This week we’re with Morven Roberston, UK Project Officer at Blue Marine Foundation. Morven has worked hard to get a job she loves. Morven’s advice is to get out on a fishing boat for the day and talk to fishermen and the people who make a living from the sea. Gaining an understanding and appreciation of fishermen and the industry itself is crucial to delivering successful marine conservation in the long-term.
Name: Morven Robertson
Job Title: UK Project Officer
Organisation: Blue Marine Foundation
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
Growing up overseas in Gabon, Sarawak and Singapore, I have always lived close to the sea. I would watch the local fishermen come in with their daily catch and help them gut and clean their fish. For me, it has always been the human interaction with the sea, especially fishermen that has inspired and shaped my career in marine conservation.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I believe two things have really helped me achieve my career goals;
- I read a lot of scientific papers and keep up to date with research. In my project management role I am not always the ‘scientist’ in the room as we partner with many universities but it is so important I am up to date to ensure we drive the project in the right direction and it is successful.
- One thing I have always done is to get stuck in with all aspects of the organization/company I have been working for. I am always up for cleaning the office or carrying boxes or helping create something outside my job role. I believe this has helped me secure longer term roles and have a more enjoyable experience overall.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I saw an advert for the role on BLUE’s website and was looking to move back into project based marine conservation and fisheries management after spending a year working for a global seafood sustainability accreditation scheme. I applied and got through the two rounds of interviews and accepted the offer.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
One of the projects I manage is the Solent Oyster Restoration Project. It requires extensive field work with some really early rises. For me, there is nothing better than getting up early and out onto the water for a day of monitoring. The work is usually freezing and consists of me hanging off the side of a pontoon tying oyster cages onto hooks, collecting data from our soon to be 20,0000 oysters or getting covered in mud preparing on growing sites at low tide.
Often we have groups of volunteers with us and I love seeing them engage with the project and fall in love with oysters!! Being able to be very hands on in my management role keeps me in tune with the project.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
One of the projects I help lead on is the Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve. The project has worked with small-scale, low impact fishermen for over five years supporting them to fish sustainably in return for improvements in infrastructure and higher prices for their catch. All 60 fishermen adhere to a code of conduct, agreed through a local Working Group that meets every three months and researchers carry out monitoring of the Reserve and fish stocks on fishermen’s boats. Part of my role in this project is to use data gathered from the monitoring to lobby the government and local fisheries managers to recognise and reward the efforts of the fishermen. The ability to champion responsible fishing and give fishermen a voice as stewards of the marine environment is very humbling.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Working in marine conservation you will often be engaging with people who depend on the sea for their livelihoods. This can be a confrontational environment that I was quite naïve about that when I started!
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
The ability to smile and keep smiling when engaging in challenging environments and situations with stakeholders has been the my most invaluable skill. It’s very hard for someone to keep being angry or impolite if someone is being polite and smiling and ensures situations don’t escalate.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Get out on a fishing boat for the day and talk to fishermen and the people who make a living from the sea. Many of the marine conservation degrees in the UK hardly touch on the fishing industry and seafood sector. Gaining an understanding and appreciation of fishermen and the industry itself is crucial to delivering successful marine conservation in the long-term.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
This always changes for me depending on what project or new research I am doing. At the moment it’s the native oyster; they are capable of filtering 200 litres of water day and can change sex throughout their lives depending on what the population needs. They also provide food, shelter and habitat for so many other marine species and really connect coastal communities to their heritage through their importance as a food source since Roman times. It’s terrible to think we have lost almost 90% of the world’s oyster beds.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
In 2013 I was working in Bermuda and got the opportunity to join a marlin fishing trip and caught a 400 + kilo marlin! It took me and two other men 45 minutes to reel it in but I was able to tag and release it. It was incredible!
Thank you Morven, great advice. It is great to read how your career has developed and how the advice you give others has helped you.
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