St Andrews lecturer awarded prestigious Fellowship in Marine Conservation

Tuesday 21 March 2023


Dr Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood, Lecturer in Sustainable Development with the University of St Andrews, is one of only seven conservation researchers to be named a 2023 recipient of the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation.

The programme supports mid-career scientists and other experts seeking solutions to challenges affecting the world’s oceans. Dr Okafor-Yarwood, of the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at St Andrews, will receive US$150,000 over three years to investigate the socio-economic effects of Ghana’s fisheries closure policy on local communities, including women, who typically process, distribute, and sell artisanally caught fish.

Fisheries are vital to livelihoods and food security in West Africa but suffer from overexploitation, pollution, and climate change. In Ghana, following the collapse of several important fisheries, the government implemented closed seasons for fishing, including a one-month per year closure for small-scale artisanal fishers. While intended to improve natural resource sustainability, the closure has had broad economic and social impacts.

Dr Okafor-Yarwood will work with community leaders to identify practices inspired by local ecological knowledge that can be integrated with state-sanctioned management interventions. She will share these findings through policy briefs and workshops with communities, researchers, and national and international-level organisations to inform the development of more sustainable and locally appropriate marine conservation strategies in the region.

“The artisanal fisheries sector contributes to the livelihoods and food security of millions of West Africans,” Dr Okafor-Yarwood said. “However, fisherfolk within the sector have continued to be side-lined when decisions on fisheries governance are made. My research investigates how fisherfolk in West Africa can participate in fisheries governance, contributing to policy by sharing their knowledge and concerns about exploitation, conservation, and management.”

Dr Okafor-Yarwood joins Pew’s global community of 202 marine Fellows from 42 countries working to expand knowledge of the ocean and advance the sustainable use of marine resources. Fellows are selected by an international committee of marine science experts with a range of expertise following a rigorous nomination and review process.

Dr Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood is a Lecturer in Sustainable Development in the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews. She holds a doctorate in leadership, security and development from King’s College, London. She also earned a preparatory diploma in law and a bachelor’s degree in international relations, peace and conflict studies from London Metropolitan University.

Learn more about Dr Okafor-Yarwood and this research effort on the Pew Marine Fellows directory page.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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