The University of Portsmouth has been granted a substantial sum of over £500,000 to play a crucial role in enhancing the sustainability and productivity of the UK’s fishing industry, both on a national and regional level.
This funding was recently announced as part of the Fisheries Industry Science Partnerships (FISP) initiative, which forms a crucial component of the larger £100 million UK Seafood Fund. The primary objective of the Seafood Fund is to provide long-term support and ensure the sustainable future of the UK’s fisheries and seafood sector.
In collaboration with Angling Spirit, Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, and Navico Ltd, the project aims to advance knowledge in fisheries and aquaculture through comprehensive data collection and research, ultimately fostering sustainable fisheries management.
The funded project, amounting to £569,361, will focus on gathering vital biology, ecology, habitat, and genetic data from five specific fish species, namely sea bass, black sea bream, skates and rays, tope, and smooth hound. To facilitate this data collection, citizen scientists will be engaged in the process, and the annual Sea Angling Classic competition located in the Solent will serve as the primary data collection platform. The objective is to create a standardized, cost-effective, and self-sustaining citizen science data collection method, which can be readily implemented at various sea angling events throughout the UK.
Recognizing the popularity of recreational sea fishing globally, the researchers believe that recreational anglers represent an engaged and highly motivated group, ideally suited to participate as citizen scientists. By harnessing the data they provide, the project envisions developing an evidence-based action plan in collaboration with the fishing sector and other stakeholders. This plan aims to pave the way for a thriving, sustainable fishing industry and promote a healthy marine environment for future generations.
Dr. Ian Hendy, Senior Lecturer in Marine Restoration and Conservation at the University of Portsmouth and the project’s lead researcher, emphasized this endeavor’s significance. He stated, “For many UK target species, ecological and biological data to make evidence-based decisions are limited, leading to unsustainable catches. Collecting these data requires significant investment in human resources and funding. The citizen scientist approach has become increasingly popular as it involves the public in the process.”
The project will involve gathering geolocated images of each captured fish, DNA swabs for targeted sampling, fish tracking, and sonar scans of the fished areas. The researchers anticipate that these comprehensive data sets will contribute significantly to improved management plans and conservation efforts for the five species/groups with limited available data. Furthermore, it is expected to enhance the management of essential fish habitat areas to foster species recovery.
With the University of Portsmouth’s pivotal role in this initiative, the future holds promising prospects for building a sustainable and responsible fishing industry, ensuring the well-being of marine ecosystems for years to come.