How the MBA has helped shape marine policy.

History of Policy at the MBA

The MBA has a long history of engaging with marine policy and management and in fact was originally established to answer such questions. In 1866 a Royal Commission on Sea Fisheries, which included Professor Thomas Huxley, recommended doing away with existing regulations relating to sea fishing as fears of fish over-exploitation were thought to be unfounded. In one of his most famous comments Huxley, in his inaugural address to the International Fisheries Exhibition in London 1883, stated that “I believe that it may be affirmed with confidence that, in relation to our present modes of fishing, a number of the most important sea fisheries, such as the cod fishery, the herring fishery, and the mackerel fishery, are inexhaustible”1.

However, Professor Edwin Ray Lankester put forward the views of many who disagreed with Huxley’s statement by arguing that man could have a significant impact on fish stocks so that “the natural balance is upset”2, 3. Lankester went on to propose the formation of a society to answer such questions and Huxley became the first president of the society when it was established in 1884. The main source of funding came from the UK Government who wanted to support the association’s activities towards the ends of “conducting research, collecting statistics and advising on legislation”. Much support in setting up the MBA was given by the then minister for the Board of Trade (which was then responsible for fisheries) Joseph Chamberlain4.

Although the remit of the MBA became much wider than just fisheries investigations, the Association has continued to make sure that both the scientific research and scientific expertise within the organisation is used to inform policy and management.

1 Huxley, T. (1884). Inaugural address. Fisheries Exhibition Literature. 4: 1–22.
2 Lankester, E. R. (1884). The scientific results of the exhibition. Fisheries Exhibition Literature. 4: 505 – 445.
3 Sims, D. W. & Southward, A. J. (2006). Dwindling fish numbers already of concern in 1883. Nature. 439:660.
4 Southward, A. J. & Roberts (1987). The Marine Biological Association 1884 – 1984. One hundred years of marine research. Journal of the Marine Biological Association. 67: 465 – 506.