Sea Around Us celebrated 20 years with successful symposium

After months of planning, on June 27-28 the Sea Around Us celebrated its 20th anniversary with a couple of successful events that strengthened the group’s relationship with researchers and civil society.

On June 27, 2019, the team hosted an informal reception that gathered students, staff, alumni, researchers from around the globe, representatives from the French consulate in Vancouver, colleagues from UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (IOF), delegates from different departments at the University of British Columbia, among other attendees.

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On June 28, 2019, the main event -a daylong symposium- took place at UBC’s AMS Student Nest building.

Gail Murphy, UBC VP Research; Meigan Aronson, UBC Dean of Science, and Evgeny Pakhomov, Director of the IOF, welcomed some 70 attendees to the symposium and congratulated the Sea Around Us for its two decades of fisheries research serving civil society.

The university authorities were followed by the keynote speaker, Jessica Meeuwig, who is the Director and Research Leader of the Marine Futures Lab at the University of Western Australia. Meeuwig’s talk, which was titled “The Sea Around Us: 20 years of ocean learning and impact,” not only showed the many research studies that have benefitted from the Sea Around Us data but also emphasized the importance of supporting the project’s work, so that more research on the health of marine ecosystems can be done.

Meeuwig was followed by Rainer Froese, senior scientist at the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research (GEOMAR) and a close collaborator of the Sea Around Us since its inception. His presentation, called “Honoring the living ocean: Current and future uses of the Sea Around Us data in stock assessments,” revealed to the audience details of the work he is advancing, from Kiel, together with the Vancouver team.


Next, John Tanzer, Director of the Global Marine Program at World Wildlife Fund, delivered a heartfelt speech stressing the importance, for the global NGO community, of having access to a fisheries catches database like the one provided by Sea Around Us.

Imani Fairweather-Morrison followed Tanzer with a video where she highlighted the group effort that the Oak Foundation, the Sea Around Us and Oceana undertook in Belize to inform a variety of stakeholders about the dangers of allowing offshore oil drilling along the country’s coast.

Then, Philippe Cury, Senior Research Director at the French Research Institute for Development, presented a talk titled “Global science for global challenges: towards sustainability science.” Later on, Andrew Sharpless and Katie Matthews, Oceana’s CEO and Chief Scientist respectively, presented some of the results of the ongoing collaborative research carried out by NGO and the Sea Around Us.


The afternoon session started with the Sea Around Us’ principal investigator, Daniel Pauly, recounting the journey he and long-time collaborators have followed to transform the project into a purveyor of global data and analyses of fisheries.

Dirk Zeller, professor of marine conservation at the University of Western Australia and director of the Sea Around Us – Indian Ocean, talked about the opportunities and challenges behind the creation of the Sea Around Us’ first external ‘branch.’

Deng Palomares, the Sea Around Us project manager, was next with an animated presentation on the interactions and collaborations between the Sea Around Us, SeaLifeBase, FishBase and AquaMaps.

William Cheung, professor with UBC’s Changing Ocean Research Unit and director of science of the NF-UBC Nereus Program, talked about his work using the Sea Around Us database to assess climate change impacts in the ocean.

Next, Lucas Brotz, honorary research associate with the Sea Around Us, presented his work on jellyfish catches, and Jennifer Jacquet, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at NYU and Sea Around Us alumna, closed the first part of the afternoon session with a presentation titled “The Sea Around Me: How I cannot escape the Sea Around Us datasets (nor would I want to).”


The last segment of the symposium started with Athanassios Tsikliras, professor of zoology and fish biology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, presenting his work related to the reconstruction of Mediterranean fisheries catches. Chiara Piroddi, an ecosystem modeller at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, followed Tsikliras and talked about management of Mediterranean fish stocks.

Rashid Sumaila, professor and director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit (FERU) and of the OceanCanada Partnership at UBC, joined the event via Skype from Thailand and talked about how his work on fisheries subsidies at the Sea Around Us resulted in the creation of the FERU.

Brittany Derrick, a research assistant at the Sea Around Us, explained how to be a data detective to perform catch reconstructions, and Nicola Smith, a Ph.D. candidate at Simon Fraser University’s Earth to Oceans lab, presented the case of her native Bahamas, where the Sea Around Us catch reconstruction prompted a change in fisheries data collection policies.

Myriam Khalfallah, a Ph.D. student with the Sea Around Us, closed the afternoon session with a talk titled “For truly global studies in fisheries,” which presented students’ perspective when it comes to gathering, analyzing and using fisheries data for research and policy development.