John Ramster: Lowestoft fishing scientist wrote definitive Atlas of the Seas

A former principal scientist and oceanographer at the Lowestoft fish laboratory, John Ramster, who has died a week before his 74th birthday, compiled a definitive Atlas of the Seas around the British Isles.

Its publication in 1981 while working at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's Pakefield laboratories, led to his involvement as a board member of ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

He was co-author of the atlas, which traced the history of fisheries from medieval times and contained the latest survey details of the seabed, and was regarded as a fine example of oceanography.

During his 35-year career at what is now the CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) laboratory, he was responsible for helping to develop a framework for a sustainable fishery strategy.

His expertise, which later used computers to analyse huge amounts of data, made it possible to understand the movement of fish populations especially in the North Sea fisheries.


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Born into a fishing family in Grimsby, where his father and grandfather were fish merchants, he was one of the last intakes to complete National Service and spent two years in the Royal Artillery. He went to Cambridge University and gained a BA in geography in 1962.

He joined the staff of the fisheries laboratory and in 1970, was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship travelling scholarship to spend two months travelling in the United States and Canada.

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There he visited Oregon, which he described as 'another East Suffolk, with mountains' and also crossed Canada on a 1,500-mile rail journey through the Rockies.

He also visited Washington, San Diego, Miami and Toronto and Vancouver, where he was also able to investigate how tuna fisheries were influenced by weather temperatures and also understand the impact of sea currents in fishery movements.

On his return to Lowestoft, which was actually leading the world in many aspects of fishery research, he spent much time at sea in the ministry's fleet of research vessels. He particularly enjoyed this hands-on aspect of scientific research.

After he retired in 1997, he moved to Bridge of Weir, Paisley, Scotland, where he became clerk to the Buckland Foundation, which also encouraged research into fisheries and the sea.

He remained active in fishery research and was editor and consultant of scientific journals and publications.

He is survived by his former wife, Geraldine, and leaves a son, John and daughter, Claire.

A funeral has taken place.

Michael Pollitt

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