M.Sc. Biology candidate, Victoria Howse developed her passion for marine conservation while working on a marine protected area (MPA) for seagrass monitoring in Iloilo City, Philippines as part of a Marine Institute (MI) International internship with the Canadian International Development Agency.
Howse was honoured as the 2013-2014 recipient of the Dr. Jon Lien Memorial Scholarship during a presentation with the family of Dr. Jon Lien and Glenn Blackwood, vice-president, Memorial University (Marine Institute).
The scholarship is awarded to a graduate student undertaking studies in marine animal behaviour, marine conservation, coastal community revitalization or a current fishery challenge. The scholarship was established in the spirit of collaboration that Dr. Lien held dear between professors and students.
This scholarship recognizes the work of both Dr. Jon Lien and his former student, Dr. Deanne Renouf, who died of cancer. The family of Dr. Renouf added her scholarship money as a contribution to Dr. Lien’s Memorial Scholarship as is recognized each year.
Howse has been pursuing a MSc with MI’s Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) since January, focusing her thesis on the role of MPAs in enhancing local lobster populations and fisheries.
“This is my first scholarship and I feel honoured to have received this particular one,” said Howse. “Dr. Lien’s work with MPAs and fishermen in Bonavista Bay planted the seed for the research I’m conducting now. I admire everything he’s done for marine conservation in Newfoundland.”
Dr. Lien was instrumental in the development of the Eastport lobster MPAs and associated monitoring program. When he was approached by local fishermen in the 1990’s, Dr Lien called upon Howse's supervisor, Dr. Sherrylynn Rowe, to initiate the study. She was a Memorial graduate student at the time, and is now a research scientist with CFER. A program was developed to tag and monitor the lobster population in the Marine Protected Areas around Eastport.
Howse’s research is focused around two small MPAs near the Eastport Peninsula in Bonavista Bay, NL. Both of the MPAs were closed to all fishing in 1997 with the objective of improving the local lobster population.
Utilizing a capture-mark-recapture approach, Howse’s work involves collaboration with local lobster harvesters, as well as Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Her research will investigate behaviour of individuals and overall population dynamics of lobster in the vicinity of the Eastport Peninsula.
While there has been some related research conducted in the past, Howse will provide the most comprehensive analyses to date. She has been conducting field work with fishermen and is now analyzing data collected through the monitoring program.
“I’ve been spending time at sea with local fishermen and I’ve learned a lot from them. They know the most because they live it,” said Howse. “Fishermen have been tagging individual lobsters since 1997 and now I’m using those data. I was also able to take part in this process and see how the information is collected.”
The comprehensive analyses that Howse will be undertaking are of tremendous interest to local harvesters who are keen to see how well MPAs are performing, particularly in relation to other fishery management tools that have been implemented.
“The research and methods Howse employs are empowering local fishermen to take a greater role in the science and management of their fishery and in turn, the future of their coastal communities,” said Dr. Rowe.