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Sea Around Us project newsletter, issue 8, January/February 2001 Power, Melanie; Sea Around Us Project Jan 31, 2001

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Sea Around UsThe Sea Around Us Project NewsletterIssue 8 – January/February 2001Of all the marineecosystems of theworld, no two areexactly alike. Indeedmarine ecosystems andtheir characteristics canvary considerably fromplace to place. This is alsotrue of fisheries withinthese ecosystems. Perhapsno setting illustrates thesedifferences so profoundlyas the Galapagos Islands,approximately 1000 kmwest of the mainland coastof Ecuador.The Galapagos aregeologically-recentvolcanic islands, and theprevailing oceanic currentsand wind patterns allowedprecious few groups ofterrestrial organisms tocolonise the islands. Forexample, large terrestrialpredators never arrived,thus enabling thepersistence and evolutionof a unique fauna and floraincluding terrestrial andmarine iguanas, gianttortoises, and prickly-pearcacti that grow very tall –out of reach of the hungrytortoises. It was a uniqueassemblage of finches thatmade the Galapagosworld-famous by catchingthe eye of the youngnaturalist Charles Darwin,and helping him todevelop the theory ofevolution by naturalselection.The marine environment ofthe Galapagos Islands, onthe other hand, ischaracterised by a highlevel of mixing fromdiverse ecosystems. Onecan find components ofcoral reef ecosystems rightnext to more temperatewater species. Where elsein the world can you diveand look at coral reef fishwhile sea lions and evenpenguins swim by? Thisuniqueness is driven bythe fortunatecircumstances of thelocation of the islands atthe intersection of severalwater currents, whichpermit marine organismsfrom the South Americancoast, the tropical CentralAmerican coast as well theCentral Pacific equatorialenvironments to disperseand settle in this islandgroup. The GalapagosIslands are truly a specialplace, below as well asabove the water surface.The Charles DarwinResearch Station on theGalapagos Islands was anideal venue at which agroup of marine andfisheries scientists from theAmericas, Europe, Asia andAfrica recently met for aninternational conferenceorganised by Dr VillyChristensen (UBC FisheriesCentre) and supported bythe European Commissionand the North Sea Centre,to try and find solutions tofisheries and marineecosystem problems in thedifferent areas in whichthese scientists work. Mostof the participantspresented the results ofecosystem-based researchusing the food web andfisheries modellingapproach Ecopath withEcosim (EwE). Fourrepresentatives of theFisheries Centre attendedthe conference (DanielPauly, Villy Christensen,Tom Okey, and Dirk Zeller).Among otherpresentations and anexciting pre-launch ofDaniel Pauly’s book on‘Darwin’s fishes’, significantfindings from the ‘SeaAround Us’ project werepresented. For example,Dirk Zeller presented theresults of spatialecosystem modelling ofthe use of closed areas as afisheries management toolin the Faroe Islands in thenorth-east Atlantic; TomOkey presented aframework for						 !!"The Sea Around Us project newsletter ispublished by the  Fisheries Centre at the Uni-versity of British Colum-bia. Included withthe Fisheries Cen-tre’s newsletterFishBytes,six is-sues of this news-letter are pub-lished annually.Subscriptions arefree of charge.Our mailing address is: UBC Fisheries Cen-tre, 2204 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Co-lumbia, Canada, V6T 1Z4. Our fax number is(604) 822-8934, and our email address isSeaNotes@fisheries.ubc.ca. All queries (in-cluding reprint requests), subscription re-quests, and address changes should be ad-dressed to Melanie Power, Sea Around UsNewsletter Editor.The Sea Around Us website may be foundat www.fisheries.ubc.ca/projects/saup/index.htm, and contains up-to-date infor-mation on the project.The Sea Around Us project is a Fisheries Centre partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia,USA. The Trusts support nonprofit activities in the areasof culture, education, the environment, health and human serv-ices, public policy and religion. Based in Philadelphia, the Trustsmake strategic investments to help organisations and citizensdevelop practical solutions to difficult problems. In 2000, withapproximately $4.8 billion in assets, the Trusts committed over$235 million to 302 nonprofit organisations.investigating the shadingeffects of coastal nutrientenrichment on continentalshelf ecosystem structure, withspecial reference to the WestFlorida Shelf; and VillyChristensen provided anexcellent comparison betweenEwE results and Multi-speciesVirtual Population Analysis forthe North Sea.Like most of the world’secosystems, the GalapagosIslands are ecologicallydegraded to some extent, asthe result of large populationsof humans finding food, andotherwise making a living.Although the Galapagos Islandsare globally unique, many ofthe pathologies of humanactivities that affect them aregenerally similar to thoseaffecting other areas in theworld. For example, continuousintroductions of alien speciesand historical removals andextinctions of native species(e.g., giant tortoise) havewreaked havoc on theterrestrial ecology of theislands. Another immediate anddramatic example of thesimilarities of Galapagosdegradation to other settings isthe recent violence perpetratedby the lobster fishermen on theislands.The Galapagos is in the midstof a virtually uncontrolledhuman migration frommainland Ecuador, as thenatural resources alongEcuador’s coasts continue todegrade. One effect of thismigration has been aconsiderable increase in thenumber of fishers trying tomake a living on the islands.Like elsewhere, local stockssuch as the highly-pricedlobster have limits to theamount of fishing pressure theycan sustain, and like mostplaces scientists attempt toestimate the amount ofremovals the individual stockscan maintain before severedepletion or catastrophiccollapse of the populationoccurs. Unfortunately, like inmany other cases before,fishing interests succeed inpressuring decision makers toincrease allowable catchesbeyond those recommendedby scientists. In the case of theGalapagos, the lobster fishersphysically assaulted employeesand ransacked facilities of theEcuadorian National ParkAgency and the Charles DarwinResearch Centre. For many ofthe scientists attending themeeting, this local conflict inthe Galapagos exemplifiedsimilar resource conflictshappening around the world.Consensus was reached atthis internationalmeeting that theecosystem-based focus of theEwE approach can help toidentify and hopefully alleviatethe types of conflictsexemplified by the violencethat greeted us in theGalapagos. This approach notonly enables us to gain insightsinto the indirect ecological andeconomic effects of a particularfishery, but it also allows us toanalyse the optimisation ofdifferent combinations ofobjectives, be they economic,social, ecological, or legal.Before such grand plans cometo fruition, however, aconsiderable amount of workmust be done to refine ourknowledge of the systemsbeing analysed. This meetinghelped to clarify the work thatneeds to be done in order toaccomplish the goal ofensuring the integrity ofecosystems while allowing forutilisation of marineecosystems in a long-termsustainable manner.Unfortunately,like in manyother casesbefore,fishinginterestssucceed inpressuringdecisionmakers toincreaseallowablecatchesbeyondthoserecommendedby scientists.


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