (3) Consider the implications of the findings for future developments in fisheries management and conservation of inshore marine environments, and explore the challenges of current governance arrangements for addressing threats to fishery sustainability. The empirical data generated will contribute to an improved knowledge base for UK inshore shellfisheries management, in the context of global challenges to natural resource management and sustainable food production. The findings will have potential to influence future developments in management, policy and governance arrangements seeking to achieve both environmental benefits and stakeholder support.

Training opportunities:
This research will take place in a dynamic research group in the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI), which has an explicit remit to support interdisciplinary approaches to tackling complex environmental and societal issues. Through co-supervision by individuals affiliated with the departments of Geography (Dr Turner) and Biosciences (Dr Witt), the student will have access to interdisciplinary expertise in marine fisheries governance and marine ecology. The student will be able to take relevant MSc modules in social science and governance at the ESI, and will receive training in communication, knowledge exchange and developing impact. The student will benefit from established collaborations at the ESI with policy advisors (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)) and local stakeholders (National Lobster Hatchery, Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, South Devon Shell Fishermen's Association, Cornish fishing communities), which will inform the direction of the research and provide opportunities to ensure relevance to policy and to the local economy.
During the first month, the student will conduct a skills assessment in order to plan a tailored training programme. The student will also be encouraged to attend relevant NERC training courses, and will have opportunities to access expertise on analysis of fisheries statistical and spatial data through collaboration with advisors at Cefas. Access to computing clusters and statistical software, together with appropriate training, is available within the ESI. A wide range of training courses offer opportunities to gain transferable skills, including statistics, communication, engagement, grant writing and publishing scientific literature. The interdisciplinary nature of the training available will support the student in pursuing a wide range of career options in research, policy or natural resource management. The University of Exeter also provides mentoring and coaching to students independent of the supervisory team.

About the award

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The NERC GW4+ DTP involves the four research-intensive universities across the South West -BathBristolCardiff and Exeter – and six Research Organisation partners. For further details about the programme please see

For full details and how to apply click here: