Envision placement details
Student name: Mark Hamilton
Institution: Lancaster University
Placement Host: Seychelles Fishing Authority
I completed an Envision-funded placement at Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) from April to June 2022. My PhD research focuses on the effects of coral reef degradation on small-scale fisheries, and three of my PhD chapters involve reefs and fisheries in Seychelles. It was great to complete a placement in the country where datasets I had already been working on were collected and see it for myself. Multiple members of our research group in Lancaster Environment Centre have collaborated with SFA in the past, so it was exciting to finally travel there and get the chance to meet and work with the SFA research team.
During my placement, I was involved in some of the fisheries sampling and research work that SFA carry out, including tuna processing factory visits, fish dissections, some histology work and collecting data at a sport fishing tournament. The data from these projects are used to monitor the landings from various fishing fleets and inform fisheries management. I was impressed at the number of ongoing projects within the SFA research section and enjoyed assisting with many of them and working with a very skilled and resourceful team.
In addition to SFA projects, I also met with local fish trap fishers to complete questionnaires for one of my PhD chapters. I was interested in how climate-induced changes to coral reef habitats and fish had influenced catches within the trap fishery and how fishers may have adapted as a result. The SFA research team were extremely valuable during this work, as they were able to locate fishers who were willing to take part, drive me to wherever I needed to go to meet fishers and also translate during the questionnaires. In the end, we were able to meet with fishers all around the two main inhabited islands of Mahé and Praslin, and collected a variety of perceptions on how the trap fishery is changing in response to changing reef habitats. I was also able to go on a few fishing trips to see how trap fishing actually works and collect measurements of the fish we caught. The trips at sea were a lot of fun and great for putting all of the information I had received from fishers during questionnaires into context.
My Envision placement was great for networking with researchers working in the main study region of my PhD. I also gained an insight into the kind of work environment I may end up in at some point following my tropical fisheries-related PhD. I still keep in touch with the research staff at SFA and am currently collaborating on some side projects with them. Maintaining these connections will also be very helpful as I analyse my questionnaire data, as I can ask for guidance on various aspects of the local fisheries and how they may influence my results and conclusions. The resources provided by both Envision and SFA really made my placement successful and enjoyable, and I feel like I have gained a lot from the experience as a researcher.