Sea Around Us attends meeting to support conservation assessment for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean

A senior researcher with the Sea Around Us recently attended a three-day meeting earlier this month to discuss conservation of biodiversity with Antarctic experts in Monaco.

Deng Palomares, who recently worked on an Antarctic report for the Sea Around Us, said the meeting was an important step in identifying and assuring that Antarctic research focuses on the gaps in current data.

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“It was a very successful endeavour seeing that the experts who participated in the assessment came from a multidisciplinary background,” Palomares said. “One of the most significant contributions of those three days is the engagement promised by these experts to continue their work in the Antarctic.”

Co-organized by the Government of the Principality of Monaco, the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, SCAR, and Monash University, the meeting was meant to assess whether the conservation of the biodiversity of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is meeting the targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

The meeting also aimed to provide guidance for action that can effectively help deliver further conservation successes for the regions. Another goal was to identify key areas for work and indicators to help guide that work, which resulted in the Antarctica and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020: The Monaco Assessment.

“The initial expert assessment indicates a biodiversity outlook for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean which is no better than that for the rest of the globe,” said professor Steven Chown of Monash University, who co-organized the meeting.

HSH Prince Albert II of Manaco, who closed the meeting June 10, emphasized that activity in the Antarctic region — including not only fishing and tourism, but also some scientific activities — has drastically increased.

“I am convinced that common action from all countries and parties, can improve the situation for the better,” HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco noted. “I can assure you that my Government and my Foundation will make every effort possible to ensure that science continues to prevail in this land with international cooperation”

Organizers and attendees left feeling hopeful that there will be effective action over the next five years to dramatically improve the state of biodiversity in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

You can read more on The Monaco Assessment here

 

New research reveals population trends for world seabirds

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A Rhinoceros Auklet (seabird) eating sandlance (Photo: Daniel Donnecke)

New Sea Around Us research has found drastic decline in the monitored portion of the global seabird population.

The paper, published in PLoS ONE, reports that the monitored portion of the global seabird population decreased overall by 69.7 per cent between 1950 and 2010.

According to Michelle Paleczny, a lead author of the paper, and recent graduate of the zoology program at UBC, these findings likely reflect a global trend because of the large and representative sample. A decline this drastic can cause changes in island and marine ecosystems in which seabirds play a variety of vital roles.

“Decline in seabird abundance stands to disrupt natural processes in island and marine ecosystems in which seabirds play an important role — by acting as predators, scavengers, cross-ecosystem nutrient subsidizers, and ecosystem engineers,” Paleczny says.

In order to investigate global patterns of seabird population data, the researchers assembled a global database of seabird population size records and applied multivariate autoregressive state-space (MARSS) modeling to estimate the global path of all seabird populations with sufficient data. They obtained data from primary sources including journal articles, books, and unpublished reports.

Several human activities are known to threaten seabird populations, including entanglement in fishing gear, overfishing of food sources, climate change, pollution, disturbance, direct exploitation, development, energy production, and introduced species. Seabird populations are strongly affected by threats to marine and coastal ecosystems, and can indicate  the status of marine ecosystem health.

“Knowing this information helps us to measure and assess the overall effect that human activities and threats have had on seabirds and marine ecosystems over time,” Paleczny explains.

You can read the full report here

Recreational fishing accounts for half of all fish caught in The Bahamas

By: The PEW Charitable Trusts

Tourist fishing is big business in The Bahamas, but exactly how big was not known until now.

Scientists with the Sea Around Us— a scientific initiative at the University of British Columbia supported by The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts—conducted a catch reconstruction, reviewing a range of data sources to estimate unreported catch. They found that recreational anglers landed about 8,000 metric tons a year over the past 60 years—approximately half of all fish caught in the country. This more accurate estimate may allow the government to better protect the local food supply.

“We depend heavily on tourism, but it can be a double-edged sword,” says Nicola Smith, a marine ecologist from Nassau and a doctoral candidate at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “You could get into serious ethical issues if the majority of the natural resource needed for sustenance is diverted for tourism and not being closely monitored.”

In The Bahamas, no one is keeping regular count of all the fish that tourists catch at sea or eat in restaurants. The government tracks only large-scale commercial catch, a common practice in many countries because commercial fishing is often considered more important to the local and national economies and because small-scale operations can be difficult to monitor. This limitation largely excludes categories such as artisanal, recreational, subsistence, and illegal fishing, as well as discards—fish that are caught and thrown away—and masks the true extent of fishing worldwide.

“The government is not systematically counting any of it, despite its importance for tourism,” Smith says. “The legislation to monitor and regulate recreational fishing has lagged behind the advertising.”

As the lead author of the Sea Around Us study, co-authored by Dirk Zeller of UBC, Smith is looking at the bigger picture. Her analysis worked to “reconstruct” the catch by all fisheries sectors in The Bahamas from 1950 through 2010 as part of a global project focused on identifying total fish catch, including previously uncounted data from many countries and spanning several decades.

Catch reconstruction is based on the idea that some catch information exists outside official fishery statistics and that it can be pulled together to produce a more complete picture of the catch. In the case of The Bahamas, Smith estimated catch by subsistence fishers using population data and a conservative assumption of per-capita consumption. She estimated how much fish the tourists were landing by combining catch limits with data from government tourism surveys.

Another category of catch proved especially difficult to estimate: small-scale commercial fishing. Fishermen in this sector sell much of their catch directly to restaurants rather than to processing plants, which are monitored by the government. Smith interviewed fishers and hotel purchasing managers and found that it was common for artisanal fishers to moor at a dock to sell fish directly to a hotel restaurant. It remains unclear what proportion of the country’s entire catch can be attributed to this practice. For this study, the researchers conducted a survey to estimate per-visitor fish consumption, then calculated total catch using hotel room occupancy data.

What’s the catch?

The reconstruction showed that the total catch in the past six decades was about 885,000 metric tons, more than double the official estimate of 321,000 metric tons. The research also produced more detailed estimates of catch for artisanal, recreational, and subsistence fishing (see details in this PDF) .

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This information could be useful for managers as they monitor the country’s fisheries and try to ensure that tourists and residents have fish to eat. More results from catch reconstruction, including global catch estimates, will be available later in 2015.

New data on reported and unreported marine catches now available online

Researchers with UBC’s Sea Around Us project have launched a new web platform at www.seaaroundus.org that provides the first comprehensive coverage of both reported and unreported fish caught by every country in the world.

It reveals that official catch reports considerably underestimate actual catches around the world. For example, researchers found there was considerable unreported foreign fishing between 1950 and the early 1970s on Canada’s East coast. In fact, more than half of fish caught were unreported at one point. Much of this ‘catch’ consisted of so-called discards.

UBC professor Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller plan to publish a global estimate of fisheries catch in a peer-reviewed paper.

“The new Sea Around Us data have significant global scope and are long awaited by many groups worldwide,” said Zeller, senior researcher and project manager for Sea Around Us. “Accurate estimates are important for policy makers and fisheries managers to make economical and sustainable decisions about our fishing policies and fisheries management.”

The new data combine estimates of unreported catches — determined through extensive literature searches, consultation with local experts, and calculation of discarded fish — with officially reported data for small and large-scale fisheries for every country. The data emerged from a decade-long catch reconstruction project.

“We know these data will have major global impacts and now they are accessible in a visual, simplified and comprehensive way,” Pauly said.

Accurate catch data provide important insights into fisheries, fish populations and underlying ecosystems, and such data can have economic impacts.

The Sea Around Us is currently funded by The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. This is the first time the project has released new data in over five years. It can be accessed at www.seaaroundus.org

BACKGROUND

About UBC’S Sea Around Us
The Sea Around Us was initiated in 1999, and aims to provide integrated analyses of the impacts of fisheries on marine ecosystems, and to devise policies that can mitigate and reverse harmful trends while ensuring the social and economic benefits of sustainable fisheries. Sea Around Us has assembled global databases of catches, distributions of fished marine species, countries’ fishing access agreements, ex-vessel prices, marine protected areas and other data – all available online.

Sea Around Us is a long-standing collaboration between the University of British
Columbia and The Pew Charitable Trusts, and since 2014 is supported by The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

About The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
Founded in 1988, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation is dedicated to transforming lives and strengthening communities by fostering innovation, creating knowledge and promoting social progress. The Sea Around Us program is another example of how the Foundation supports the use data and technology to inform conservation priorities and actions.

View this press release on UBC News here

Daniel Pauly wins prestigious Peter Benchley Ocean Award

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The Sea Around Us’ principal investigator Daniel Pauly is a winner of the prestigious Peter Benchley Ocean Award for “Excellence in Science.”

Pauly accepted the award on May 14 at the eighth annual awards ceremony at the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington D.C.

The awards team noted Pauly has become a world leader in identifying overfishing as a threat to marine ecosystems and global food security — and that he’s an outspoken advocate for taking corrective action.

“Since I am a marine biologist and fisheries scientist, this means that throughout my career, I have tried to create concepts, models, software and databases that enable colleagues to do their work more effectively,” Pauly said in his acceptance speech.

The Peter Benchley Ocean Awards acknowledge outstanding achievement, and the only major awards program dedicated to recognizing excellence in marine conservation solutions across a wide range of sectors.

Other winners this year included The Economist, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Sea Around Us collaborates with West Africa on catch reconstructions

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Sea Around Us recently announced its collaboration with West African countries on catch reconstructions through the West African Regional Marine and Coastal Conservation Partnership (PRCM).

Daniel Pauly, principal investigator of the Sea Around Us, said his team is keen to work with stakeholders in the coastal zone in the order to ensure catch reconstruction data is accurate.

“We want to ensure our data reflects reality,” Pauly said. “In order for this to be successful, there needs to be a joint effort with all stakeholders.”

Other reasons behind the collaboration are to help formulate policies, to assist in the design of fisheries data acquisition schemes that can be implemented locally, and to facilitate research partnerships.

For more information click here

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Daniel Pauly talks to Juliet Eilperin about the future of oceans and fisheries

Daniel Pauly talking to Juliet Eilperin in Washington, D.C.

Daniel Pauly and Juliet Eilperin in Washington, D.C.

On December 15, in Washington D.C., The Pew Charitable Trusts hosted a conversation between Sea Around Us’ Daniel Pauly and Juliet Eilperin, a White House correspondent for The Washington Post. The event marked a 15-year partnership between Pew and Sea Around Us.

Before her role as White House correspondent, Eilperin spent eight years as the national reporter for environmental science, policy and politics. At the event, she talked to Pauly about his research, and his contributions to science, and his critical approach to the exploitation of fisheries across the globe.

After his conversation with Eilperin, Pauly took questions from audience members about academic fisheries research, aquaculture and warming oceans.

If you missed the event, you can watch a the full video here

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Sea Around US receives $2.6 million grant from The Paul G. Allen Foundation to improve data on world fisheries

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The University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us project has received $2.6 million (U.S.) from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to provide African and Asian countries with more accurate and comprehensive fisheries data to help them better analyze and support their ocean resources and local economies.

“This generous support will help UBC fisheries researchers work with countries to better understand the industry’s impact on marine ecosystems and its social and economic benefits,” UBC President Arvind Gupta said. “The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation is giving our researchers an exceptional opportunity to work with global communities.”

The project, led by UBC Fisheries Centre Professors Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller, will provide comprehensive catch data and data collection methods to policy-makers and nongovernmental organizations working with countries in West Africa, East Africa, the Arab world and South Asia.

Researchers will help countries use this data to address national policies related to four main problem areas:

  • Increased public transparency of access agreements for foreign vessels to fish in a country’s waters;
  • Improving inadequate methods for recording or estimating fish catches;
  • Improving poor policy and management environments for local small-scale fisheries; and
  • Illegal fishing by foreign fleets.

“This project is significant for the global fisheries community,” Pauly said. “The data collected will help governments make informed national policy decisions by balancing economic growth with resource preservation.”

Sea Around Us started this project June 1, 2014, and it will run to June 1, 2016. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s funding will also support FishBase, the Philippines-based research partner of Sea Around Us, which aims to create the largest and most extensively accessed online database about fishes on the web. 

You can read the full press release here

Study finds fish catches in Panama vastly under-reported

New Sea Around Us research estimates Panama’s total fish catches were vastly under-reported — by almost 40 per cent — between 1950 and 2010.

The recent study, led by Sea Around Us’ Sarah Harper and co-authored by Kyrstn Zylich, Dirk Zeller and  Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Héctor Guzmán, was published in Marine Fisheries Review’s most recent issue.

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Panamanian artisanal fisher cleaning his daily catch

The research not only found a high number of fish — including tuna, shellfish and shark — taken from Panama’s waters was unaccounted for, but it also revealed data deficiencies.

“Fisheries catch data collection, as is the case in many countries, focus mainly on large-scale operations and the commercial sector under the assumption that small-scale fisheries are insignificant,” Harper said. “This catch reconstruction highlights the substantial under-reporting of small-scale catches.”

Other major components missing from official Panamanian data include discarded bycatch, which is often overlooked but can be considerable, according to Harper. Poor fisheries monitoring, data collection and lack of human resources to spot errors also contribute to data deficiencies.

Accurate catch accounts are important to the national economy, especially in Panama, where fish like lobster and shrimp are major exports.

“Given the important economic and food security contributions of Panama’s fisheries, efforts must be made by fisheries governing bodies to improve catch data collection and reporting,” Harper said.

Discussing catch reconstructions in Senegal

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The Prime Minister of Senegal opening the Forum of the Regional Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme for West Africa (©PRCM)

By Dyhia Belhabib 

If I had to summarize my previous journeys in Senegal in one word, I would certainly use ‘denial’ for the first trip, ‘hope’ for the second, but many words for my last visit to Dakar last November when Dr. Daniel Pauly and I represented the Sea Around Us Project at the Forum of the Regional Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme for West Africa (Programme Régional de Conservation de la zone côtière et Marine; PRCM). The description of the Forum that can be found on the PRCM website underlines the importance of this event (www.forumprcm.org).

The theme of the Forum was ‘Investing in coastal and marine conservation for the wellbeing of populations’, and as suggested, its goal was to put forward ideas about the use of nature with a view to improve the wellbeing of people relying on it. Many different stakeholders were present (e.g., NGOs, professional fishers, scientists, decision-makers) and were eager to discuss sustainability and conservation.

I was delighted to meet again our collaborators and colleagues from Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, as well as from the Fishery Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) countries, notably Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. On a lighter note, a young man from Tanzania presented his journey as he biked from Chile to Tanzania, raising awareness about the environment and funds for Tanzanian students along the way. He also reminded me that I am not the only person in this world who needs a visa to go to conferences and talk about issues and potential solutions for a sustainable use of the ocean. After all, if fish needed a visa, the issue of illegal fishing would not be that bad. Illegal fishing was actually one of the topics of the Forum, and our colleague Duncan Copeland talked about how to implement efficient, non-expensive solutions to tackle illegal fishing. While some Mauritanian representatives claimed that illegal fishing was no longer as significant as it was in the past, a representative from Guinea-Bissau stated that the coastal waters of “Bissau looked like Hong Kong at night”, referring to the lights of the industrial fishing boats illegally venturing into artisanal fishing grounds at night. Afterwards, I was not able to make up my mind between ‘content’ — as ‘admitting’ is the first step towards ‘healing’ — or ‘sadness’ — as the issue of illegal fishing is now so important, that being politically correct is no longer an option.

The presence of journalists made for a great opportunity for the Sea Around Us Project to share our knowledge of West African fisheries with the public, and to emphasize the implications of our catch reconstruction work. For example, I had the opportunity to clarify some points such as “women’s catches are not substantial, therefore, it is not an important activity”. Indeed, one can argue that if this activity allows women to be financially independent and provide their households with food, then, it is of paramount importance, regardless of the volume of the catch (especially if vulnerable species are targeted).

At the end of the day, the Forum was a very productive experience for the Sea Around Us Project, as NGOs, research institutes, and regional organizations were eager to use and work with the catch reconstruction results. Indeed, they all agreed that looking at the impact of local small-scale fisheries, filling data gaps, and contributing to capacity building in the region is an important process. For example, we discussed catch reconstructions with representatives from Morocco (who were keen to work with us) and from the FCWC region (with whom we recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding), as well as with traditional community representatives such as the Imraguen, who constantly remind us of the reasons why we are fighting to save our oceans.

After the Forum, Daniel and I had the honour of having an informal lunch with his Excellency the Minister of Fisheries of Senegal, Haïdar El Ali, who informed us of his decision to invite the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to act in Senegal. It was pleasant to have a conversation with him as he seemed to be a person who is deeply driven by conservation. As we came back from Dakar, we also learned that Senegal had just arrested illegal Russian fishers despite diplomatic pressure from Russia. This action was backed by numbers the Sea Around Us Project estimated with colleagues from USAID and many other Senegalese organizations.

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Breaking ground on illegal fishing in Senegal

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Photo credit: Dyhia Belhabib

 

One of our PhD students Dyhia Belhabib headed a study that revealed catch numbers in Senegal have been misreported largely due to high levels of illegal fishing.

Belhabib’s research —a joint project with Sea Around Us and US Agency for International Development— found that the number of industrial catches is vastly underestimated.  She worked with the DPM, World Wildlife Fund and data from the U.S. Navy, in the study that began in March 2012. It was published earlier this month.

In effect, the study has increased Senegal’s awareness of illegal fishing vessels. Earlier this month, they arrested members of an illegal Russian vessel for fishing in Senegalese waters.

Belhabib’s report stated that official reports and fishers’ accounts document the presence of illegal vessels—which are thought to be a major cause of problems for Senegalese artisanal fisheries.

Belhabib noted that artisanal fisheries have increased in both time and space.

“They go out more often and travel further away,” she said.  “It’s been undetected for years.”

Senegalese artisanal fishing numbers have been reported at 80 per cent, but Belhabib’s research discovered the numbers are closer to half artisanal fishing and half industrial.

She stressed the importance of the findings, as they’ll help fishery decision-makers make more informed policy choices.

“These findings can help solve the problems of over-capacity in Senegalese waters,” she said.

 

You can read more about the study here:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165783613003007

See press on illegal fishing in Senegal here: 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25621864

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25859387

Daniel Pauly participates in international fishing documentary

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Daniel Pauly on set in Newfoundland, Canada. Photo credit: Rick Stanley

Daniel Pauly recently returned from Newfoundland, Canada, where he was working on an international fishing documentary.

The film, financed by the Living Ocean Foundation near Washington D.C., will be filmed in five locations including Honduras, South America, the U.S., Bahamas, Senegal, Africa,  — and, of course, Newfoundland, Canada.

As Pauly explains, the film explores the role of small-boat fishermen and how they contribute to the economy.

“There is a lack of awareness from the government,” he says. “They don’t understand how these fisherman fit into the economy, and so they tend to favour bigger fishing companies.”

Pauly is the film’s on-camera investigator who also serves as link between the countries.

The film is currently in production and is aiming for release in spring 2016.

 

Myriam Khalfallah – MSc

Myriam%20Khalfallah2-minMyriam was born and grew up in Tunisia. After high school she studied for two years at the higher institute of preparatory studies in Biology and Geology (ISEP-BG) and was then accepted to the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT) where she completed her engineering degree in fisheries and environment. In 2013, Myriam joined The Sea Around Us project to begin working on the catch reconstructions of certain Mediterranean and Arab countries. She is currently working on her master’s degree in fisheries under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Pauly.

Maeve Winchester – Research Assistant

Maeve(1)Maeve Winchester has joined the Sea Around Us to assist Krista Greer in the ongoing fishing effort reconstructions, and to research, update and up-grade material used for our new website. She is completing her BSc in biology at UBC and has interests in marine conservation and wildlife rehabilitation.

Growing up on rural vineyards in California and on Vancouver Island has encouraged her to dedicate her life to the preservation of nature. She hopes to eventually pursue her PhD or become David Attenborough’s successor —   whichever comes first.

Overall, Maeve is an inspired naturalist, amateur scientific illustrator, and passionate biologist-to-be. She is extremely fond of chondrichthyes and will never turn down an opportunity to exchange fun facts about sharks.

 

13th Annual FishBase Symposium in Philippines to take place this fall

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A group shot from the 2014 FishBase Symposium that took place at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The 13th annual FishBase Symposium will take place September 1, 2015, hosted by the FishBase Information and Research Group, Inc. (FIN) in Los Baños, Philippines to mark the 25th and 10th year anniversaries of FishBase and SealifeBase, respectively.

Convened by Drs Mary Ann Bimbao (FIN) and Deng Palomares, Sea Around Us Senior Scientist, the theme for the Symposium is FishBase and SeaLifeBase for Teaching and Research in Aquatic Science. It aims to promote a deeper understanding of why and how FishBase and SeaLifeBase can be used for teaching and research in the Philippines.

Invited speakers come from local universities and research institutions, FishBase Consortium members who themselves use FishBase in teaching ichthyology courses and offer FishBase workshops regularly, and students from universities and secondary schools in the Philippines.

Dr Daniel Pauly, Principal Investigator of the Sea Around Us and co-maker of FishBase will give the keynote address. Dr Dirk Zeller, Sea Around Us Project Manager, will also attend the Symposium.

Other anniversary celebration activities include a poster exhibit of FishBase and SeaLifeBase, a book-giving activity to local libraries, students’ hands-on orientation on FishBase and SeaLifeBase and an art competition expressing underwater relationships and connections.

Schedule of Events:

1 Sept. 2015 (Tuesday): 13th Annual FishBase Symposium
1-4 Sept. 2015 (Tuesday-Friday):  Poster exhibit, Book-giving to libraries, Art competition, Students’ hands-on orientation on FishBase and SeaLifeBase, Media splash
2-4 Sept. 2015 (Wednesday-Friday): FishBase Consortium Annual Meeting

Events Coordinators:

  • Dr. Maria Lourdes D. Palomares, FIN Associate Scientific Director and Chair of the FishBase Consortium
  • Dr. Mary Ann P. Bimbao, FIN Executive Director

Eric Sy – Research Assistant

IMG_20150625_085812-minEric completed his undergraduate degree with a B.Sc. in General Biology at UBC in 2013 and had the opportunity to work for the Changing Oceans Research Unit (CORU). He quickly gained a fascination for marine ecology and pursued a position at Sea Around Us as a Research Assistant in 2014. He has since been a part of the verification process and currently works on data extraction and quality assurance. In his spare time, Eric enjoys the outdoor life; particularly sports and hiking.

Melanie Ang – Research Assistant

melanieMelanie joined Sea Around Us as a Research Assistant in 2014. Her role includes updating catch reconstructions, formatting and editing Fisheries Centre Research Reports and maintaining an updated list of Sea Around Us publications. She graduated with a BSc in Marine Biology from UBC in 2014, and enjoys scuba diving and rock climbing in her spare time.

Gordon Tsui – Research Assistant

Gordon-TsuiGordon Tsui has joined the Sea Around Us as a Research Assistant. Gordon grew up in the historical fishing village of Steveston in Richmond. Being surrounded by the local fishermen and fish markets, he became fascinated by fisheries and the environment. He completed his undergraduate degree with a B.Sc. in Environmental Science at UBC in 2014. Having volunteered for the Sea Around Us during his degree, he is happy to continue his time at the Sea Around Us after his graduation. He hopes to continue to learn about fisheries and their impacts for countries around the world. In his spare time, Gordon enjoys traveling and outdoor activities such as hiking and scuba diving.