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$13-Million Research Programme Launched

CANADA & JAPAN - University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers have launched a $13-million, nine-year research programme with Japans Nippon Foundation (NF) to study the future of the worlds oceans and to monitor the impact of human activities on seafood resources.

With support from the Foundation’s Marine Affairs Department, the NF-UBC Nereus – Predicting the Future Ocean program at the UBC Fisheries Centre will forge partnerships with Princeton University, Duke University, Stockholm University and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre at Cambridge University.

As part of the programme, international experts in fisheries, climate change, environmental policy, geospatial modeling, marine ecology and socio-economics will engage in research collaborations, capacity building and increasing public awareness about fish stock depletion.

“UBC is a leader in international research partnerships,” said UBC President Stephen Toope, who helped launch the program today at the Nippon Foundation Building in Tokyo. “This generous support from and collaboration with The Nippon Foundation will enable international research to address some of the most pressing issues facing the world’s oceans today and for generations to come.”

Research by scientists at the Fisheries Centre has shown that overexploitation of the world’s fisheries resources has caused major decline in fish populations and poses a serious threat to food security for coming generations. The Nippon Foundation’s Maritime Programme aims to “pass on the ocean to future generations.”

“The problem with fish stock depletion is that it is a common threat to mankind and we must tackle this problem together by transcending our own views and interests,” said Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation.

“The Nippon Foundation is proud to collaborate with researchers from UBC and indeed from around the world to build an international cross-disciplinary network of marine scientists to construct a global basis to fight against this urgent problem that concerns not only our future oceans but future generations as well,” said Mr Sasakawa.

Combining real-time and projected data and 3D simulation and visualisation technology, researchers will be able to show scientists, policymakers, fisheries managers and members of the public how different conservation and management scenarios could affect the ocean environment and people who depend on fisheries.

The UBC-led research program will also take the pulse of the future health of our oceans, raise public awareness about their plight, and support an international education and research network of 30 young marine scientists around the world.

“To date, we only have fragmented predictions of what our future oceans and fisheries will look like,” said Villy Christensen, an associate professor in the Fisheries Centre and Nereus’s lead investigator. “This research programme will help inform fisheries management plans by identifying maximum sustainable yields for communities that rely on seafood resources.”

One of 12 research units in UBC’s College for Interdisciplinary Studies, the Fisheries Centre is world-renowned for its excellence in research to restore fisheries, conserve aquatic life and rebuild ecosystems.

“One of the biggest challenges for conservation of fisheries is that most people can’t see the state of our oceans with their own eyes because from the surface, everything seems unchanged,” said Daniel Pauly, professor at the Fisheries Centre and chair of the Nereus Steering Committee. “This programme will bring the real impacts of our decisions and actions right before our eyes.”

In 2005, Prof Pauly became the first Canada-based researcher to win the International Cosmos Prize, awarded by the Expo ’90 Foundation of Japan. Recent research by Pauly, principal investigator of the Sea Around Us Project at UBC, shows that aggressive expansion of fisheries in the past 50 years has left the Earth with no more room to fish.

the Fish Site Editor

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