With a background in Marine biology and a general distaste for anything cute and cuddly I have naturally gravitated towards fish as a career focus. Having said that, as I have mellowed with age the cute and fuzzies have become more appealing, allowing me to appreciate the true gorgeousness of the eel, amongst others.
Threats to the world’s fish populations and ecosystems they rely on are significant, persistent and accelerating. I am interested in reducing these threats by working from a fishers-eye-view and most keenly pursue these insights in small-scale and subsistence fisheries, where I believe the greatest challenges lie. Towards this end, I am now interested in coastal, community-based conservation efforts: novel and innovating ideas that marry conservation with improved livelihoods and wellbeing for people reliant on the oceans.
Coastal regions in the developing world are under ever growing pressure. Expanding human populations along African coastlines are supplied not only by growing local communities, but also significant coastal migration as inland resources become increasingly depleted. In many places fishing is replacing traditional nomadic or agricultural activities as predominant sources of income. New entrants to fisheries often lack experience and capital to operate and purchase technical fishing gear. In many places this is leading to dangerous fishing activities, overexploitation and the use of opportunistic fishing gears. The fight against malaria in many parts of Africa by the World Health Organisation and numerous development NGOs has meant the distribution of millions of insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets (MNs). Since this drive to help eradicate malaria has been underway an increasing number of reports of alternative uses of these nets have been observed including as fishing nets.
Concern over the ecological impacts of using fine-mesh, unselective fishing gear, often over coral reef or fragile ecosystems, means blanket bans on the activity have been a common response e.g. in Mozambique. However, recent studies have indicated that those using MNs may often be the most vulnerable within their communities; using MNs for subsistence with catches often too poor to sell, and lacking the ability to invest in alternative livelihood strategies. My research will focus on elucidating the true ecological effects of this kind of fishing on coastal fisheries, as well as identification of drivers and contributions to local livelihoods and wellbeing with a localised study. This information will inform a scenario workshop with relevant stakeholders in order to begin to develop appropriate policies and interventions at a larger scale.
My research utilises the Our Sea Our Life initiative led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) towards community management of coastal reefs in Cabo Delgado, Northern Mozambique where MN fishing is one of a number of issues requiring management. I will aim to incorporate MN fishing within current plans for overall fisheries management, creating a model of robust interventions for improving local resilience to future climate and social change.
Supervision and funding:
This PhD is supervised by Prof. E.J. Milner-Gulland (Oxford), Dr. Marcus Rowcliffe (Institute of Zoology), Dr. Nick Hill (ZSL) and Dr. Sergio Rosendo (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) and is funded by the Imperial College London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership.
2014 – Present: PhD Student: Grantham Institute, Imperial College London; Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science, University of Oxford; Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London
2011 – 2014: Marine and Freshwater Programme Co-ordinator, ZSL
2010 – 2011: MSc Conservation Science, Imperial College London
2009 – 2010: Research Intern, Tidal Thames Conservation Project, ZSL
2009: Trainee Estate Ranger and Monitoring Assistant, Igomango, Sharpham estate, Devon, UK
2008 – 2009: Research Assistant, Archipelagos IMERAS, Ikaria, Greece
2005 – 2008: BSc Marine Biology, University of Plymouth
Reef Conservation UK Committee member
European Coral Reef Symposium 2017 organisation committee
Soapbox Science Oxford 2016 organisation committee
Conferences, awards and publications:
Imperial College Joseph Hooker Prize winner, 2011
Reef Conservation UK 2012, London – ‘Madagascar’s shark fisheries: dependence, depletion and dissociation’
International Marine Conservation Congress 2014, Glasgow – ‘On the EDGE of Existence: prioritising coral species for conservation’
International Congress for Conservation Biology 2015, Montpellier – ‘Disentangling the net: The socio-ecological dynamics of mosquito net fishing’
Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association Conference 2015, Port Edward, South Africa – ‘Mosquito nets in East African fisheries – what do we know and where are we going?’
Wellcome Trust Centre for Global Health Research Annual Meeting 2016, London, UK - ‘Disentangling the net: The socio-ecological dynamics of mosquito net fishing’
International Marine Conservation Congress 2016, St. Johns, Canada - ‘The use of mosquito nets in fisheries: A global perspective’
Bush, E., Short, R., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Lennox, K., Samoilys, M., Hill. N. (In Press). Mosquito Net use in an East African fishery. Conservation Letters.