The Research Cluster for Fish Ecology and Conservation at Bournemouth University (FishE@BU) is being established to address a significant current global challenge: how can we manage and respond to rapid environmental change to prevent the collapse of aquatic ecosystems that is being driven by the dramatic declines in fish biodiversity? These biodiversity declines are global, from sharks in the open ocean to migratory fishes that use both marine and freshwater habitats – and even include endemic fishes in the monsoonal rivers of Southern Asia. These declines threaten ecosystem functioning, food security and income streams globally. They are driven by the interactions of anthropogenic pressures that include exploitation, invasive species, climate change and habitat fragmentation. Decoupling how these pressures interact to drive these declines is complex, which then inhibits the generation of the information required to formulate sustainable solutions.
Correspondingly, FishE@BU is being established to help resolve this global crisis through the application of state-of-the-art spatial, behavioural, trophic and molecular ecology approaches to create significant new knowledge to increase contemporary understandings of, and help manage, the underlying causes of the on-going global loss of fish biodiversity. Previously endorsed as an Institute of Aquatic Sciences by the University Board in February 2020, it was delayed in its launch by the Covid-19 Pandemic, with subsequent revision of the Institute to a strategic research cluster focused on fish ecology and conservation. The work of FishE@BU is intended to strongly inform policies and practices at regional, national and global scales in order to secure the sustainable utilisation of fish, fishery and aquatic resources that no longer imperil their biodiversity.
FishE@BU will be hosted by the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences (LES) of the Faculty of Science and Technology. It will be directed by Professor Robert Britton, in collaboration with Dr Demetra Andreou (LES) and Dr Adrian Pinder (BUG Enterprise Unit). Their roles will include driving the RKE activities of the Cluster so that bidding for substantial funding opportunities can be increased, which in turn will generate increased income and permit the undertaking of cutting-edge research and the production of high-quality RKE outputs and associated impact generation. This will increase the international profile of BU, directly contribute to the BU2025 Strategic Vision, provide new ways for BU staff and students to engage with Fusion, and help improve BU’s ranking in various frameworks and league tables. Opportunities to develop new income education schemes will be investigated, such as through developing a new Level 7 programme on aquatic ecology and conservation, and developing a CPD programme with the potential for including accredited options.
FishE@BU will use the existing RKE activities within LES and BUG as its platform for launching its activities, where RKE on the impact of global environmental changes on fish biodiversity has been established during the last decade, where considerable work has been completed on critically endangered species that are of imminent risk of extinction (e.g. European eel, hump-backed mahseer). This investment in new technology, including state-of-the-art biotelemetry equipment, and in new opportunities for postgraduate research students, will not only ensure that FishE@BU is equipped with the tools needed to deliver its vision, but will provide it with the technologies needed to make substantial progress in halting this biodiversity decline.