#1 19th July 2022 (Andy Poyer & PoL Coordination Team)
Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources Inaugural Annual Conference, Bristol, UK, 9-11th May 2022
777 Days Later
With the small matter of 777 days separating the announcement of the first Covid-19 lockdown in the UK and the start of the inaugral Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources (SMMR) annual conference, it was with much excitement and enthusiasm, and perhaps no small degree of trepidation - at least amongst those presenting - that 100 or so attendees (plus 60 virtual ones) gathered in the early afternoon of Monday 9th May 2022 on the panoramic 5th floor of the Holland House Mercure Hotel.
This was the first opportunity for members of the SMMR programme including researchers from the funded SMMR projects along with other marine scientists, policy makers, and wider members of the UK marine stakeholder community, to meet in person since the six projects commenced on 1st October 2021. With 22 talks spread over four sessions – 1. SMMR-funded project updates, 2. Understanding the values of the marine environment, 3. Building tools to support management, 4. Designing interventions to support policy – a veritable smorgasbord of marine management topics was covered, with the six funded projects encompassing such diverse subjects as Seagrass restoration (ReSOW), green coastal engineering (Co-Opt), marine spatial planning (MSPACE), coastal community resilience (ROCC), the integration of diverse values into marine management (link), and last but not least, fish (Pyramids of Life).
Following a warm welcome by David Paterson and Mark James, the SMMR Champions - or ‘Facilitators’ as favoured by David - in the first of two keynote talks Sir Ian Boyd delivered a clarion call for UK Marine Scientists to work together ever more closely to build enhanced capacity within the community. Citing the high levels of awareness of the Climate Crisis in the public consciousness, Sir Ian laid out a vision for a more dynamic and impactful future for Marine Science research in the UK and beyond, achieved through the integration of expertise across disciplines, creating a truly transdisciplinary approach to research. Sir Ian argued that under strong and effective leadership, this approach could deliver the impactful research required to influence policy and affect positive change of marine management practices in the UK.
Delivering the 2nd keynote talk, Sarah Adcock, Deputy Director in Ocean Sustainability at Defra, also focused on the importance of Science in delivering high quality evidence to inform policy decisions. Sarah highlighted the integration of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Marine Science as a real strength of the SMMR programme, producing research that takes into account impacts on everyday lives. Sarah also stressed how the programme embraces another novel form of integration, that between policy and research. Defra was embedded in the programme from the start, and as a result, it already feels like a ‘shared community’, the importance of which can not be understated if the programme is to achieve its lofty ambitions.
With the introductions and key notes delivered, it was time for the researchers to take centre stage. Whilst numerous presenters commented on the strangeness of standing in front of a large audience for the first time in many months, the succession of superb talks belied any lingering nerves or ring rustiness. The Monday afternoon session was dedicated to the six funded SMMR projects with the six principal investigators all providing excellent overviews of their respective research.
The short 10 minute talk format ensured that a great breadth of topics could be covered on day two across three themed sessions. Personal highlights from the values of the marine environment session included talks on the representations of the coast in social media (Eva McGrath, Plymouth University), the relationship between a marginalised coastal community and the nearby ocean (Lindy Brown, Plymouth University), and the contrasting values and meanings associated with the Goodwin Sands (Kathryn Collins, Newcastle University). The tools to support management session saw a focus on Marine Natural Capital accounting, with Jo Bayes (Natural England) providing an interesting overview of how such an approach has been applied to the North Sea sandeel fishery, with the outcomes influencing policy decisions. The final session on interventions to support policy included talks on the influence of legislation on adaptive governance for inshore marine conservation (George Hoppit, Bristol University), the potential risks posed to High Seas marine ecosystems under the currently negotiated terms of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Agreement (David Ong, Nottingham Trent University), and a suitably enthusiastic introduction to the Motion for the Ocean, a means for local authorities to declare their commitment to a clean, healthy and productive ocean (Pamela Buchanan, University of Exeter and Nicola Bridge, Ocean Conservation Trust).
Day two proceedings were rounded off by Louisa Evans (PI for the ROCC project, University of Exeter), with an introduction to the SMMR Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT SuMMeR)..
Pyramids of Life at the SMMR Conference
The Pyramids of Life project was superbly represented at the conference on many fronts. Prof Jon Pitchford, Dr Murray Thompson, Dr Gustav Delius, and Dr Silvia Ferrini all delivered excellent talks, Dr Sarah Collings (University of West of England) - who deserves a special thanks - facilitated a thought provoking workshop on behavioural change, and Amy Shurety and Zelin Chan – PhD student’s from the University of Essex – presented posters on the environment impacts of overfishing and climate change on northern marine food webs (Shurety), and the ecological implications of decommissioning strategies of man-made structures in the North Sea (Chen). Richard Law, Kennedy Osuka, Gaetano Grilli, and Andy Poyer were also in attendance.
The four talks