Sea Around Us contributes to one of Smithsonian Magazine’s Top 10 Ocean Stories of 2012

The Ocean Health Index is the first global quantitative assessment of ocean health (Map credit: Halpern, et al, Nature)

In 2012, Kristin Kleisner, Dirk Zeller, Rashid Sumaila and Daniel Pauly with the Sea Around Us Project were part of an international team that undertook the first global comprehensive assessment of ocean health – and gave it a passing grade of 60 out of 100.

This achievement – the first “grading” of ocean health – has been recognized as one of the top 10 ocean stories of 2012! You can read more about this research and the other top ocean stories highlighted by Smithsonian Magazine here.

Find out more about the Ocean Health Index at this website and see the paper published in Nature.

From the Front Lines of the 2012 AAAS Meeting

This post was written by by Claire Hornby, Sarah Harper, Robin Ramdeen, Dyhia Belhabib, Frédéric Le Manach and Aylin Ulman and appeared in the newsletter.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held its 178th Annual Meeting in Vancouver from February 16-20, 2012. The theme of this year’s conference was “Flattening the world: building a global knowledge society”. Sea Around Us Project members were among the 8,000 attendees, participating and presenting in numerous symposium sessions and volunteering at the Project’s booth in the exhibition hall. Additional notable sessions were presented by other members of the Fisheries Centre.

Highlights from the conference included a symposium titled “Underreported yet overoptimistic: fisheries catch reconstructions and food security”, organized by Sea Around Us Project members Dr Dirk Zeller and Sarah Harper. Dirk gave an informative presentation outlining the methods used in reconstructing countries’ fisheries catches, while Frédéric Le Manach expanded on the importance of this task for tackling issues of human rights and ethics. Frédéric explained that fishing access agreements between the European Union and host countries, citing the example of Madagascar, are perpetuating socio-economic inequalities between most and least-developed countries. The catch reconstruction work for Madagascar made the first step toward revealing some of these inequalities, which suggest that fishing access agreements need to be revised to be more ethical.

In the final part of the session, Nicola Smith, a graduate of the University of British Columbia now working in the Caribbean, described her reconstruction of the catches of the Bahamas. She found that recreational fisheries catches, which account for a large
proportion of the country’s total catches, are entirely missing from official statistics. As is the case for much of the Caribbean, the economy of the Bahamas is dominated by tourism – visitors want to fish and eat seafood as part of their holiday experience. This places intense demand on the local marine environment. The take-home message of this symposium was that proper accounting of all fisheries sectors is a key component of managing fisheries resources in both a sustainable and ethical manner. The examples that Dirk, Frédéric and Nicola presented are just a handful of the 150 or so countries that will be reconstructed by the end of this year. There will definitely be many more interesting stories to tell once the reconstruction of catches for all fishing countries is complete!

Another successful symposium was “Whole-ocean economics” organized by Dr Rashid Sumaila. He revealed the newly developed Eco2 Index, which measures the economic and environmental health of developed and developing countries. Dr William Cheung also presented a conservation risk index that combines economic figures and fisheries population growth rates to reveal the economics/conservation trade-offs of fishing. It was clear from the model that not all developed countries are doing well in terms of conservation. The audience showed a particular interest in the “Whole-ocean economics” session and there was plenty of participation by professors, researchers, non-governmental organization representatives and students. A roundtable session followed the presentations and questions relating to fisheries, marine protected areas and governance generated stimulating discussions. This session succeeded in highlighting the commitment of the Fisheries Centre members to global research and collaboration.

Another symposium organized by the Sea Around Us Project was titled “Leveling the global playing field: global inferences from reliable global samples”. Dr Kristin Kleisner, a postdoctoral fellow with the Sea Around Us Project and organizer of the session, explained how to design sampling methods and why it is important to infer scientifically sound global trends. Dr Thomas Lovejoy, from the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment in Washington DC, then discussed the use of technology to monitor biodiversity trends and species extinction. Closing the symposium, Dr Molly Jahn, from the University of Wisconsin, stressed the need to build a global information system to meet our future needs.

The Sea Around Us Project booth was also a major success. It allowed Project members to share their work with a diverse audience. For Claire Hornby, the AAAS was her first major science conference, and she was excited and nervous to have a chance to interact with scientists of various disciplines from all over the world. It was amazing to see the wide range of people that approached the booth, eager to hear about the Project’s work. Surprisingly, it seemed everyone – no matter if they were a budding scientist of five years old or an established professor – wanted to learn something about fisheries. The majority of attendees that approached the booth knew about the current state of the world’s oceans and the decline of many commercial fisheries. Family day at the AAAS brought many up-andcoming scientists to the booth. Robin Ramdeen, who volunteered that day, described how wonderful it was to see so many primary school children intrigued by the Sea Around Us Project’s display of ocean primary productivity. Their level of understanding of the importance of plankton for producing the energy upon which marine food webs are based was astounding. These inquisitive junior scientists answered their own questions about where energy comes from, both on land and at sea, and about how phytoplankton and zooplankton are essential to the diet of fish via the food web. Importantly, they were able to connect how changes in primary production could affect one of the ocean’s top predators: humans.

These were just a some of the highlights of Sea Around Us Project’s and the Fisheries Center’s contributions to the 2012 AAAS meeting. The conference was yet another example of how committed the Sea Around Us Project is not only to doing good research, but also to communicating its work to the world.

TED Talk: Daniel Pauly on Shifting Baselines

Daniel Pauly’s TED talk on Shifting Baselines is finally up! Watch the video, or read the transcript below:

I’m going to speak about a tiny, little idea. And this is about shifting baseline. And because the idea can be explained in one minute, I will tell you three stories before to fill in the time. And the first story is about Charles Darwin, one of my heroes. And he was here, as you well know, in ’35. And you’d think he was chasing finches, but he wasn’t. He was actually collecting fish. And he described one of them as very “common.” This was the sailfin grouper. A big fishery was run on it until the ’80s. Now the fish is on the IUCN Red List. Now this story, we have heard it lots of times on Galapagos and other places, so there is nothing particular about it. But the point is, we still come to Galapagos. We still think it is pristine. The brochures still say it is untouched. So what happens here?

The second story, also to illustrate another concept, is called shifting waistline. (Laughter) Because I was there in ’71, studying a lagoon in West Africa. I was there because I grew up in Europe and I wanted later to work in Africa. And I thought I could blend in. And I got a big sunburn, and I was convinced that I was really not from there. This was my first sunburn.

And the lagoon was surrounded by palm trees, as you can see, and a few mangrove. And it had tilapia about 20 centimeters, a species of tilapia called blackchin tilapia. And the fisheries for this tilapia sustained lots of fish and they had a good time and they earned more than average in Ghana. When I went there 27 years later, the fish had shrunk to half of their size. They were maturing at five centimeters. They had been pushed genetically. There were still fishes. They were still kind of happy. And the fish also were happy to be there. So nothing has changed, but everything has changed.

My third little story is that I was an accomplice in the introduction of trawling in Southeast Asia. In the ’70s — well, beginning in the ’60s — Europe did lots of development projects. Fish development meant imposing on countries that had already 100,000 fishers to impose on them industrial fishing. And this boat, quite ugly, is called the Mutiara 4. And I went sailing on it, and we did surveys throughout the southern South China sea and especially the Java Sea. And what we caught, we didn’t have words for it. What we caught, I know now, is the bottom of the sea. And 90 percent of our catch were sponges, other animals that are fixed on the bottom. And actually most of the fish, they are a little spot on the debris, the piles of debris, were coral reef fish. Essentially the bottom of the sea came onto the deck and then was thrown down.

And these pictures are extraordinary because this transition is very rapid. Within a year, you do a survey and then commercial fishing begins. The bottom is transformed from, in this case, a hard bottom or soft coral into a muddy mess. This is a dead turtle. They were not eaten, they were thrown away because they were dead. And one time we caught a live one. It was not drowned yet. And then they wanted to kill it because it was good to eat. This mountain of debris is actually collected by fishers every time they go into an area that’s never been fished. But it’s not documented.

We transform the world, but we don’t remember it. We adjust our baseline to the new level, and we don’t recall what was there. If you generalize this, something like this happens. You have on the y axis some good thing: biodiversity, numbers of orca, the greenness of your country, the water supply. And over time it changes — it changes because people do things, or naturally. Every generation will use the images that they got at the beginning of their conscious lives as a standard and will extrapolate forward. And the difference then, they perceive as a loss. But they don’t perceive what happened before as a loss. You can have a succession of changes. At the end you want to sustain miserable leftovers. And that, to a large extent, is what we want to do now. We want to sustain things that are gone or things that are not the way they were.

Now one should think this problem affected people certainly when in predatory societies, they killed animals and they didn’t know they had done so after a few generations. Because, obviously, an animal that is very abundant, before it gets extinct, it becomes rare. So you don’t lose abundant animals. You always lose rare animals. And therefore they’re not perceived as a big loss. Over time, we concentrate on large animals, and in a sea that means the big fish. They become rarer because we fish them. Over time we have a few fish left and we think this is the baseline.

And the question is, why do people accept this? Well because they don’t know that it was different. And in fact, lots of people, scientists, will contest that it was really different. And they will contest this because the evidence presented in an earlier mode is not in the way they would like the evidence presented. For example, the anecdote that some present, as Captain so-and-so observed lots of fish in this area cannot be used or is usually not utilized by fishery scientists, because it’s not “scientific.” So you have a situation where people don’t know the past, even though we live in literate societies, because they don’t trust the sources of the past.

And hence, the enormous role that a marine protected area can play. Because with marine protected areas, we actually recreate the past. We recreate the past that people cannot conceive because the baseline has shifted and is extremely low. That is for people who can see a marine protected area and who can benefit from the insight that it provides, which enables them to reset their baseline.

How about the people who can’t do that because they have no access — the people in the Midwest for example? There I think that the arts and film can perhaps fill the gap, and simulation. This is a simulation of Chesapeake Bay. There were gray whales in Chesapeake Bay a long time ago — 500 years ago. And you will have noticed that the hues and tones are like “Avatar.” (Laughter) And if you think about “Avatar,” if you think of why people were so touched by it — never mind the Pocahontas story — why so touched by the imagery? Because it evokes something that in a sense has been lost. And so my recommendation, it’s the only one I will provide, is for Cameron to do “Avatar II” underwater.

Thank you very much.

Belize: Too Precious To Drill

More than 20 top marine ecologists gathered last week in Belize City to review the status of the country’s marine biodiversity and the potential impacts an oil spill could have on local marine ecology. After the meeting, the participants unanimously agreed that the Belize government should prohibit offshore oil drillings in Belize’s waters, a referendum that will be voted on in late 2011.

Scientists from the University of British Columbia, Boston University, the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution, and Belize itself discussed Belize’s marine assets in a symposium titled: Too Precious for Oil: the Marine Biodiversity of Belize.

Among the scientists’ chief concerns were how an oil spill would affect the region’s biodiversity and economic gains from marine resources and tourism. Belize boasts bottlenose dolphins, the largest number of Antillean manatees in the world, a breeding ground for at least 7 different species of sharks and rays, hundreds of different types of sponges, and fisheries for groupers, snappers, grunts, and other reef fishes. In 1996, UNESCO declared the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System a World Heritage Site.

Scientists are also worried that seismic activity makes drilling especially risky. An earthquake in Belize in 2009 had severe impacts on coral reefs. A spill could result in lost revenues to Belize’s fishing and marine tourism industries.

The event was organized by Oceana Belize and the Sea Around Us project, with funding from the Oak Foundation.
ended with the signing of a letter from all the scientists involved urging the government to consider the incredibly rich and diverse marine environment that exists in Belize, the many benefits (tourism and fisheries) this provides and the risk that oil drilling posses to this incredible natural asset.

The conference drew in around 100 people, but there was a media blitz each day and appearances on national radio, television, news and talk shows. Daniel Pauly made daily media appearances and met with the opposition party and other government officials. He and Sarah Harper appeared on two local talk shows. Andres Cisneros aired on Estereo Amour, Belize’s Spanish radio station.

Check back soon for more progress on this initiative.

Atlantic Cod: Past and Present

Post-doctoral research fellow Ashley McCrea Strub and Daniel Pauly report on their recent efforts to help artist Maya Lin on her latest project on shifting baselines. They explain in the newsletter and below:

In February, Dr Pauly was contacted by Maya Lin, esteemed artist and architect best-known for designing the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington D.C. She is creating an exhibit to illustrate severe declines in species due to human exploitation, and asked Daniel if the Sea Around Us could provide ideas and information for a fish species. When considering overfishing and the collapse of fisheries, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is typically one of the first species that springs to mind. Cod occurs throughout the North Atlantic, along the shores of the first countries to develop industrial fisheries, notably England. The different cod stocks, (e.g., in the North Sea), are generally in parlous states, and those of the Northwestern Atlantic, off the coast of the United States and Canada, are no exception. Indeed, the collapse of eastern Canadian stocks off the coast of Newfoundland in 1992 had devastating economic, social and ecological consequences still visible today.

At the end of the last ice age, nearly 10,000 years ago, the availability and expansion of capelin and herring following the retreat of sea ice provided an abundant food source enabling the proliferation of Atlantic cod in the Northwest Atlantic (Rose 2007). The great abundance of this predator in ecosystems had a dominating influence over the community. Historical records indicate that massive populations of this predominantly bottom-feeding species were targeted by fisheries as early as the 15th century (Hutchings and Myers 1994). Technological advances allowed fisheries for cod to develop from hook-and-line to cod traps in the 1860s, the latter becoming larger and more efficient over time. The traps were then complemented by gill nets, but the key change was the introduction of bottom trawling early in the 20th century in New England as well as during the mid-20th century in Eastern Canada. As the vessels supporting these various domestic operations grew in size and power, distant-water factory trawlers, mostly from Europe, but some from as far as East Asia, were added to the fishery and generated catches in excess of 800,000 tonnes in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, Atlantic cod is a relatively long-lived, slow growing species whose productive capacity could not keep up with the increasing rate of mortality due to fishing. As the great majority of spawning adults were packed into ships’ freezers, catches began to decline. By 1975, Canada and the United States declared national jurisdiction over what later became their 200 nautical-mile ‘Exclusive Economic Zones’, indirectly claiming ownership over the dwindling cod stocks and forcing out foreign fleets. The reduction in fishing, and recovery of cod that followed, was short-lived as overly optimistic fishery management measures and excessive subsidization led to record-low levels of biomass and a resultant fishing moratorium on the largest Canadian stocks in 1992. Despite significantly reduced fishing pressure, most stocks of cod in the Northwest Atlantic are still struggling to rebuild, and remain classified as ‘overfished.’

To help Maya Lin with the creation of her art exhibit, we conducted a study to help us better understand the extent of overfishing and the recent state of Atlantic cod off the eastern coast of Canada and the U.S., relative to a time when this species was still the most abundant predator in the region. To begin, information regarding the relative abundance of Atlantic cod from the northern coast of Labrador to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina was obtained from the global fisheries database developed and maintained by the Sea Around Us Project at the Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia. Using historical spatial distribution data, as well as biological data including preferred depth, latitudinal limits and proximity to critical habitat, the likely geographic distribution of over 1000 commercially fished species, including Atlantic cod, has been defined (Watson et al. 2004; Close et al. 2006). This database enables the production of maps illustrating the relative abundance or likelihood of locating a particular species in a spatial grid of cells measuring 0.5° latitude by 0.5° longitude. Populating such a map to reflect the actual numbers or biomass of fish present in a given area during a specific time period is then possible given suitable data on fish density.

Information regarding the size of the Atlantic cod population in approximately 1850 was gathered from an analysis of mid-19th century logbooks maintained by a handline fleet that fished the Scotian Shelf, the centre of the range of Northwestern Atlantic cod, prior to the industrialization of fishing (Rosenberg et al. 2005). Due to the relatively low level of fishing pressure, this population was assumed, for the purposes of this study, to be relatively close to its unfished maximum at this time. Using detailed, spatially specific logs, Rosenberg et al. (2005) estimated the historical biomass of cod on the eastern and western Scotian Shelf (encompassing an area of over 160,000 km2) as 1.26 million tonnes. Accordingly, the average biomass density of cod on the Scotian Shelf in 1850 was approximately 8 tonnes per km2. In the absence of similar information for other areas, this estimate of average density was assumed to be representative of the entire region considered here. To create a map of the density of cod biomass in 1850, this average density was scaled according to spatially specific estimates of the relative abundance of cod, resulting in values defining the density of cod in each grid cell included in the study region.

To estimate recent biomass, the results of stock assessments conducted by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) were assembled. As stock assessments have not been performed for every Northwestern Atlantic cod stock in the past year, and to avoid uncertainty associated with the most recent assessments, biomass estimates for 2005 were collected for each stock.

This process enabled the production of maps of cod biomass density as well as the approximation of total biomass for the years 1850 and 2005. As estimates of fish population size are typically based partially or wholly on records of catches from previous years, the population considered usually includes those individuals that are vulnerable to fishing gear (e.g., age 3-4+ Northwest Atlantic cod) or sexually-mature individuals (i.e. the spawning stock, age 5-7 in the case of Northwest Atlantic cod). Unless otherwise noted, population size estimates calculated in this study refer to the portion of the Northwest Atlantic cod population vulnerable to fishing.

In addition to the total size of the Northwest Atlantic cod stock during these contrasting time periods, the change in size of an ‘average cod’ since 1850 due to the effects of (over)fishing was also estimated. Calculating average cod size first required biological information describing the rate at which this species grows in length and weight over its lifetime (Sinclair 2001). When used in conjunction with the approximate total mortality rate (due to both natural causes and fishing) during 1850 and 2005, the average length and weight of a cod during each of these time periods was calculated1.

The maps created as a result of this study provide very different pictures of the abundant cod population in the Northwestern Atlantic prior to the onset of industrial-scale fishing in 1850 (Figure 1) and the severely depleted population following decades of intense fishing pressure in 2005 (Figure 2). In 1850, the total biomass of Atlantic cod was approximately 10.2 billion (10.2 x 106) tonnes. By 2005, it was estimated that this biomass had decreased by over 96% to 0.36 x 106 tonnes. Thus, the average density of cod biomass across the study region fell from 8 tonnes/km2 to 0.3 tonnes/km2, 3.5% of the initial value.

Fishing not only reduces population abundance, but also the size of an average fish in the population. Thus, in 1850, the average cod more than 3 years in age would have been about 63 cm in length and weighed 3.0 kg, while the average mature adult was 78 cm and weighed nearly 6 kg. By 2005, the size of an average cod greater than age 3 had fallen to 58 cm and 1.3 kg, and an average mature cod measured 68 cm and weighed 3.6 kg. It is important to note that the ‘average cod’ size in 1850 presented here is conservative and may be an underestimate of the true average size during this time period. This is due to the fact that most studies of Northwest Atlantic cod growth were relatively recent and parameter estimates were based on fish sampled from stocks already affected by many years of fishing. Thus, potential fisheries-induced changes in growth rate were not considered here.

Knowledge of population biomass and average weight enables an approximation of the number of Atlantic cod during each time period. In 1850 the population of Atlantic cod in this region was composed of roughly 3.4 trillion (3,400 x 106) individuals, and had decreased by approximately 92% by 2005 (i.e., to 285 billion or 285 x 106 cod). As younger, smaller individuals tend to be more abundant in a population, particularly in the case of heavily fished populations, merely analyzing the change in abundance of cod masks the true effects of overfishing; biomass was nearly 30 times lower in 2005 relative to 1850, while the abundance of cod was only 12 times lower in 2005 compared to 1850.

At a time when healthy, under-exploited fish stocks appear to be the exception rather than the rule across the globe and the ‘shifting-baselines’ syndrome has become widespread, numbers such as those presented here provide a perspective on the extent of human impacts on species and ecosystems, and of what we have lost. The data and maps generated as a result of this study will be used by Maya Lin to guide the design of her upcoming exhibit, providing an exciting vehicle for the Sea Around Us Project to communicate our work to a broad audience.

Close, C., W. Cheung, S. Hodgson, V. Lam, R. Watson and D. Pauly. (2006). Distribution ranges of commercial fishes and invertebrates, p. 27-37 In: Palomares, M.L.D., K.I. Stergiou and D. Pauly (Editors). 2006. Fishes in Databases and Ecosystems. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 14(4).

Hutchings, J.A. and R.A. Myers. (1994). What can be learned from the collapse of a renewable resource? Atlantic Cod, Gadus morhua, of Newfoundland and Labrador. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 51: 2126-2146.

Rose, G. (2007). Cod: An Ecological History of the North American Fisheries. Breakwater Books LTD., St. John’s, Newfoundland. 580 pp.

Rosenberg, A.A., W. J. Bolster, K.E. Alexander, W. B. Leavenworth, A.B. Cooper, and M.G. McKenzie. (2005). The history of ocean resources: modeling cod biomass using historical records. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 84-90.

Sinclair, A.F. (2001) Natural mortality of cod (Gadus morhua) in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.ICES Journal of Marine Science 58:1-10.

Watson, R., A. Kitchingman, A. Gelchu, and D. Pauly. (2004). Mapping global fisheries: sharpening our focus. Fish and Fisheries 5: 168-177.

Endnote: Cod were assumed to grow in length according to the von Bertalanffy growth equation, where Linf = 118 cm, K = 0.11 year-1, and t0 = -0.44 yrs. (Sinclair 2001). Total length (cm) was then converted to weight (kg) using the relationship W = 0.0081*L3.03 ( The natural mortality rate (M) was assumed to equal 0.2 year-1. Fishing mortality (F) for the entire study region was calculated using the mean F reported by each stock assessment, weighted according to the estimated biomass of each assessed stock, resulting in an estimate of 0.3 year-1 for 2005.

Sea Around Us Heads to IMCC2

Join the Sea Around Us and many of our collaborators at the International Marine Conservation Congress, May 14-18, 2011 in Victoria, BC. Find a few of our specific presentations below.

Sunday, May 15
10:15am (15 minutes)
Sarah Harper The fisheries of small island countries

11:05am (5 minutes)
Leah Biery Estimating the Global Distribution and Species Composition of the Shark Fin Supply from the Bottom Up

11:10am (5 minutes)
Rhona Govender Small but Mighty: the Real Contribution of Small-scale Fisheries to Global Catch

2:30pm (15 minutes)
Ashley Strub Global financial investment in marine protected areas

2:45pm (15 minutes)
Daniel Pauly Big reserves are better

4:50 (5 minutes)
Mark Hemmings Changes in Maldivian Fisheries

4:45pm (15 minutes)
Colette Wabnitz The ecological role of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Hawaiian and Caribbean marine ecosystems and implications for conservation

6pm (5 minutes)
Megan Bailey Do Europe’s Reduction Fisheries Contribute to Sustainability?

Monday, May 16
10:30am (15 minutes)
Vicky Lam Climate change and the economics of global fisheries

10:45am (15 minutes)
William Cheung Global changes in body size, distribution and productivity of marine fishes under climate change: implications for conservation

6:15pm (15 minutes)
Daniel Pauly (on behalf of Wilf Swartz) The spatial expansion of the world’s marine fisheries: 1950 to present

Tuesday, May 17
10:45am (15 minutes)
Michelle Paleczny Are global marine fisheries starving seabirds?

11am (15 minutes)
Marta Coll Spatial overlap between marine biodiversity, cumulative threats and marine reserves in the Mediterranean Sea

2:15pm (15 minutes)
Jennifer Jacquet Public vs. Personal Impressions of the Gulf Oil Spill

2:45pm (15 minutes)
Ashley McCrae-Strub Oil and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico: potential impacts on catch

3pm (15 minutes)
Kristin Kleisner (on behalf of Rashid Sumaila) Impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the economics of U.S. Gulf fisheries

5pm (15 minutes)
Dirk Zeller Arctic fisheries catches in Russia, USA and Canada: Baselines for neglected ecosystems

5pm (15 minutes)
Frederic LeManach Magnitude of missing catches in official fisheries statistics and implications for the local population – the example of Madagascar

Wednesday, May 18
10:15 (15 minutes)
Jennifer Jacquet Intimacy through the Internet: Why Conservation Needs the Web

10:15 (15 minutes)
Sarika Cullis-Suzuki Regional fisheries management organizations: effectiveness and accountability on the high seas

10:45 (15 minutes)
Pablo Trujillo See-Food from Space

11:30 (15 minutes)
Kristin Kleisner Exploring indicators of fishing pressures in the context of the OHI with a focus on correcting the Marine Trophic Index for geographic expansion

3:30pm (15 minutes)
Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak Gaining Perspective on What We’ve Lost

Sumaila responds to Branch et al. in Nature

Economist Rashid Sumaila recently responded to the paper by Trevor Branch and colleagues in the journal Nature:

The trophic fingerprint of marine fisheries’ (Nature, 468, 431-435, 2010), has intensified the debate on how best to measure the impact of commercial fishing on ocean biodiversity: Is catch data useful in telling us what is happening in the ocean or do we need stock assessment information in order to say something meaningful? As an economist, I cannot contribute to this debate but I can ask some questions: What conclusion does one come to if one uses one or the other of these approaches?If one ends up with the same conclusion then the debate is only of academic interest. If the conclusions reached are different, what are the potential costs to the world should one or the other be incorrect? In general, proponents of the use of stock assessments for measuring the ‘health’ of ocean fish populations, led by Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington, conclude that ocean fish populations are doing just fine, while those who use catch data, spearheaded by Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, come to the conclusion that global fish stocks are in bad shape. Depending on which of these two camps wins the argument, the world would either stick to the status quo and continue to manage global fisheries as we currently do, or the world community would double its efforts to manage global fisheries sustainably. Should the former conclusion turn out to be incorrect, the world would have saved some costs by continuing to fish without further management restrictions, with the consequence that ocean biodiversity would be eroded further, thereby supplying less and less fish with time. On the other hand, if the latter turns out to be incorrect, the world would have incurred unnecessary cost due to stricter management but would have an ocean rich in biodiversity that is capable of supplying fish into the future.

Read more on this issue here.

MSC Critique Chosen As Part of Nature’s Top Six of 2010

Seafood stewardship in crisis, by Sea Around Us Project members Jennifer Jacquet and Daniel Pauly, as well as David Ainley, Sidney Holt, Paul Dayton & Jeremy Jackson, was chosen as one of Nature’s top six comment pieces of the year. The piece criticizes recent seafood certifications by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and makes suggestions on how the certification could be improved. Read the full piece here.