The Marine Biological Association

Promoting marine scientific excellence and representing the marine biological community since 1884

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The Marine Biological Association provides a clear independent voice to decision makers on behalf of the marine biological community.

The MBA is able to provide authoritative expert advice to UK, European and international decision makers. As well as drawing on the experience and knowledge of its members, the MBA also utilises in-house policy expertise to provide advice and to deliver evidence to inform and support policy.


Advice can be provided directly such as through meetings with ministers and other decision makers and also by other means such as providing evidence to parliamentary select committees. The MBA has provided evidence to the following Select Committees:

  • House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology: The Relationship between EU Membership and the Effectiveness of Science, Research and Innovation in the UK (2015)
  • House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee. Marine Protected Areas (2014)
  • House of Commons Select Committee review of Marine Science (2012)
  • House of Commons Joint Committee on the Marine Bill (2008)
  • House of Commons Science and Technology Committee: Investigating the Oceans (2008)

The MBA also contributes to numerous policy committees and groups and provides presentations at policy events.

Responding to consultations

The MBA draws on expertise within its membership to provide responses to consultations. A wide range of consultation responses have been provided including:

  • UK Government (Defra). Marine Strategy Framework Directive proposals for UK Programme of Measures (2015)
  • Natural Environment Research Council. Shaping NERC’s Priorities (2015)
  • UK Government (Defra). Consultation on the second tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (2015)
  • UK Government (BIS). Proposals for Long-Term Capital Investment in Science & Research (2014)
  • UK Government (Defra). Marine Strategy Framework Directive UK Marine Monitoring Programmes (2014)
  • Scottish Government. Draft Scottish Marine Litter Strategy (2013)
  • Scottish Government. The Draft Scottish Marine Regions Order (2013)
  • UK Government (Defra). Marine Conservation Zones Consultation (2013)
  • Scottish Government. Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill Consultation (2012)
  • UK Government (Defra). Marine Strategy Framework Directive: UK Initial Assessment and Proposals for Good Environmental Status (2012).
  • Scottish Government (Marine Scotland). Scottish Marine Regions: Defining their boundaries (2011).
  • UK Government (Foreign and Commonwealth Office). Consultation on whether to establish a marine protected area in the British Indian Ocean Territory (2010).
  • UK Government (Defra). Consultation on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive: Putting in place the legal framework for implementation (2010).
  • UK Government (Defra). Consultation on the UK Marine Policy Statement (2010)
  • UK Government (Defra). Consultation on a Marine Planning System for England (2010)
  • UK Government (Defra). Delivering Marine Conservation and Zones and European Marine Sites. A draft strategy for marine protected areas (2009).
  • UK Government, Northern Ireland Executive and Welsh Assembly. Our Seas. A Shared Resource (2009).
  • European Union. Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union: A European vision for the oceans and seas (2007)
  • UK Government (Defra). Consultation on measures to protect biodiversity in Lyme Bay (2007).
  • UK Government (Defra). GB Invasive Non-native Species Framework Strategy (2007).

For a full list of consultation responses please contact Dr Matt Frost at

Providing evidence  

Evidence based policy is at the heart of decision making. The MBA ensures that marine biological data and information is available to decision makers and those responsible for managing the marine environment. This is mainly achieved via its data and marine evidence programmes and through dedicated resources such as the Marine Life information Network (MarLIN).


MBA policy advice – a history

The MBA has a long history in engaging with marine policy and management and issues and in fact was originally established to answer such questions. In 1866 a Royal Commission on Sea Fisheries, which included Professor Thomas Huxley as one of its members recommended doing away with existing regulations relating to sea fishing as fears relating to over-exploitation of fish 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 18844. 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.