It is easy to assume that the ecology of the fauna and habitats of the coastal waters of England are well understood. However, there are large research gaps, especially relating to the precise distribution of habitats and the inshore ecology of many fish species and existing data is often not at an appropriate scale for implementing local management.
Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities are joint committees of the local authorities that fall within an IFC district. They are tasked with the sustainable management of inshore sea fisheries resources in their local area. They are made up of representatives from the constituent local authorities (who provide funding for the IFCA) along with people from across the different sectors that use or are knowledgeable about the inshore marine area, such as commercial and recreational fishermen, environmental groups and marine researchers, who offer their time voluntarily. IFCAs help put local authorities, local communities, local businesses and individual citizens in the driving seat, allowing them to play a bigger part in the protection and enhancement of their inshore marine environment.
IFCAs are increasingly forming partnerships with universities and research institutions in order to start to address some of these research gaps. By involving statutory regulators in the design of research from the outset, there is often a much greater chance of science directly feeding into policy.
Libby West (née Ross) is a Senior Environment Officer at Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority. Libby has been with the IFCA for 5 years, following completion of her PhD in deep-sea ecology at NOCS in 2012, supervised by David Billett and Henry Ruhl, following an undergraduate degree at UEA, Norwich and the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Within Devon and Severn IFCA Libby leads on finfish research, the Severn Estuary and recreational sea angling and is actively involved in research into the ecology of European sea bass, wrasse and skates and rays. She is a member of the Institute of Fisheries Management, and sits on the Estuarine and Marine Committee and is a founding member of the Severn Ecological Research Forum.