Senior Research Fellow David Sims wins ZSL Marsh Award for contributions of shark research to conservation

ZSL Marsh Award for Marine Conservation has recognised the contributions of fundamental research into the “secret lives of sharks” to ecosystem conservation.

A marine scientist at the Marine Biological Association (MBA) in Plymouth, and the University of Southampton, has been awarded the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Marsh Award for Marine Conservation. The award has been given to Professor David Sims, an MBA Senior Research Fellow and leader of the Sims Lab.

The ZSL Committee were unanimous in their decision, recognising the high-impact work of Professor Sims into fundamental shark science and its application to marine conservation. Professor Sims’ work, now spanning 25 years, aims to advance scientific knowledge of shark behaviour and ecology to improve the management of these threatened species.

Figure 1. A basking shark, Cetorhinus maximus, is tagged off Plymouth. Understanding the migration routes and year-round behaviour of these plankivorous sharks has been crucial to the conservation of this endangered species. ©David Sims

Professor Sims said “It is a huge honour to receive the ZSL Marsh Award. Over 100 million sharks are caught by global fisheries each year and many populations are declining due to overexploitation. This award recognises not only my own contributions to shark conservation science, but the research of the many talented students, postdocs and collaborators which I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the past 25 years”.

Figure 2. Professor David Sims is a Senior Research Fellow and leader of the Sims Lab at the Marine Biological Association. ©David Sims

Continuing, he explains “It’s very difficult to manage or conserve shark populations effectively if you don’t know where they are. Research like ours uses satellite tracking to locate where sharks like basking sharks and mako sharks prefer to hang out and the migration routes they take. This gives us a window through which to reveal their secret lives, allowing us to improve conservation, for example knowing where best to place marine protected areas.”

The modern scientific study of sharks and rays started at the MBA around 1900. Since then, research has grown from strength to strength with the association working globally as a leader in the field. Most recently, a major new European Research Council (ERC) funded project awarded to Prof Sims has begun at the MBA. The 5-year project, entitled OCEAN DEOXYFISH, will provide crucial insight into the effects of ocean deoxygenation on top predators such as sharks.

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Nov 4, 2020 By loiflo