A budget crisis at the Centre for Coastal and Marine Sciences has led to the loss of 51 mostly scientific posts at laboratories in Plymouth and Merseyside.
Staff were told of the redundancies last week after months of speculation and a Pounds 7 million rescue package agreed with the Natural Environment Research Council.
The Plymouth Marine Laboratory has suffered 21 compulsory redundancies with another six at Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory in Merseyside. The rest will come from early retirement and transfers to posts outside of the organisation.
Jim Cooper, a negotiator with the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists, which represents staff at the centre, said the job losses were linked to a Pounds 4 million budget deficit following funding cuts and a drop in commercial contracts.
"It's a huge reduction in NERC's ability to pursue coastal and marine research and will do substantial damage to Britain's marine science," said Mr Cooper.
One redundant marine scientist, who wished to remain anonymous, said many staff members blamed the crisis on mismanagement and the overheads from trying to rationalise three sites, the third being Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory at Oban, Scotland.
"Morale was already very bad in this laboratory ... after these redundancies, I suspect it's not going to be easy to pick things up again," he said.