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

Senegalese prime minister opening the Forum

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

Senegal’s missing fish: What reconstructing fish catch can teach us about our oceans

By: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Industrial fishing is big business. Official global statistics show that approximately 80 million tonnes of marine fish are caught commercially each year. Scientists, as they uncover the extent of small-scale fishing, now believe this amount may actually be much larger.

Fisheries scientists have long recognized the importance of thorough, accurate catch data in understanding the pressures on target species. However, most countries currently focus their data collection efforts on industrial fishing, in part because it can be difficult to count small-scale operations. This largely overlooks artisanal and subsistence fishing, not to mention discarded fish and illegal fishing, which also mask the total extent of fishing worldwide.

One promising approach to better understanding the big picture of fishing around the world is “catch reconstruction,” which offers catch estimates using an array of sources and methods.  This concept was developed by the Sea Around Us, a partnership between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of British Columbia.

“It’s like putting together a 500-piece puzzle to get a more complete picture of a fishery’s catch data,” said Daniel Pauly, principal investigator for Sea Around Us and professor at the University of British Columbia. “Over time, the estimates reveal themselves and you have data where once there were none.”

These estimates are not a substitute for the global data reported by countries to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Rather, they are a supplement that can indicate important trends and provide guidance on how best to improve data collection.

The danger in underreporting fish catch is that country officials don’t have access to the data needed to help them manage their fisheries effectively, including the ability to set accurate fishing quotas.

“It’s like managing your bank account,” said Pauly. “You have to know how much you have left before you can withdraw more. In some developing countries, the actual total catch can be 200 percent higher than what is being reported.”

In Senegal, on the west coast of Africa, small-scale fishing accounts for most of the domestic fish catch in the country.  Staying focused on industrial fishing paints an incomplete picture of fish catch for FAO. For example, the official data indicate the catch has been steady since about 1995, but the reconstructed data suggest it is decreasing.

 

VIDEO – Reconstructing the Catch

 

After the reconstruction was completed in Senegal, government officials met with Sea Around Us scientists to discuss ways to update their reporting and account for previously missing data. With a clearer picture of their fisheries activities, officials may be able to improve management, for example by excluding foreign fishing vessels that might be affecting artisanal fisheries.

A global catch reconstruction will be completed in early 2015, with estimates from 1950 to 2010 broken down by year and type of fish for more than 250 countries and territories. This research is led by the Sea Around Us project of the University of British Columbia and supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

For more information about catch reconstruction, visit “Sea Around Us: Taking Stock of Fish, Oceans, and People,” which details a December 15, 2014 interview with Daniel Pauly.

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Dayna Szule – Finance Clerk

 Szule_Dayna_picAs the Finance Clerk for the Sea Around Us, Dayna’s role includes setting up project grants, reconciling monthly ledgers, monitoring all grant expenditures and preparing external and internal financial grant reports. Previously with the UBC Botanical Garden, Dayna joined the Sea Around Us in July 2014 to focus and develop a financial skill set within the University. In her spare time, she can be found identifying plant species in a forest somewhere or playing golf or football.  
 
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Maria Ho – Administrative Assistant

MH headshot 2Maria joined the Sea Around Us in 2014, and coordinates schedules, travels, project activities and provides administrative support to Dr. Daniel Pauly and Dr. Dirk Zeller.

Maria has worked for the Faculty of Medicine at BC Children’s Hospital for about 10 years, and prior to that, for the UBC Sauder of School of Business and UBC ITServices.  She is passionate about topics related to the environment, international fishing practices and salmon-farming.  In her spare time, she is an accomplished musician, performer and recording artist who also loves photography, graphic design, traveling and physical fitness.

Sea Around Us, Oceana organize workshop for the National Symposium of Fisheries

Sea Around Us and Oceana have organized a workshop on Philippine fisheries as part of the National Symposium of Fisheries. The workshop will be held at the Luxent Hotel, Quezon City, Philippines on November 4-5.

The workshop will acquaint Philippine fisheries practitioners with the catch reconstruction work (Palomares and Pauly 2014) recently published as a Fisheries Centre Research Report at the University of British Columbia.

One of the primary objectives of the workshop is to provide practitioners with alternative terminology — including industrial fisheries, artisanal fisheries, subsistence fisheries and recreational fisheries — to help clarify current issues within the Philippine’s marine fisheries.

This session will also involve brainstorming exercises to inspire a re-thinking of data collection methods and create a preliminary work plan to implement these methods.

“We would like to be able to inspire a re-thinking of the Philippine fisheries catch statistics collection system, which has not been improved on since it was put in place in the 1960s,” said Maria Palomares, a senior research fellow at Sea Around Us. “We hope that the workshop will provide enough evidence that such a re-thinking is necessary to establish a solid and implementable catch statistics collection system.”

The workshop will also help introduce Philippine fisheries practitioners with Oceana, who have recently set up an office in the Philippines.

For more information on the symposium, visit http://bit.ly/1pbfm4M.

 

Sea Around Us heads to Philippines for National Symposium of Fisheries

On November 3, experts from the Philippines, Oceana and the Sea Around Us will gather in Quezon City, Philippines to attend the National Symposium on Fisheries organized by Oceana-Philippines.

Sea Around Us Professor Daniel Pauly will give the keynote address on the global reconstruction work the Sea Around Us has conducted, with particular emphasis on how this was done for the Phillippines. The Sea Around Us team will then present the challenges posed and the opportunities created as a result of this reconstruction study on Philippine marine capture fisheries.

The symposium aims to gather the perspectives from select stakeholders in the fisheries sector, the justice system, academics, non-governmental organizations and members of the business community. This is an inaugural activity for the organizer, Oceana-Philippines, which was established by Oceana early this year.

Over the course of two days, there will be panel discussions and open forums.  Topics discussed will include the state of fisheries, challenges, impacts, reform proposals and discussions on best practices in sustainable fisheries governance and law enforcement.

For more information on the symposium, visit http://bit.ly/1pbfm4M.

Sea Around Us datasets turned into spherical visualizations

Sea Around Us and William Cheung of the Changing Ocean Research Unit at the UBC Fisheries Centre have transformed two datasets into planetary datasets as part of the NOAA Science on a Sphere educational initiative (sos.noaa.gov/).

data2While these data had been previously published in the scientific literature (Cheung et al. 2009, Fish and Fisheries 10(3): 235-251; and Cheung et al. 2010, Global Change Biology 16: 24-35), this innovative spherical visualization option provides for a truly global perspective for viewers at institutions equipped with such a data sphere (such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, NASA’s Space Flight Center and other NASA centers, NOAA’s headquarter and other NOAA installations, and over 100 other installations around the world).

One dataset shows the predicted global distributions of over 1,000 marine species important for fisheries (Cheung et al. 2009, Fish and Fisheries 10(3): 235-251). Areas on the map colored more brightly highlight areas with higher species richness, while less brightly colored areas show lower species richness. This map shows the highest species richness is concentrated along the coasts, which are also the areas where we find our largest marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, mangroves, and marshes, which provide food and shelter for economically, culturally, and ecologically important marine species. This stresses the importance of protecting critical habitat along our coasts for marine life and fisheries.

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The second dataset illustrates the percentage change in global fisheries catch projected to occur by 2050 due to climate change (Cheung et al. 2010, Global Change Biology 16: 24-35). These data suggests a poleward shift in potential fisheries catches — that is fish distributions will shift to higher latitude areas (towards poles) and cooler waters as ocean temperatures increase. The study also predicts species extinction to occur in areas where species are most sensitive to temperature changes (i.e., tropical areas), resulting in reduced fisheries catch in these areas.

These and over 400 other global datasets and visualizations are shared through over 100 of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s  (NOAA’s) Science on a Sphere affiliated institutions around the world.

You can access the Fisheries Species Richness map here and the Fisheries Catch Model here.