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Pew Institute for Ocean Science awards 5 fellowships in support of global marine conservation

NEW YORK CITY -- The Pew Institute for Ocean Science ( today announced the 2008 recipients of the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, the preeminent fellowship in support of ocean conservation. The five awardees will each receive $150,000 to conduct innovative three-year projects that are urgently needed to improve coral reef health, sustain fisheries, and enhance the effectiveness of marine protected areas. The winners are based in the United States, China, France, Australia and Canada and join more than 100 Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation from 29 countries around the globe. This year the program welcomes the first Fellows from China and France.

The Fellows will work to:

  • equip the worlds ailing corals to better survive climate change by creating groundbreaking thermal enhancement techniques that arm corals against warming oceans (work to be based in Florida);

  • safeguard Antarctic krill fish populations that serve as critical food sources for whales and are being fished at unprecedented levels (to be based in Australia);

  • heal and protect southeast Chinas coastal areas by improving and expanding the regions network of Marine Protected Areas (to be based in China);

  • document the financial factors contributing to unsustainable commercial fishing and depletion of ocean resources around the world (to be based in Canada); and,

  • determine whether a widely heralded commercial fishing strategy which targets one or more species to minimize wasteful bycatch actually harms the ecosystem more than fishing non-selectively (to be based in France).

The 2008 Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation are solutions-oriented scientific innovators, and this award will propel their efforts to conserve the global ocean environment, said Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Executive Director of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, a major program of the University of Miamis Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Each Fellow will carry out a pioneering project designed to protect and repair marine ecosystems that are acutely in need of help. Details about the Fellows and their projects are below.

-Equipping the worlds corals to withstand climate change: Dr. Andrew Baker is an Assistant Professor at the University of Miamis Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a native of the United Kingdom. He will use his Pew Fellowship to help imperiled reef corals endure the warming ocean temperatures caused by climate change. Corals survive only within a narrow temperature range and when oceans warm beyond this, mass bleaching events can occur. When corals bleach, they lose their symbiotic algae, which provide them with energy and color, and often die. Dr. Baker has shown that some algal species are more heat tolerant than others. Through this project, he will develop techniques for adding heat-tolerant algae to corals to help them survive bleaching events.

- Safeguarding Antarctic krill populations that endangered whales rely upon as food: Dr. Andrew Constable is a native of Australia and a leader in the Antarctic Marine Ecosystems Program of the Australian Antarctic Division. Dr. Constable will use his Fellowship to create nimble fishery management models that will prevent Antarctic krill fisheries from being unsustainably exploited and thereby protect whales, penguins, and other marine animals that rely on krill as food. Dr. Constables models will incorporate many ever-fluctuating conditionsincluding water temperature, krill abundance, and whales seasonal breeding success -- so that krill fishery restrictions can be tightened or loosened accordingly. Dr. Constable will work with Antarctic authorities to implement this progressive ecosystem-based management model for krill, shrimp-like animals that are increasingly sought for use in fish-food, pharmaceutical applications, and human consumption.

- Protecting Chinas threatened marine environments: Mr. Fan Meng is General Manager of the Guangdong Provincial Oceanic and Fishery Administration in Chinas Guangdong Province, where significant coastal damage has accompanied economic development in recent years and political and public support for serious marine conservation has been slow to develop. The first Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation from China, Mr. Meng will improve the effectiveness of the regions Marine Protected Area (MPA) network by organizing professional training for staff of 35 existing MPAs, and by designing and implementing an additional 15 to 20 MPAs to expand the network. Mr. Meng will also establish an information center and launch publicity campaigns on marine conservation issues. Guangdong Province borders the South China Sea and is home to 80 million people. It has 2,100 miles of winding coastline, the longest stretch in the country.

- Documenting the economics of unsustainable fishing globally: Dr. Ussif Rashid Sumaila is an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Center in Vancouver, Canada, and was born and raised in Nigeria. Dr. Sumaila will create comprehensive databases detailing the global cost and ecological impacts of commercial fishing around the world. This information will form the basis for sophisticated studies and models that he will develop to document the massive fiscal and environmental waste being caused by poor management of global ocean resources. His work will provide concrete arguments for smarter policymaking concerning fisheries management worldwide. Dr. Sumailas prior work has shown that taxpayers worldwide are paying massive subsidies to support overfishing and has drawn international attention from the media and policymakers.

-Determining the least harmful commercial fishing strategies and encouraging their widespread adoption: Dr. Marie-Joelle Rochet is a Research Scientist at IFREMER (The French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea), and the first Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation from France. Through her fellowship project, Dr. Rochet will work to determine which of two approaches to commercial fishing least impacts the ecosystem -- selectively capturing one or more species, or fishing more broadly and discarding unwanted bycatch fish. The global objective to reduce wasteful bycatch has encouraged commercial fishermen to fish selectively, yet this approach may be causing significant ecosystem damage by removing a member of the food web in disproportionate numbers. Dr. Rochet will use her findings to advise international fisheries officials to focus on developing selective fishing gears and methods, or on identifying improved uses for bycatch.


Contact: Kathryn Cervino
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

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