David Whitmarsh, 1950-2010

September 30, 2010

A world authority on the economics of fisheries has died.

David Whitmarsh was born in Plymouth on 17 February 1950 and educated at King's College in Taunton and the University of Exeter, where he graduated in economics in 1971. After a short spell as a teacher at Hurstpierpoint College in Sussex, he studied for a diploma in rural science in Edinburgh and then returned to Plymouth to work as a non-executive director of Capital Securities Ltd.

It was at this point that Professor Whitmarsh began his academic career by securing a post as a research assistant in the Marine Resource Research Unit (MRRU) of what was then Portsmouth Polytechnic.

He was to devote the rest of his life to working in the field of fisheries, aquaculture and coastal-zone management and, after completing a research MA on "technological change in the UK fishing industry" at the University of Exeter in 1975, became lecturer in economics at Portsmouth in 1977 and head of the MRRU in 1984. The book he co-authored with Mike Dunn and Steve Cunningham, Fisheries Economics: An Introduction, published the following year, soon became a standard text.

After running what had become the Centre for the Economics and Management of Aquatic Resources until 1991, Professor Whitmarsh was appointed principal lecturer at the polytechnic, which was transformed into the University of Portsmouth in 1992. He completed a doctoral degree in 1995 and was made reader (2001) and then professor in marine resource management (2004).

Although he had long been commissioned to carry out research for British and international organisations such as the Canadian High Commission, European Commission and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, it was mainly during the latter years of Professor Whitmarsh's life that he got an opportunity to travel widely and give others the benefits of his expertise.

He delivered short courses on fisheries in Cambodia, Korea and Sierra Leone as well as many European countries and contributed to a major "social and economic valuation of the aquatic resources of the Lower Mekong Delta".

Although his office, with its labyrinthine arrangement of filing cabinets and strange specimens of sepia-coloured liquids, may have initially made him seem unapproachable, students soon discovered that Professor Whitmarsh was a sharp but supportive mentor. At the time of his death, he was completing a monograph on Marine Resource Economics, to be published next year, and planning further teaching trips to Mexico and Kyrgyzstan.

He died of cancer on 28 August 2010 and is survived by his wife, Harriet, a son and two daughters.


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