NEW YORK CITY Dr. Andrew Constable of Australia, Leader of the Antarctic Marine Ecosystems program at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Tasmania, has been awarded the prestigious 2008 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to help prevent unsustainable exploitation of Antarctic krill fisheries. He will create sophisticated ecosystem-based management plans for these rapidly-growing fisheries in the Southern Ocean, and work with Antarctic scientists and authorities to implement them. By incorporating broad environmental factors rather than focusing solely on krill, the plans will also safeguard populations of endangered baleen whales, penguins, and seabirds who feed primarily on these shrimp-like animals.
Dr. Constable is among five of the worlds most innovative and progressive thinkers in ocean science to receive this highly competitive three-year, $150,000 Fellowship in support of critical marine environment conservation initiatives around the world. The Pew Institute for Ocean Science administers the awards and today announced the 2008 Fellows, whose projects will be based in Antarctica, France, China, Canada, and Florida. (Learn more about the other recipients and their projects at www.pewoceanscience.org).
Antarctica is home to incredible biodiversity, with birds and mammals that are found nowhere else on Earth, said Pew Institute for Ocean Science Executive Director Dr. Ellen Pikitch, who in January concluded a two-week expedition to the frozen South Pole continent. It is critical that any fisheries management plan for this region take into account the ecosystems many stakeholders, and this Fellowship will support Dr. Constables proven skills at designing this type of comprehensive plan.
Though only two inches long, Antarctic krill are the predominant food source for the worlds largest animals--baleen whales--and for other residents of the harsh Antarctic region, the coldest and windiest place on earth. Krill are also increasingly sought by commercial fishing fleets for rising use in fish-food, pharmaceutical applications, and human consumption. The Southern Ocean surrounds Antarctica and has the most prolific krill populations in the world. There is rising concern that the dual threats of climate change and overfishing will lead to krills collapse and perilous impacts to the ecosystem.
Dr. Constables computer-based models for the krill fishery will incorporate ever-changing ecosystem characteristics, and as those characteristics change over time, so can the management plans. For example, if warmer than normal waters occur, or whales have fewer offspring, or krill abundance rises, fishing restrictions can be tightened or loosened as appropriate. This type of nimble, adaptive, and broadly informed management model promotes environmentally sustainable growth of the industry.
Krill is an essential component of the entire Antarctic food web, Dr. Constable said. Given the imminent expansion of the krill fishery, it is urgent to design an effective and inclusive management strategy and be sure that it will achieve conservation objectives.
The Southern Ocean is marked by the worlds most powerful currents, intense cold-water upwelling, and a convergence of subtropical and polar waters, factors that have a profound effect on climate, marine life, and ice. Krill in the region has been fished commercially for more than 25 years. As krills economic importance increases, the fishery is now expanding, along with fears that krill could be easily overharvested. The fleet now comprises much larger, more sophisticated fishing vessels.
Concern over the impact on populations of krill and other Southern Ocean marine life led to the 1981 adoption of The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. That international agreement recognizes krills centrality to the Antarctic food web and wisely supports an ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach, but an optimal EBM plan has yet to be created. Dr. Constable, a native of Victoria, Australia who earned his PhD in Marine Ecology from the University of Melbourne, will do exactly that.
This is a pioneering project that will further safeguard a unique marine ecosystem sorely in need of protection, said Dr. Pikitch, an expert in ecosystem-based management who co-authored a 2004 Science article on the topic.
Since the early 1990s, the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation has been awarded to more than 100 leading marine scientists, economists, attorneys, and other ocean conservationists from 29 countries. The fellowship program supports innovative projects led by mid-career, emerging leaders in ocean conservation and designed to develop and implement solutions to critical challenges in the marine realm. The four other 2008 Fellows will pursue projects that aim to: create thermal enhancement techniques that can help some reef corals endure dangerously warming oceans around the world; protect Chinas threatened marine environment by creating an unprecedented network of Marine Protected Areas; document the government subsidies leading to unsustainable ocean fishing globally; and, determine whether selective commercial fishing, in which only certain fish are captured, harms the ecosystem more than even fishing, in which fish are broadly captured and there is extensive by-catch and discards.
The mission of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science is to advance ocean conservation through science. Established by a generous multi-year grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Pew Institute is a major program of the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Visit us online at www.pewoceanscience.org.
|Contact: Kathryn Cervino|
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science