Professor Paul Fernandes

Professor Paul Fernandes
Professor Paul Fernandes

Professor Paul Fernandes

Chair in Fisheries Science

Personal Chair



My research group, FEAST (Fisheries Ecosystems and Advanced Survey Technologies), focuses on the sustainable management of marine resources.  We use mathematical models to assess the status of fish stocks and to understand the dynamics of marine ecosystems under climate change; we develop advanced survey technologies, notably underwater acoustics, visual surveys and geostatistics, to study the abundance and distribution of marine fauna; and we explore management strategies in support of ecosystem-based fisheries management.

Previously, I worked at the Marine Laboratory Aberdeen (now Marine Scotland Science) for over 16 years: initially on fisheries surveys (acoustics and trawl) and, latterly, fish stock assessment, where I was head of the Sea Fisheries Group.  Prior to that I was in Ireland, setting up their fisheries acoustics programme, and in Bolivia working on the artisanal fisheries of Lake Titicaca.

I am a marine biologist, having taken both my BSc and PhD at the wonderful, but sadly now extinct, Port Erin Marine Laboratory of Liverpool University.  I was born in London, but have Portuguese roots, hence the name.  I am married to a beautiful Scot and we have two young boys who already share our admiration for the works of David Attenborough, although they prefer Steve Backshall!



Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Recruitment and marketing co-ordinator for Postgraduate Taught courses in the School of Biological Sciences

External Memberships

Convenor of the MASTS Fisheries Research Forum

Member of:

  • Technical Advisory Committee of Fisheries Innovation Scotland
  • ICES Working Group on Fisheries Acoustics, Science and Technology (WG FAST)
  • ICES Working Group on Improving use of Survey Data for Assessment and Advice (WGISDAA)
  • NOAA Center for Independent Experts

Research Overview

FEAST logo

The Fisheries Ecosystem and Advanced Survey Technologies - FEAST - group conducts research which focuses on the sustainable management of marine resources, particularly fish, with other interests in marine ecology. 

Our specific research interests are as follows:

  • Determining the abundance and distribution of fish and other marine fauna, and improving the accuracy and precision of the associated methods
  • Marine ecosystem modelling
  • Effective sustainable management of marine resources
  • The biology and ecology of commercially exploited fish and other marine fauna

Specific areas of expertise are as follows:

  • Fisheries acoustics (the use of echosounders and other sonar equipment for studying marine life)
  • Advances in technology for sampling of marine life (video, net, passive & active acoustics)
  • Fish stock assessment
  • Sampling (survey) statistics, particularly geostatistics
  • Ecosystem modelling

The world's fishery resources provide a rich and healthy food source, economic benefits (income generation and employment in rural areas) and cultural value.  It is important to study these resources and the ecosystems they inhabit, to ensure that they are managed sustainably - something that we will all benefit from in the future.

Current Research

...and recent research projects

  • SMARTFISH 2: Selective retention of target fish.  Funded by Fisheries Innovation Scotland from June 2018 to December 2019 (£212,207).
  • Climefish: Co-creating a decision support framework to ensure sustainable fish production in Europe under climate change.  Funded by the European Commission (Horizon 2020) from April 2016 to March 2020.  21 partners worldwide (UniAbdn share £304,759).
  • Mareframe: Co-creating Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management Solutions, a four year research project to determine how to implement the ecosystem approach in European fisheries. Funded by the European Commission (FP7) from Jan 2014 to Dec 2017.  30 partners Europe-wide (UniAbdn share £283,140).
  • SMARTFISH: Selective management and retention of target fish.  Funded by Fisheries Innovation Scotland from March 2016 to January 2017 (£46,276).

  • SMAC.2 Slippage Mitigation and Acoustic Characterisation Phase 2. Remote size determination of mackerel using a broadband sonar.  Funded by Marine Scotland FISA from June 2015 to Dec 2016 (£35,169).
  • A review of Scotland Fisheries.  Funded by Fisheries Innovation Scotland from April 2015 to Sept 2015 (£135,180).
  • SMAC.1 Slippage Mitigation and Acoustic Characterisation Phase 1. Adaptation of a sub-bottom profiler and associated software to operate as a broadband fisheries sonar.  Funded by Fisheries Innovation Scotland from April 2015 to Sept 2015 (£110,903).
  • Discards gap analysis.  Collation and analysis of fish discard data. Funded by Aberdeen Fish Producers Organisation (£10,000).
  • EcoFishMan: Ecosystem-based Responsive Fisheries Management in Europe.  Funded by the European Commission (FP7) from Jan 2010 to Dec 2013. 15 partners Europe-wide.  UniAbdn share £155,743.

Research themes

Fisheries acoustics

The use of acoustic instruments to detect, quantify and identify marine flora and fauna. We are particularly interested in using SONAR for identifying objects which scatter sound according to their physical, physiological, and behavioural characteristics. We develop classification algorithms and use theoretical target strength [scattering] models, validated with empirical data, to identify scaterrers of sound, paying particular attention to the biology and physiology of the organisms which scatter sound.  We are also developing methods whereby new broadband sonars could be used to survey marine resources or identify the species of echotraces produced by fish schools.  We use both active and passive acoustic instruments to study the composition, structure, and function of pelagic (aquatic) ecosystems and the population dynamics of commercially exploited fish species.

New approaches to fisheries management

In the seas around Scotland most of our fish stocks are managed by the European Commission under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).  This is largely because at various stages in their life cycle, fish occur in various territorial waters.  Despite some notable successes, the CFP is not a popular policy and was reviewed in 2012.   We were partners in an EC project called EcoFishMan which developed a results-based fi­sheries management system, developed in collaboration with the important stakeholders in ­fisheries. This offers some promise for new fisheries and may have some applications in existing ones (e.g. in discard mitigation plans).  We are now involved in MAREFRAME, an EC project which aims to facilitate adoption of Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management.  The project is running several ecosystem models all around Europe to examine alternative management strategies developed in co-creation with stakeholders.  Uniquely, we aim to incorporate economic and social aspects in these ecological models.  We are also investigating the effects of climate change on fish with these models in another EU project Climefish.

New developments in fisheries surveys

Traditionally, fisheries surveys have relied on trawl nets to sample fish near the seabed and SONAR devices to sample fish in midwater.  In both cases, the results are usually presented as indices of abundance, i.e. relative measures of abundance, because the sampling devices are selective and this selectivity varies from species to species.  These relative measures have served single-species fish stock assessments reasonably well, because they provide reasonable indicators of changes in abundance over time.  As we move towards an ecosystem approach it becomes more desirable to consider absolute measures of abundance so that we can compare the abundance of one species with another using the same (absolute) metric.  We are working on methods to account for whole gear selectivity so that absolute measures of abundance can be determined.

We are also looking into alternative approaches to sampling fish, because new arrangements in the spatial management of our marine ecosystems, such as closed areas for example, do not allow trawling.  To deal with this, we are developing visual methods to survey fish and other marine fauna.  Recently, we worked with Marine Scotland Science using a towed body system as a platform for a digital video camera, but ultimately we will be looking to using novel platforms such as Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, which we have used successfully in the past.

Anglerfish (a.k.a. monkfish)

Very little is known about the abundance, distribution and life cycle of anglerfish, yet it continues to gain in popularity as a food source: this, coupled with the demise of other demersal fish around Scotland, such as cod, has increased the pressure on anglerfish as a fishery.  Whilst as Marine Scotland Science I conducted several multi-vessel surveys with the co-operation of the Scottish fishing industry, gathering data on the abundance and distribution of anglerfish.  We are developing an assessment model based on survey data to determine the abundance at age of anglerfish and their exploitation.  We are also aiming to develop a management strategy evaluation to test a number of potential harvest control rules that may be applicable so that the stock can be managed sustainably.  We are interested in how the abundance, size distribution and sex-ratios of anglerfish may be related to substrate, depth and biotic factors, such as deep-water coral.  We also tagged anglerfish with data storage tags which, if and when they can be retrieved, will allow us to examine individual fish movements and, therefore, provide important information about their life cycle.  The advent of the ecosystems approach is a welcome development in fisheries science which encourages us to focus on the relationships between the commercially fished species and their environment, both to safeguard the latter and to improve the management of the former.



Numerous staff at Marine Scotland Science working on stock assessment, fisheries survey techniques and general fisheries management, notably Dr Liz Clarke, Dr Coby Needle, Dr Helen Dobby, Dr Rob Fryer, Dr Alistair Pout, Susan Lusseau, Finlay Burns & Phil Copland.

Prof. Andrew Brierley, St Andrews University, fisheries acoustics.

Dr Robin Cook, University of Strathclyde, stock assessment & fishery management.

Prof. Mike Heath, University of Strathclyde, ecosystem modelling & fishery management.

Dr Clive Fox, SAMS, stock assessment & fishery management.

Dr Jacques Rivoirard, Centre de Géosciences, MINES ParisTech, Fontainebleau, France, geostatistics.

Dr Dezhang Chu, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA, USA, fisheries acoustics.

Prof. Egil Ona, Institute of Marine Research, Norway, fisheries acoustics

Dr. David Borchers, St Andrews University, survey statistics.

Dr. Anne Lebourges Dhaussy and Dr. Patrice Brehmer, IRD, Brest, France, fisheries acoustics.

Dr Pierre Petitgas, IFREMER, Nantes, France, fisheries surveys and geostatistics.



Teaching Responsibilities

Programme coordinator: Marine Biology (Hons) BSc

Course coordinator: Fisheries Science (Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology MSc)

Course coordinator: Mediterranean Marine Biology Field Course

Contributor to 3rd yr undergraduate course: Statistical Analysis of Biological Data

Contributor to 3rd yr undergraduate course: Marine Ecology and Ecosystems

Contributor to 1st yr undergraduate course: Oceans and Society


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