My research focuses on the intersection between conservation and food security, with a particular focus on small-scale fisheries, which account for 90% of all fishers and 50% of global fisheries yields. With a my background is in coral reef science, I take an interdisciplinary approach to my research, incorporating fisheries science, community-based resource management, conservation planning, and impact evaluation. Most of my research has focused on coral reef management in the South Pacific region (in particular Solomon Islands and Tonga). 

I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, jointly appointed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, WorldFish, and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (ARC CoE). In this capacity, I aim to assess whether the policies and practices of international conservation NGOs support and promote human rights of small-scale fishers. This research will draw on the Human Rights Based Approach outlined in the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries. 

Prior to my current position, I held a similar joint position between WorldFish and the ARC CoE examining the resilience of small-scale fisheries co-management in Solomon Islands. From 2016 – 2019 I completed my PhD while being based in the Kingdom of Tonga, where I collaborated with the Ministry of Fisheries to inform the design and implemention of a national monitoring program covering 350 coral reefs. This collaboration involved a rigorous impact evaluation of the Ministry of Fisheries’ community-based fisheries management program and a network of over 50 locally-managed marine protected areas. Additionally, I collaborated with NASA to lead two research expeditions examining the resilience and recovery of coral reef ecosystems located in the remote outer waters of Tonga following the massive eruption of the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai volcano.


  • Measuring marine management outcomes. Monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of conservation planning and on-ground actions to contribute to policy and adaptive learning.
  • People and conservation. Conservation planning incorporating socio-economic factors and livelihood and governance considerations into spatial prioritization.
  • The productivity and resilience of small-scale fisheries. 90% of fishers and 50% of global catch falls within this sector, making them the largest group of ocean users - a group larger than all other marine sectors combined
  • The impact of coral reef co-management; community-based marine management; locally managed marine areas
  • Coral reef ecology. Using underwater visual surveys and experiments to address ecological questions on coral reefs.
  • 2022 to present - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Wildlife Conservation Society; WorldFish (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2020 to 2021 - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, WorldFish (Townsville, Australia)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 15+ research outputs authored by Dr Patrick Smallhorn-West from 2017 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

WorldFish Center, Malaysia - Grant

The impact of conservation NGO interventions on small-scale fishers

Indicative Funding
$129,176 over 2 years, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society ($129,176)
The objective of this post-doctoral position is to conduct a systematic review of NGO interventions to support Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) and to apply these findings to WCS? programs. The position will be co-hosted between James Cook University, WorldFish, and the WCS Global Marine Conservation division.
Patrick Smallhorn-West (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Impact Evaluation; Non-Government Organization; Small-scale fisheries; Conservation

Crawford Fund - Research Grant

What can locally managed marine areas do for you?

Indicative Funding
$12,000 over 1 year
Locally-managed marine areas (LMMA) regulate when, how, and by whom harvesting of resources occurs and are the dominant local marine resource management approach in the Pacific. Recently, a new wave of lessons have emerged on the efficacy of LMMAs that has yet to be interpreted and critiqued amongst resource managers, NGOs, and government actors. This project will involve hosting two workshops and co-developing communication products (infographic, pamphlet, and short video) in various Pacific languages on the current state of knowledge on LMMAs as a fisheries management tools. This work will provide an up to date synthesis of the contexts under which they can be successful, the trade-offs that may result when managing for multiple objectives, and the realistic impacts that can be expected from their use.
Patrick Smallhorn-West (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Workshops; Marine Protected Areas; Outreach; Community based fisheries management

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Political economy of youth-led food system transformations (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The Cave dwellers Distribution, abundance, ecological partitioning and social organisation of the genus Trimma on coral ereefs (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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