Libby at sea tagging a Blonde ray
Inspired by the coastline of her native Northumberland, Libby Ross undertook an undergraduate degree in Ecology at UEA in Norwich. Dual interests in biogeography and marine ecology led her to completing a year abroad at the University of Auckland, New Zealand where she studied fisheries and aquaculture and spent time working at the Leigh Marine Lab – the world’s oldest Marine Protected Area. A PhD in the links between Upper Ocean and deep ocean biogeography at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton followed. During this time Libby became an MMO appointee on the newly formed Devon and Severn IFCA committee. On completion of her PhD Libby joined Devon and Severn IFCA as Senior Environment Officer and has been happily knee deep in estuary mud ever since. Libby is also the chair of the Association of Severn Estuary Relevant Authorities and sits on the Institute of Fisheries Management Estuarine and Marine Committee.
My connection with seafood
Growing up on the Northumberland coast I watched the decline of the local inshore fishing fleet. I saw first-hand the evolution of bustling small harbours supporting thriving villages to empty moorings and struggling communities and it made a lasting impression on me. Whilst studying ecology at university I spent a year abroad in New Zealand, specialising in marine fisheries ecology and aquaculture and learning about the country’s’ forward thinking approach to marine management. After completing a PhD in deep-sea ecology I returned to my first interest – inshore fisheries management. Living in the South West of England now I have some of the best quality seafood in the world on my doorstep and I am enjoying sampling a wide range of locally caught sustainable fish such as gurnard and spotted ray.
Why sustainability is important to me
I am both an avid believer in the need to maintain a healthy marine environment and the importance to coastal communities of having a thriving fishing industry. Working with the inshore fleet has really brought home the message that well-managed sustainable fisheries have benefits for everyone – the environment, the fishing industry and the wider public. Whilst achieving the right balance between social, economic and environmental benefits can be a difficult balance to achieve, through my work as an environment officer for Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (Devon and Severn IFCA) it is exciting to see the increasing number of fisher-led sustainability initiatives. Time and time again these are proven to be the most long-lived. Devon and Severn IFCA is currently working closely with the North Devon Fishermen’s Association (NDFA); this group of fishermen has been implementing its own safeguards to ensure the sustainability of rays in the Bristol Channel for many years now. Through voluntary protected areas, minimum landings sizes and working alongside scientists, the NDFA has pioneered fisher-led ray conservation. Whilst some species of ray and other shark family members are, quite rightly, flagship species for marine conservation, others can be fished sustainably and it is important that we help consumers to understand this quite complex message.