Producing European policies for the conservation and enhancement of freshwater fisheries
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Hull
Unit of AssessmentGeography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Environmental Sciences: Environmental Science and Management
Biological Sciences: Ecology
Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences: Fisheries Sciences
Summary of the impact
Researchers at the Hull International Fisheries Institute (HIFI) in the
School of Biological, Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, have shaped
policies that govern the regulation, conservation and enhancement of
freshwater fisheries for national and trans-national governments and their
agencies and institutions.
The reach of this research is international as it underpins fisheries
policies and guidelines across Europe. Its significance is considerable
because these policies regulate the sustainable use of freshwater
fisheries; it protects them from alien and genetically-modified fishes;
and they prohibit genetically-modified fish in Europe. Our research also
shapes European legislation on controlling fish-eating birds. As a result
this research has produced significant and broad impact.
Until the mid 1980s research on inland fisheries mainly focused on the
ecology of individual species and populations and largely failed to
explore the sustainability of, and wider societal issues surrounding,
inland fisheries resources. To address this oversight the University of
Hull International Fisheries Institute (HIFI, established in 1989)
coordinated a series of biennial conferences through the 1990s to broaden
the scope of freshwater fisheries research. Over time the group's research
has focused on explaining the drivers of ecosystem functioning relating to
fish and fisheries, and on interrogating the impact of anthropogenic
activities on the provision of ecosystem services (Cowx et al. 2010). In
parallel, HIFI undertook world-leading, fundamental research into the
conservation and enhancement of freshwater fisheries (Cooke and Cowx 2004;
Beard et al. 2011), and the Institute has produced over 140 peer-reviewed
publications and 10 edited books on these themes. HIFI staff are Cowx
(Director of HIFI and Professor of Applied Fisheries Science, from 1989),
Harvey (Post Doctoral Researcher then Lecturer in Fisheries Science, from
1995), Noble (Researcher, from 2003) and Nunn (Post Doctoral Researcher,
This case study outlines two examples of how HIFI's research impacted
upon European Union policies and regulations:
1) HIFI was commissioned to undertake a European Union funded research
project IMPASSE to support the drafting of regulation 708/2007 of the
European Parliament and Council that addresses the use, movement and
containment of alien and locally-absent species in aquaculture. The
research was undertaken by HIFI staff: Cowx (overall project coordination
and management framework), Nunn (risk assessment), Noble and Harvey
(species interactions) in collaboration with eleven other institutions
across Europe .
The research reviewed the scale and impact of alien species'
introductions across the globe; it also identified the particular,
significant impacts of species' introductions due to aquaculture
practices. The project developed risk assessment protocols for the
introduction of alien aquatic species in Europe, plus contingency plans to
mitigate impacts if invasive species escape to the wild (Gozlan et al.
2010). It also produced a management framework for regulating
introductions of alien species in aquaculture, and it determined that
`closed facilities' were the best guarantor against species escape (Cowx
et al. 2010).
This research was extended when the European Food Safety Authority
commissioned HIFI to produce guidance documents for the Environmental
Risks posed by genetically modified fish. The report was produced by Cowx
and Nunn (plus sub-authors from other HEIs). It included a risk assessment
of the environmental threat and criteria of GM fish, plus methodologies to
assess, and criteria to quantify, their environmental impact. It also
outlined how European policy should conceptualise and quantify the threats
from genetically modified fish  Note: due to sensitivity of topic, the
contract regulating this research allowed no academic articles until after
the final decision on regulating the use of GM animals is made by the
2) The European Parliament's Commission on Fisheries appointed Cowx to
produce a report for cormorant management in relation to inland fisheries
for the EU area (Aug 2012-Feb 2013). HIFI expertise in this field was
established by an earlier Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs (DEFRA) funded project that identified the huge scale and
intensity of cormorants' impact on UK fish stocks and recommended measures
to mitigate their effect (Cowx 2003; Feltham, Cowx et al. 1999).
The 2013 report to the European Parliament was commissioned as an
independent opinion on the earlier Kindermann Report  that recommended
a pan-European cormorant management plan based on large-scale culling. The
Cowx report outlined a long term strategy for addressing the competing
interests of these protected birds and the fisheries they degrade. It
argued that large scale culling is impractical and socially unacceptable.
Instead, it recommended strategic local management of cormorant
populations via deterrents (noise and nets), artificial habitat creation,
oiling of eggs and localized culling. The report also included an impact
statement on the effects of cormorants on European inland fisheries.
References to the research
Beard, D.T., Arlinghaus, R., Cooke, S.J., McIntyre, P.B., De Silva, S.,
Bartley, D. and Cowx, I.G. (2011) Ecosystem approach to inland fisheries:
research needs and implementation strategies, Biology Letters, 7,
Cooke S.J. & Cowx, I.G. (2004) Considering recreational fisheries
impacts in the global fish crises, Bioscience, 54, 857-859.
Cowx, I.G. (2003) Interactions between Birds and Fish: Implications
for Management. Oxford: Fishing News Books, Blackwell Science, 374
Cowx, I.G., Arlinghaus, R. and Cooke, S.J. (2010) Harmonising
recreational fisheries and conservation objectives for aquatic
biodiversity in inland waters, Journal of Fish Biology, 76,
Feltham, M.J., Cowx, I.G., Davies, J.M., Harvey, J.P., Wilson, B.R.,
Britton, J.R. and Holden, T. (1999) Case studies of the impact of
fish-eating birds on inland fisheries in England and Wales, Report
to MAFF/DoE, 144 pp.
Gozlan, R.E., Britton, J.R., Cowx, I.G. and Copp, G.H. (2010) Current
knowledge on non-native freshwater fish introductions, Journal of Fish
Biology, 76, 751-786.
Relevant grants and contracts:
Impact of fish eating birds on fish populations, Defra/MAFF/DoE,
£159,000; April 1995-December 1997 (Cowx, Harvey, Nunn and Noble).
Impact of alien species in aquaculture (IMPASSE), EU FP6, €548,000,
December 2006-December 2008 (Cowx, Harvey, Noble, Nunn).
Defining environmental risk assessment criteria for genetically modified
fishes to be placed on the EU market (GMfishes), European Food Safety
Agency, €148,000, June 2009-May 2010 (Cowx, Nunn).
Between Fisheries And Bird Conservation: The Cormorant Conflict, European
Parliament Directorate General For Internal Policies Policy Department B
Fisheries, August 2012- February 2013 (Cowx).
Details of the impact
HIFI's impact derives from its reputation for high-quality,
debate-setting research that can be applied to develop policy frameworks,
protocols, regulations and guidance documents for freshwater fisheries and
associated aquatic environments. This record has attracted commissions
from governments and national and trans-national organisations working
across national, European and global frameworks. This gives HIFI's impact
international reach and significance.
1) HIFI's research on alien invasive fishes and their presence (and
threatened spread) in the European Union has shaped European Regulations
on alien fish species. As noted earlier, HIFI's reputation for research on
fish stock enhancement strategies led to the award of the EU-funded
IMPASSE project to research the use, movement and risks of alien fish
species in Europe. This project was also intended to support the drafting
of European Council Regulation 708/2007 that regulated the use of alien
fish species in aquaculture.
IMPASSE developed risk assessment protocols for alien fish species and
produced guidance on how to regulate the movements of alien fish and
contingency measures in case of problems . It also recommended the use
of `closed facilities' to reduce risk of escape to acceptable levels. The
IMPASSE report provided evidence to help revise the regulation adopted by
the Council of the European Union on 2 June 2010; the revision passed into
European law on 4 November 2010 . The associated outcomes have economic
implications for the growth of aquaculture in Europe; they also protect
European ecosystems from invasive species.
HIFI's role in establishing legislation on alien species meant that when
the EU needed a policy on genetically modified fishes, HIFI were
approached and therefore also shaped European Policy on the use, the
presence, and the potential threats of these controversial animals.
HIFI were commissioned by the European Food Safety Authority (and its
subsidiary Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms) to produce guidance
documents for the Environmental Risk Assessment of genetically modified
fishes (as both food and feed), for any related environmental safety
issues, and for connected animal health and welfare matters. The report
was published on 27 May 2010  and it included:
- Criteria to assess the impact of genetically modified fishes in the EU
- Guidelines to formulate methodologies, which can assess the impact of
This HIFI report therefore outlined how European policy should
conceptualise and quantify the threats from genetically modified fish.
Notably, it recommended that genetically modified fishes should be avoided
throughout aquaculture developments across Europe.
This document was used directly as the basis of EU guidance documents
published in January 2012 by the `Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms'
of the European Food Safety Authority .
This `scientific opinion' was endorsed on 18 April 2012 by the same
European Food Safety Authority `Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms'.
After a consultation period with stakeholders from 21 June to 31 August
2012, a technical report was released  and these protocols were
accepted. The European Food Safety Authority published the final
`scientific opinion', which will steer these regulations into European law
Beneficiaries include the freshwater fisheries sector, that now has
regulations to protect their stocks and preserve consumer confidence.
European ecosystems now protected from GM-fishes and invasive species also
benefit. Related research by HIFI continues in other world regions —
including a 2011 study commissioned by the UN Food and Agriculture
Organisation to assess the impacts of alien aquatic species in Central
Asia and the Caucasus and to prepare guidelines for managing species
introductions and stocking .
2) HIFI's second example originates from its reputation established by
DEFRA-funded research to assess the impact of cormorants on UK fish stocks
(Feltham, Cowx et al. 1999). As previously noted, the European
Parliament's Committee on Fisheries subsequently commissioned Cowx to
produce a global impact statement on the effects of cormorants on
fisheries in Europe. This report was published in January 2013 .
Cowx was approached to offer an opinion on the European Parliament's 2008
decision (based on the Kindermann report) to adopt a cormorant management
strategy of extensive culling. The need for cormorant management is based
on the high level of stock depredation suffered by recreational and
commercial fisheries due to the expanding cormorant populations on
European inland waters (currently 250,000+ breeding pairs). The European
Parliament considered the economic impacts of these losses to be
unacceptable given the economic importance of recreational fisheries and
the aquaculture sector. But rather than large-scale culling, Cowx's 2013
HIFI report recommended more locally-variegated management strategies for
cormorant control including deterrents, egg-oiling and limited, localized
Cowx presented the report and recommendations to the European Parliament
on 21 March 2013 . The parliament adopted the report  to replace
the 2008 policy of large scale culling with Cowx's recommendations, that
address cormorant populations more appropriately. This approach will also
be more economically feasible and less problematic for public opinion.
HIFI research therefore impacted upon EU policy directly. These strategies
have also impacted upon national angling organizations, like the Angling
Trust in England and Wales, who also adopted this approach.
The beneficiaries are the fisheries managers, who can now defend their
stocks against cormorants. This is significant because the European
freshwater fisheries sector is worth over €6 billion per annum and employs
over 50,000 people. Fisheries help to sustain healthy environments and
ecosystems and are a sizeable recreational sector. Bird and nature
conservation movements have also welcomed this revised legislation. This
research thus delivered impact of substantial significance and
considerable international reach.
Further recognition of the excellence of this research impact is
highlighted by the following awards:
- 2008 American Fisheries Society Award to Cowx: `for outstanding
contribution to international inland fisheries management'. This is the
first time this award has been made outside of North America in the 110
year history of the American Fisheries Society.
- 2012 Honorary Doctor of Science to Cowx: `for contributions to inland
fisheries', Michigan State University, USA; Cowx also delivers the Rachael
Carson Memorial Lecture, Michigan State.
- 2012 International Fisheries Science Prize to Cowx: in honour of `life
time contribution to fisheries science and conservation' (awarded every
four years by the World Council of Fisheries Societies).
These awards demonstrate the quality and esteem of HIFI research and its
international recognition. Further, this international profile is
demonstrated by HIFI's current projects, which include assessing the
rehabilitation of fisheries of the Shatt-el-Arab, Iraq, for the UN Food
and Agriculture Organisation. Other applied research in the REF period
include a Code of Practice for Recreational Fisheries (for the European
Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission, UN FAO), and a fisheries management
plan for Kafue Flats, Zambia (for the European Union). These projects
likewise demonstrate the significance and reach of research that shapes
fisheries legislation, regulations and governance across an international
range of contexts.
Sources to corroborate the impact
 Cowx, I. G., Angelopoulos, N., Nunn, A. D., Britton, J. R. and Copp,
G. H. (2009) Guidelines for environmentally-sound practices for
introductions and translocations in aquaculture, Report to The
Council of the European Union, 64 pp.
 Council of the European Union Interinstitutional File: 2009/0153
 Cowx, I. G., Bolland, J. D., Nunn, A. D., Kerins, G., Stein, J.,
Blackburn, J., Hart, A., Henry, C., Britton, J. R. and Copp, G. H. (2010)
Defining environmental risk assessment criteria for
genetically-modified fishes to be placed on the EU market, Report to
the European Food Safety Authority, 264 pp. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/69e.pdf.
 EFSA Panels on GMO and AHAW (2012) Scientific Opinion on the Guidance
on the risk assessment of food and feed from genetically modified animals
and on animal health and welfare aspects, EFSA Journal 2012, 10,
1:2501, 43 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2501.
 EFSA Outcome of the public consultation on the draft Scientific
Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms
providing guidance on the environmental risk assessment of genetically
modified animals (2013) http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/428e.pdf
 EFSA GMO Panel (2013) Guidance on the environmental risk assessment
of genetically modified animals, EFSA Journal 2013, 11,5: 3200,
190 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2013.3200.
 Cowx, I.G., Nunn, A.D., Noble, R. and van Anrooy, R. (2012)
Non-native fish species in Central Asia and the Caucasus: environmentally
sound practices for introductions and translocations
 Cowx, I.G. (2013) Between Fisheries and Bird Conservation: the
Cormorant Conflict, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/document/activities/cont/201303/20130308ATT62622/20130308ATT62622EN.pdf
European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries.
 See: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/pech/publications.html
and `Presentation by Cowx', 21 March 2013.
 European Parliament Commission on Fisheries, Minutes of Meeting of
20 and 21 March 2013, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/pech/minutes.html#menuzone