Role of marine ornamental fisheries in achieving net positive outcomes for nature and people


Role of marine ornamental fisheries in achieving net positive outcomes for nature and people


Project Description


Dr David Roberts (University of Kent, School of Anthropology and Conservation) – Contact me

Dr Mahesh Poudyal, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

Dr Joanna Murray, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science

Dr Matthew Bond, Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association.

Dr Donna Snellgrove, WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute

Project background

Ornamental fisheries has a global value of $15-20 billion pa and support some of the poorest communities around the world. If managed well, ornamental fisheries can provide livelihoods that have low environmental impact and promote the conservation of threatened habitats through disincentivising environmentally damaging income streams (S Zehev & Vera, 2015). The trade in marine ornamental fish is coming under ever greater scrutiny, with workshops planned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and growing interest in sustainable use of our oceans. With ornamental fisheries increasingly featuring on the CITES agenda, there is a need to better understand the ways sustainable ornamental fisheries could contribute to ecosystem conservation while enabling socio-economic development.


Research methodology 

Student will work with fisher communities for extended periods in source countries (~6 months of total fieldwork time in each country, ~12 months overall), to understand environmental and socio-economic effects of marine ornamental fisheries. In the Philippines, the student will be hosted by colleagues at the School of Law at the University of Cebu. In Indonesia, the student will be hosted by Terengi, the Indonesian Coral Reef Foundation. These in country partners, along with the supervisory team will facilitate the student to address the following research objectives:

1. Determine extent to which communities rely on ornamental aquatics trade for their livelihoods.

2. Understand the availability of alternative livelihoods, the perception of alternatives, and their environmental impacts.

3. Using fisher knowledge, determine how reefs have changed over time, attitudes of fishers towards their own impacts and that of others, attitudes toward strategies that have been or could be used to mitigate negative impacts.

4. Using information from 1-3, supplemented with questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, determine impacts on communities of increased restrictions or bans, and availability of other alternative livelihoods that might mitigate these impacts.

The student will utilise social science techniques, such as participant observation, questionnaire surveys, focus groups and key informant interviews, to understand how people in source countries can impact or benefit reef environments. In the absence of long-term monitoring data on ecosystems utilised by ornamental fishers, use of established social science techniques will allow us to elicit local knowledge about the state and trend of these systems and understand the important role local communities play in the conservation of some of the most biodiverse and impacted habitats on the planet.



The candidate will benefit from the diverse supervisory team and three CASE partners; Roberts (wildlife trade), Poudyal (sustainable development), CEFAS (governmental research centre, trade), OATA (Industry standard setting body), MARS (multi-national, reef restoration). These case partners will provide supervisory support and additional funding to support in country field work which is integral to answering research questions above. During fieldwork, the student will be locally-supervised by a designated mentor from the hosting partner who will meet the student regularly, in addition to monthly online meetings with the Kent supervisory team.

They will have opportunities for independent travel, working with fishery communities for extended periods. Further, they will gain skills in methods related to questionnaire development (e.g. sensitive questioning technique, household livelihood activity surveys), undertaking semi-structured interviews, and socio-economic analysis.

Person specification 

We seek an enthusiastic individual with a degree in conservation, development studies, marine biology, or a relevant field. Prior experience with questionnaires and semi-structured interviews is desirable. The individual must be prepared to spend a significant amount of time in the field.


  • Murray, J. M., Bersuder, P., Davis, S., & Losada, S. (2020). Detecting illegal cyanide fishing: Establishing the evidence base for a reliable, post-collection test. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 150, 110770.
  • Pinnegar, J. K., & Murray, J. M. (2019). Understanding the United Kingdom marine aquarium trade–a mystery shopper study of species on sale. Journal of Fish Biology, 94(6), 917-924.
  • Pheasey, H., Matechou, E., Griffiths, R. A., & Roberts, D. L. (2021). Trade of legal and illegal marine wildlife products in markets: integrating shopping list and survival analysis approaches. Animal Conservation, 24(4), 700-708.
  • S Zehev, B., & Vera, A. (2015). Ornamental Fishery in Rio Negro (Amazon region), Brazil: Combining Social, Economic and Fishery Analyses. Fisheries and Aquaculture Journal, 06(04), 4–7.
  • Robinson, J. E., Griffiths, R. A., Fraser, I. M., Raharimalala, J., Roberts, D. L., & St. John, F. A. (2018). Supplying the wildlife trade as a livelihood strategy in a biodiversity hotspot. Ecology and Society, 23(1).

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2023. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 19th May 2023.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£18,622 p.a. for 2023/24) and research funding. Please note that all international awards have been made for our programme for 2023 so we will not be accepting applications from international candidates,
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

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