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Research conducted by the MARINA Lab relates to interactions between humans and marine and freshwater resources and services. Our work generally falls into four research themes:


Sea Change

How are coastal and riparian communities, environments and economies affected by and adapting to a changing world?

Sea Food

How do fisheries and aquaculture support human nutrition and health?


Sea People

Enriching ‘human dimensions’ research in coupled human-natural systems.

Oceans Apart

Understanding competing values and visions for fisheries and aquaculture development and marine conservation.


Photo: Lift-net fishing platforms in Tonle Sap, Cambodia by Eddie Allison.

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Theme 1: Sea Food

Theme 1: Sea Food

Sea Food:  How do fisheries and aquaculture support human nutrition and health?

Since the global food price shocks of 2007-8 addressing food security has returned to the top of the international development agenda. Increased awareness of the ‘hidden hunger’ of micronutrient deficiencies and the importance of fish as a source of essential micronutrients have combined to make fisheries and aquaculture a key area of consideration for public health policy.  Environmental and ethical concerns for the way we harvest produce, distribute and consume our food are also reflected in a proliferation of consumer guidelines and seafood labeling schemes. 

The broad research questions our group is pursing under this theme are:

  1. How do fisheries and aquaculture contribute to food and nutrition security?  Which fish are most nutritious and who gets to eat them? 
  2. How do different fisheries governance regimes affect food and nutrition security?
  3. What are the environmental costs of producing and consuming fish and shellfish?  Should you eat fish? Which ones?
  4. What ethical concerns are raised by fish consumption choices (e.g. fair trade)?  Do seafood certification schemes include these concerns? 



1. Fisheries & Food Security

Supported by grants from the Wellcome Trust and SESYNC this large collaboration bridges the fields o f nutritional epidemiology, fisheries science, conservation biology, global change science and resource economics to quantify, for the first time, the importance of fisheries for different populations around the world. Our three primary objectives are:

  1. Characterize global dietary intake of seafood and model the vulnerability of different populations to particular micronutrient deficiencies based on these intake patterns;
  2. Conduct scenario analyses, examining how different environmental changes might affect different fisheries and how those changes would alter nutrient intakes and risk of deficiencies for different populations; and
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of policy tools of different marine management approaches in optimizing fisheries and human health (marine conservation, improved fishery quota systems, etc.).

To achieve these aims we are modeling shifts in diets based on changes in access to fisheries, estimating per capita changes in fish consumption and calculating changes in the prevalence of risk for a number of micronutrient deficiencies. Using this modeling approach, we can estimate shifts in burdens of disease for particular populations associated with either increased or decreased access to seafood in the diet. Emerging from this effort will be an analytic framework and architecture that will allow decision-makers to calculate the health implications of different marine management strategies at a variety of scales from local to global.

Team members include those below (along with many others!):


2. US West Coast Fisheries and population health

With funding from UW’s Population Health Initiative, this project aims to explore the potential for underutilized U.S. West Coast fisheries to support human health and nutrition. Oily fishes, such as mackerel, herring and sardines, contain high levels of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids that are unique to marine species, but are not targeted by West Coast fisheries due to  consumer taste preferences and economic incentives to catch a few popular species, like halibut and rockfish. While the smaller, more "fishy" tasting fish are generally turned into fish meal for animal and aquaculture feed or discarded as bycatch, they could provide an inexpensive source of valuable nutrients.

The aims of our project are to: 

  1. Determine West Coast fisheries’ potential to support population health in local coastal communities; 
  2. Identify current barriers that prevent nutritious, underused fish from reaching people who need them; and
  3. Explore possible pathways to connect fisheries with communities, such as delivery of bycatch to schools and meal programs from community-supported fisheries.

Led by Dr. Allison and PhD student Zach Koehn, other team members include:


Current Student projects

Zach Koehn (PhD, SAFS) – Nutritional value of fisheries

Kathleen Mifflin (MSc, Dalhousie University) – Food waste in the fisheries sector.  (Committee Chair: Peter Tyedmers)

Brittany Flittner, Kadie McShirley, Henry Peterson, and Emily Rhoades (MMA Capstone, SMEA) –  Mapping Seattle’s sustainable seafood landscape

Thao Huynh (MMA, SMEA) – Effects of high temperature on sablefish reproduction and implications for net-pen aquaculture

Lily Zhao (MMA, SMEA) –  Tracking the trade of octopus across East Africa and onto the global market


Former Student Projects

John Cheney (MMA, SMEA) – Health risks of oyster consumption in Washington State

Raye Evrard (MMA, SMEA) –   The carbon footprint of shellfish aquaculture

Hannah Russell (MMA, SMEA) – Changing role of fish in nutrition, Ghana

Teressa Pucylowski (MMA, SMEA) – Life cycle analysis of oyster farming in the PNW


Selected publications

Cinner, J. E., Adger, W. N., Allison, E. H., Barnes, M. L., Brown, K., Cohen, P. J., … Morrison, T. H. (2018). Building adaptive capacity to climate change in tropical coastal communities. Nature Climate Change, 8(2), 117–123.

Golden, C. D., Seto, K. L., Dey, M. M., Chen, O. L., Gephart, J. A., Myers, S. S., ... & Allison, E. H. (2017). Does Aquaculture Support the Needs of Nutritionally Vulnerable Nations?. Frontiers in Marine Science 4, #159.

Golden, C.D., Allison, E.H., Cheung, W.W.L., Dey, M.M., Halpern, B.S., McCauley, D.J., Smith, M. and Vaitla, B. (2016). Nutrition: Fall in fish catch threatens human health. Nature, 534, 317–320. 

Thilsted, S.H., Thorne-Lyman, A., Webb, P., Bogard, J.R., Subasinghe, R., Phillips, M.J. and Allison, E.H., 2016. Sustaining healthy diets: The role of capture fisheries and aquaculture for improving nutrition in the post-2015 era. Food Policy61, pp.126-131.

Bell, J.D., V. Allain, E.H. Allison, S. Andréfouët, N.L. Andrew, M.J. Batty, M. Blanc, J.M. Dambacher, J. Hampton, Q. Hanich, et al. (2015). Diversifying the use of tuna to improve food security and public health in Pacific Island countries and territories. Marine Policy, 51: 584-591

McClanahan, T.,  E.H. Allison and J.E. Cinner (2015). Managing fisheries for human and food securityFish and Fisheries, 16(1): 78-103. 

Hall, S.J., R. Hilborn, N.L. Andrew and E.H. Allison (2013). Innovations in capture fisheries are an imperative for nutrition security in the developing world.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(21): 8393-8398

Hughes, S., Yau, A. Max, L., Petrovic, N., Davenport, F., Marshall, M, McClanahan, T.J., Allison, E.H. and Cinner, J. (2012). A framework to assess national level vulnerability from the perspective of food security: the case of coral reef fisheries.  Environmental Science & Policy 23: 95-108.

Allison, E.H. (2011). Fisheries, aquaculture, poverty and food security. WorldFish Center Working Papers 2011-65, Penang, Malaysia.

Béné, C., M. Phillips and E.H. Allison (2011). The forgotten service: Food as an ecosystem service from estuarine and coastal zones. In: Wolanski E. and McLusky D.S. (eds) Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science, Vol 12, Waltham, MA: Academic Press, 147-180.


Photo: Atlantic and sockeye salmon by Jack Cheney.


Theme 2: Sea Change

Theme 2: Sea Change

Sea Change: How are coastal and riparian communities, environments and economies affected by and adapting to a changing world?

Coastal and maritime societies and ecologies are sites of great dynamism. Global environmental change, globalization of trade, migration, urbanization and changing utilization of ocean spaces pose challenges to people whose lives are linked to the sea and to the governance of coastal zones and oceans.  Our group is interested in multi-scale research to elucidate pathways of change and societal responses to them.  Some of the question we pursue include:

  1. How are climatic change and ocean acidification affecting coastal societies and people dependent on aquatic resources for their livelihoods?
  2. How is integration with global markets affecting resource governance and development in small-scale fisheries?
  3. How can societies and maritime economic sectors adapt to change? 



Harmful Algal Blooms


Current Student Projects

Myriam Khalfallah (PhD, University of British Columbia, Fisheries Centre)  - Artisanal Fisheries in North Africa and the Middle East (Committee Chair:  Professor Daniel Pauly)

Alison McNaughton (PhD, University of Victoria, Department of Geography) – Arapaima conservation and Amazonian Livelihoods


Former Student Projects

Merrill Rudd (PhD, SAFS) – Stock assessment in data-poor coral reef fisheries (Committee member; Advisors: Ray Hilborn and Trevor Branch)

Clare Shelton (PhD, UEA) – Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in fishing communities in the Western Pacific 

Two NSF-funded Interdisciplinary Graduate Research Training (IGERT) team projects – (1) climate change impacts and adaptation in US cities, and (2) adaptation of Quinalt Nation to climate change impacts on their razor clam fishery (Advisory panel)


Selected publications

Cinner, J. E., Huchery, C., MacNeil, M. A., Graham, N. A., McClanahan, T. R., Maina, J., ... & Allison, E. H. (2016). Bright spots among the world’s coral reefs. Nature, 535(7612), 416-419.

Allison, E.H. and H.R. Bassett (2015). Climate change in the oceans: Human impacts and responses. Science, 350(6262): 778-782.

Cinner, J.E., Huchery, C., Hicks, C.C., Daw, T.M., Marshall, N., Wamukota, A. and Allison, E.H.  (2015) Changes in adaptive capacity through time and among different segments of Kenyan fishing communities.  Nature Climate Change, 5(9), 872-876.

Barange, M., G. Merino, J. L. Blanchard, J. Scholtens, J. Harle, E. H. Allison, J. I. Allen, J. Holt & S. Jennings (2014). Impacts of climate change on marine ecosystem production in societies dependent on fisheries. Nature Climate Change, 4: 211–216

Merino, G., Barange, M., Blanchard, J., Harle, J., Holmes, R., Allen, I., Allison, E.H., Badjeck, M-C., Dulvy, N.K., Holt, J., Jennings, S., Mullon, C., and Rodwell, L.D (2012). Can marine fisheries and aquaculture meet fish demand from a growing human population in a changing climate?  Global Environmental Change, 22(4): 795-806.

Badjeck, M-C., E.H. Allison, A.S. Halls and N.K. Dulvy (2010). Impacts of climate variability and change on fishing-based livelihoods.  Marine Policy, 34(3): 375-383

Allison, E.H., A. Perry, M-C. Badjeck, W.N. Adger, N.L. Andrew, K. Brown, D. Conway, A. Halls, G.M Pilling, J.D. Reynolds, and N.K. Dulvy (2009) Vulnerability of national economies to potential impacts of climate change on fisheries. Fish and Fisheries, 10: 173-196.


Photo: A man by his boat at low tide in a village on stilts in Bangladesh by Nathan Bennett.


Theme 3: Sea People

Theme 3: Sea People

Sea People:  enriching ‘human dimensions’ research in coupled human-natural systems. 

Within SMEA’s Human-Natural systems perspectives, we work largely on the human.  Our group is very interested in the people who live in, work on or visit coastal areas. We have a particular focus on people who produce, process, trade and consume fish but recognize that coastal livelihoods may be diverse and include non-natural resource sectors too.  While we are interested in the impact of humans on biogeochemical and ecological processes, we go beyond characterizing the impact of humans on ‘nature’ and are interested in the broader set of relationships between people and the sea, and so we study what people are thinking, feeling and deciding, and not just what impact their activities are having on marine environments.  In particular, we recognize that any analysis of ‘human dimensions’ has to recognize gender, ethnicity, class and other elements of identity and difference.

Our research is concerned with the study of actors and agency and relations between different groups of people using ocean and coastal spaces.  We collaborate extensively with anthropologists, economists, human geographers and sociologists and would like to work more with political scientists, social psychologists, historians and others in the social sciences and humanities.   Some of the ideas and conceptual frameworks we work with include sustainable livelihoods, resilience, wellbeing, human rights, occupational and place attachment, and institutional analysis and development. 



Under construction.


Current Student projects

Hannah Bassett (PhD, SAFS) - Dive fisheries effects on human health and well-being


Former Student projects

Carole White (PhD, UEA) – What keeps people fishing in a declining fishery?

Liliana Bastian (MMA, SMEA) – Gender in international conservation with development programs

Jillian Lyles (MMA, SMEA)  – Restoring traditional fish ponds in Hawai’i 

Laura Deighan (MMA, SMEA) – Implementation of Fisheries Improvement Programs, Gulf of Mexico Snapper Fishery (Committee Chair: Kiki Jenkins)

Claire Dawson (MMA, SMEA) – Financial inclusion for smallholder aquaculture farmers, Banda Aceh


Selected publications

Bennett, N. J., Whitty, T. S., Finkbeiner, E., Pittman, J., Bassett, H.R., Gelcich, S., & Allison, E. H. (2018). Environmental Stewardship: A Conceptual Review and Analytical FrameworkEnvironmental Management, 1-18.

Barratt, C. and Allison, E.H. (2014). Does people’s vulnerability undermine the sustainability of community-managed natural resources?  Evidence from two fishing communities on Lake Victoria, Uganda. Development Studies Research, 1(1): 16-27.

Weeratunge, N., C. Béné, R. Siriwardane, A. Charles, D. Johnson, E.H. Allison, P.K. Kumar Nayah and M.-C. Badjeck (2014). Small-scale fisheries through the wellbeing looking glass.  Fish and Fisheries, 15(2): 255–279.

Ratner, B. D., P. Cohen, B. Barman, K. Mam, J. Nagoli, and E. H. Allison (2013). Governance of aquatic agricultural systems: analyzing representation, power, and accountability. Ecology and Society, 18(4): 59. 

Allison, E.H., Ratner, B.D., Asgard, B.A., Willmann, R., Pomeroy, R.D., and Kurien, J. (2012). Rights-based fisheries governance: from fishing rights to human rights.   Fish and Fisheries, 13(1): 14-29.

Armitage, D., Béné, C, Charles, A., Johnson, D. and Allison, E.H. (2012).  The interplay of wellbeing and resilience in applying a social-ecological perspective.  Ecology & Society, 17(4): 15.

Evans, L. S., K. Brown and E. H. Allison. (2011). Factors influencing adaptive marine governance in a developing country context: a case study of southern Kenya. Ecology and Society, 16 (2): 21. 

Kissling, E., E.H. Allison, J.A. Seeley, S. Russell, M. Bachmann, S.D. Musgrave and S. Heck (2005).  Fisherfolk are among groups most at risk of HIV: cross-country analysis of prevalence and numbers infected.  AIDS, 19(17): 1939-1946.

Allison, E.H., and F. Ellis (2001).  The livelihoods approach and management of small-scale fisheries.  Marine Policy, 25 (5) 377-388.

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Theme 4: Oceans Apart

Theme 4: Oceans Apart

Oceans Apart:  understanding competing values and visions for fisheries and aquaculture development and marine conservation.

The schism between traditional ‘wilderness conservation’ and the utilitarian ‘new conservation’ has its analogues in the sea, where large marine protected areas and marine spatial planning represent wilderness and resource management viewpoints on ocean governance. Debates on the relative roles of communal, state and private control of coastal and ocean spaces and resources are shaping investments in fisheries governance reform, the creation of large marine protected areas and marine spatial planning.

Current research is centered on examining the processes and outcomes of fisheries governance reforms and integrated conservation and development programmes.  We are interested in applying discourse analysis, the study of policy diffusion, and of networks of influence in marine affairs.  Our approach is informed by political ecology and political economy analysis.



Under construction. 


Current student projects

Rebecca Singleton (PhD, University of British Columbia, Fisheries Centre) -  Human Rights, Fisheries Development and NGOs in Madagascar’s Marine Conservation and Fisheries Sector  (Committee Chair:  Professor Rashid Sumaila)

Karen Villeda (MMA, SMEA) - Towards an inclusive FIP model: bringing FIPs to scale

Emily Crigler (MMA, SMEA) - Sub-contracting on the sea: charter arrangements in the Western and Central Pacific


former Student projects

Wataru Tanoue (MMA, SMEA) – Catch share programs for Japanese fisheries 

Christopher Giordano (MMA, SMEA) – Equity outcomes of ITQ fisheries 

Alexander Tanz (MMA, SMEA) – Institutional barriers to ecosystem-based fisheries management in the US 


Selected publications

Kittinger, J. N., Teh, L. C., Allison, E. H., Bennett, N. J., Crowder, L. B., Finkbeiner, E. M., ... & Young, J. (2017). Committing to socially responsible seafood. Science, 356(6341), 912-913.

Allison, E.H. and H.R. Bassett (2015). Climate change in the oceans: Human impacts and responses. Science, 350(6262): 778-782.

Ratner, B.D., Åsgård, B., Allison, E.H. (2014). Fishing for justice: human rights, development, and fisheries sector reform.  Global Environmental Change, 27: 120-13

Ratner, B.D and Allison, E.H. (2012). Wealth, rights, and resilience: An agenda for governance reform in small-scale fisheries. Development Policy Review, 30(4): 371-398

Béné, C., B. Hersoug, and E. H. Allison (2010). Not by rent alone: analyzing the pro-poor functions of small-scale fisheries in developing countries.  Development Policy Review, 28(3): 325-358

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Collaborating Institutions

Collaborating Institutions



The WorldFish Center is an international, non-profit, research organization that works to reduce poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in developing countries by making fish more readily available for food and income. The Center provides the sound scientific knowledge needed to increase fish production, guide the management of fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, reverse habitat degradation, and influence policies involving fish and the people who depend on them. Since 1992, WorldFish has been one of 15 independent Future Harvest centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). 


FAO Small-scale Fisheries Group

Too Big To Ignore

Too Big To Ignore is a research network and knowledge mobilization partnership established to elevate the profile of small-scale fisheries (SSF), to argue against their marginalization in national and international policies, and to develop research and governance capacity to address global fisheries challenges.

ARC Centre of Excellence, Cinner Group

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies undertakes integrated research for sustainable use and management of coral reefs. The ARC Centre is headquartered at James Cook University (JCU) and is a partnership of several Australian institutions. Within the ARC Centre, the Cinner Group focuses on the interface between social science and ecology to develop solutions for a wide range of issues facing coral reefs and the millions of people who depend on them. They integrate theories and methods from geography, economics, political science, ecology, and modeling to explore issues at the forefront of applied conservation. 

UEA School of International Development

The School of International Development at UEA is a leading global center of excellence in research and teaching in international development. They are committed to making a real difference in the world and their academics regularly advise on policy on major global challenges such as poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. Research themes range from Behavioral and Experimental Economics to Global Environmental Justice to Life Course, Migration, and Well-being. 


IMBER is an international project that aims to investigate the sensitivity of marine biogeochemical cycles and ecosystems to global change, on time scales ranging from years to decades. IMBER aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of, and accurate predictive capacity for ocean responses to accelerating global change and the consequent effects on the Earth System and human society. 

IMBER Newsletter