A marine scientist who specialises in providing evidence to inform national and international policy-making has addressed a Parliamentary briefing on issues and opportunities in the post-Brexit landscape.
Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, Lecturer in Marine Conservation, and a NERC-funded Knowledge Exchange Fellow in the University’s Marine Institute, was invited to address a gathering of MPs, Lords, advisors, academics and industry representatives at the launch of a new POSTnote on UK fisheries management.
POSTnotes are four page, peer-reviewed summaries of public policy issues, based on reviews of research literature and interviews with stakeholders from across academia, industry, government and the third sector. Constructed by the UK Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, they are produced proactively, so that parliamentarians have advance knowledge of key issues before they reach the top of the political agenda.
Dr McQuatters-Gollop was one of the leading contributors to the new POSTnote, which highlights the science behind fisheries management, current management practices, and future challenges and opportunities.
“When the UK withdraws from the EU, it will have sole responsibility for fisheries policy and management of its territorial waters – and the 8,500 species that are resident within them,”
said Dr McQuatters-Gollop.
“But fish are only one element of the wider marine environment, and any decisions made as to how we operate our fishing policy cannot be taken in isolation. Sustainable fishing must be based on a whole ecosystem approach.”
The event, sponsored by the British Ecological Society, took the format of a roundtable discussion between parliamentarians and leading academics and stakeholders, with speakers invited to present their views in turn.
Dr McQuatters-Gollop, who is the lead scientist for pelagic habitats policy for the UK and North Atlantic within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, spends considerable time working with European counterparts to determine the environmental status of such habitats.
Dr McQuatters-Gollop told the meeting that fishing has had a major impact upon the marine environment, both in terms of the reduction of species such as haddock, cod and whiting, which changes marine food webs, and also the damage caused to the seafloor through fishing practices such as trawling. She said that taking a whole ecosystem approach to marine management, as laid out within the government’s 25-year environmental plan, provides a sustainable way forward, integrating fisheries with marine biodiversity, habitats and food webs.
Climate change and ocean acidification were also factors that needed to be considered, added Dr McQuatters-Gollop, and said that monitoring and research was required at all levels of the marine ecosystem.
“Brexit presents an opportunity to make a truly sustainable fisheries policy where management and policy decisions are based on scientific evidence. It is a chance to implement an ecosystem approach to UK marine management, where fisheries are managed as part of the wider marine ecosystem, to help ensure sustainability of fish stocks through protecting the unique biodiversity found in our seas.”