PhD Research - Sean Fitzgerald

BS Marine Vertebrate Biology, BA Environmental Studies, Stony Brook University

Sean’s research focuses on improving the assessment and management of small-scale fisheries that have limited data and resources to assess stock health. His research interests are to develop innovative solutions that protect the biological sustainability of fished stocks while considering the economic well-being of local fishers, as well as evaluating existing tools for improving fishery sustainability. Previously, Sean received his BS in Marine Vertebrate Biology and his BA in Environmental Studies at Stony Brook University in New York. He then taught middle school science for two years prior to enrolling at the Bren School. Upon graduating, Sean hopes to continue his applied work with small-scale fisheries while also continuing to pursue his passion for teaching.

Dissertation Abstract
My research focuses on small-scale fisheries, which provide a critical protein source and employ the vast majority of the world’s fishers. Many small-scale fisheries are unmanaged, or under-managed, so a large percentage are unsustainable or unprofitable globally. A major limitation is that such fisheries lack data and resources to quantitatively assess stock status, let alone perform traditional model-based stock assessments. As such, there is a critical need for science to help develop theory and methods to enhance the sustainability of small-scale fisheries, even locally in California. My research used the southern California rock crab fishery as a model system to explore novel approaches to detect early warning signs of overfishing, especially when traditional data streams for fishing effort and species biology are not available. I collaborated with the fishing fleet in the Santa Barbara Channel marine ecosystem, including fishing with them to collect data, to develop low cost assessment techniques that in part helped identify the effects of increased fishing pressure on crab landings. Generally, I contribute an empirical example of how multiple-method assessment techniques, including productivity susceptibility analysis, cumulative sum control charts, and spatial changes in catch patterns, can be executed in collaboration with fishers to provide high quality information, generate early warning signs of fishery collapse, stimulate sustainable practices within the fleet, and help ensure sustainability in the face of uncertainty.

Year Admitted : 2014
Research areas: Fisheries Management, Resource Management, Community Ecology, Restoration Ecology
Faculty Advisor: Hunter Lenihan

Lab Page

Fellowship Awards:
Chancellor’s Fellowship, Graduate Division, UC Santa Barbara. (2014-2018)