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$3-Million to model fishing impacts on North Atlantic marine ecosystem


Vancouver, BC, July 23, 1999: A UBC researcher has received a $3-million grant to study the impact of excessive fishing on the marine ecosystems of the North Atlantic.

"Fisheries is a major factor that impacts on marine ecosystems even more strongly than pollution or climate changes," says UBC Fisheries Centre Prof. Daniel Pauly.

Pauly -- in partnership with U.S.-based Pew Charitable Trusts which provided the funding -- will lead a team of researchers in analyzing the ecological and economic effects of industrial fishing on the marine ecosystems on both the eastern and western sides of the North Atlantic.

As part of the 24-month pilot project, the researchers will develop and test a method for reconstructing historic catch time series (including misreported catches) and past ecosystems to serve as a baseline for assessing the health of present ecosystems.

"With this project, our goal is to affect policy in Europe and North America to stop over-fishing,” says Pauly. “We will amass compelling evidence out of existing fisheries data to show the impact of non-sustainable fisheries.”

The project builds on an exhaustive study released last year in which Pauly and colleagues used nearly 50 years of United Nations fisheries data to show how fish stocks are being wiped out on a global scale by over-fishing (see naturalSCIENCE Cover story: Fishing Down Marine Food Webs, which includes an interview with Dr. Pauly). The researchers showed how in one ocean after another, fishers first caught big, valuable stock and then worked their way down the food web to the smaller species.

UBC’s Fisheries Centre is a world leader in developing practical approaches to ecosystem-based fisheries management. The centre is currently developing a method (Ecoval) to evaluate the ecological, economic, social and cultural benefits of rebuilding an ecosystem.

“We can construct a computer simulation of a marine ecosystem as it was in the 1930s and then fish it and see if it mimics what actually happened,” says Pauly. “If you can parallel in your model what happens in nature, then you can pose `what if?’ questions.”



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