Research at Cefas

Research to support Defra policy

We carry out and commission research relating to:

  • the environmental impact of natural and man-made activities on marine and freshwater areas
  • risks to human and animal health, such as contamination and disease
  • the impact of climate change on the marine environment
  • fisheries management and sustainable stock levels.

Fisheries Science Partnership (FSP)

We want to involve more fishermen in commissioning science projects that will benefit the industry through improved fisheries data or stock assessments and through innovative ideas on gear technology.

To achieve these objectives, the programme will:

  • deliver demonstration projects that will help the implementation of UK fisheries policy, especially innovative approaches to the landing obligation, including more selective / environmentally friendly fishing methods
  • provide information from commercial fishing catches on key stocks to supplement data sources traditionally used in ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) assessments
  • investigate concerns raised by fishermen on scientific assessments or on fish stocks not currently assessed
  • investigate innovative scientific methods and/or more selective/environmentally friendly fishing methods.

The programme will mainly support projects in UK waters, focusing predominantly on the English fisheries and involve fishing vessels able to take part in the projects.

Seeking project ideas for 2020 to 2021

We are inviting FSP project proposals for the next financial year, 2020 to 2021. Project ideas should be practical, able to deliver a real solution, come from fishermen and meet at least one of the FSP objectives above.

The FSP stakeholder panel will be particularly interested to see proposals that will help the implementation of UK fisheries policy, especially innovative approaches to landing obligation. Examples include, but are not restricted to:

  • mixed-fishery and regional approaches
  • selectivity improvements (including new gear)
  • discard-survivability studies
  • spatial adaptations.

Project ideas need to be practical, able to deliver a real solution and be completed during 2020 to 2021. Turning a proposal idea into a scientifically deliverable project is not always easy, so proposers may wish to contact our FSP Contracts Office who can refer applicants to a Cefas scientist for advice related to a particular idea.

The Fisheries Science Partnership Project Form 20-21 (ODT, 14.2KB) is available to help proposers construct a suitable project by prompting the essential required details.

Please note: Submission of a project is not a guarantee that the idea will be funded. Further, all project ideas deemed suitable are then commissioned through a competitive process.

Ideas for proposals for projects must be submitted to the FSP Contracts Office by Friday 17th April 2020.

Once a project idea form is received at Cefas, a check will be done to see if all the details have been provided (locality, time of work, vessel size and type, gear etc.) after which the proposer may be contacted for further details. Those project ideas which are confirmed as suitable will then be subject to a competitive tender process with the projects Invitation to Tender being published on the Cefas Delta e-procurement system.

Please note that there are strict deadlines for tender submissions.

Contact details

FSP Contract Office Cefas Pakefield Road Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT UK Tel: +44 (0)1502 527798 Email:,

Fisheries Science Partnership Reports


Fisheries Management

We provide expert advice on fisheries assessment, monitoring and management programmes, by making impartial, independent reviews and recommendations. Our knowledge, research and advice are used by government, local authorities and industry to inform policy and decision-making, because fisheries play an important role in the economic and environmental wellbeing of the nation.

We also make impartial, independent reviews and recommendations on a range of marine-related issues - eg the effect of fishing on ecosystems - and provide research on freshwater and marine fisheries.

As part of this process, Cefas:

  • applies measuring and tagging techniques to fish to understand their movements and migration
  • participates in international assessments of commercial fin-fish
  • undertakes assessments on commercially important shellfish stocks such as Brown crab and European Lobster
  • is conducting research into the best methods for assessing scallop fisheries Cefas Red Bag Scheme Final Report 2014
  • conducts research on the likely effects of fishery management decisions, such as the Landing Obligation in England and Wales
  • works collaboratively with the fishing industry to inform its science and advice - through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) funded Fisheries Science Partnership (FSP)

Marine environment monitoring and mapping

Shelf-seas are the areas of sea closest to land and are under the most immediate environmental threat from over-fishing.

We monitor the marine environment, particularly shelf-sea areas, by scientific and targeted surveys using:

  • Cefas’ Research Vessel, Endeavour
  • autonomous buoys and data-loggers at fixed sites
  • new technologies such as unmanned autonomous vehicles.

We’re also a leading scientific advisor, supporting marine-licensing decisions and so helping to develop the frameworks for marine planning. Our monitoring data provides government and other decision-makers with a clearer understanding of the nature, distribution and value of marine resources.

Applied Science to Support Industry (ASSIST)

The reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) requires fishermen to follow specified landing obligations for all catches of quota species. This “discards ban” is being phased in, beginning with pelagic fisheries from January 2015 and running until January 2019, when landings of all quota species will need to comply. To assist English fishermen make the transition to the discard ban, and to support and advise DEFRA in the adoption of the reformed CFP, Cefas is running a five-year project - Applied Science to Support the Industry in delivering an end to discards (ASSIST). The ASSIST project will use a collaborative approach, working with Defra, fishermen and other stakeholders to facilitate the CFP implementation, by helping the fishing industry prepare for the changes.

The new CFP will allow some exceptions from the landing obligation, including species with evidence of high survivability, which are exempt from the CFP landing obligations and may be returned to sea.

Fish and Shellfish Health and Hygiene

Safeguarding public health, food safety and food security in the aquatic environment are at the heart of our work, as is the health of fish and shellfish. In particular we focus on:

  • disease investigation in fish and shellfish (such as oysters and mussels, crabs and lobsters)
  • research into the impact of chemical pollutants on fish and shellfish health
  • assessment and monitoring of microbial contamination and algal toxins in shellfish
  • how aquaculture can play an increasingly important role in providing sustainable food choices for consumers. Our work helps to ensure that fish and shellfish, that are farmed and cultivated in UK waters, are healthy and safe to eat.