Conservation Scholars: Daniel Pauly

3 12 2008

This series on takes a page out of our book Tropical Conservation Biology (Sodhi, Brook & Bradshaw) – therein we produced a series of ‘Spotlights’ describing the contributions of great thinkers to conservation science. Each highlight of a Conservation Scholar includes a small biography, a list of major scientific publications and a Q & A on the person’s particular area of expertise.

Our seventh Conservation Scholar is Daniel Pauly


After completing my doctorate studies in Germany in 1979, I spent many years at the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resource Management (ICLARM), then in Manila, Philippines, where I developed methods for tropical fish stock assessment, which I applied and taught in many tropical developing countries. I became a Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre in 1994, and its Director in 2004. My scientific focus has mainly been on the management of fisheries and ecosystem modelling, comprising over 500 contributions to peer-reviewed journals, authored and edited books, reports and popular articles. The concepts, methods and software I have (co-)developed are in use throughout the world. This applies notably to the ecosystem modelling approach incorporated in the Ecopath software, to FishBase, the online
encyclopaedia of fishes, and the global mapping of fisheries trends. My work has received numerous awards, notably the Cosmos Prize (2005, Japan) and the Volvo Environment Prize (2006, Sweden). Profiles on me and my work were published in Science on 19 April 2002, Nature on 2 January 2003, The New York Times on 21 January 2003, and in other publications.

Major Publications

Questions and Answers

1. Which type of fisheries – commercial, recreational or artisanal – represents the greatest exploitative threat to tropical marine ecosystems?

All fisheries have the potential of depleting the resources they exploit. Industrial fisheries, however, are extremely effective at what they do, and they have over a short period a devastating effect on their resource base.

2. What fisheries management practices can be used to counter the phenomenon you have described as ‘fishing down marine food webs’?

Establishing large marine protected areas, and strict controls over the remaining, fished areas.

3. Why are freshwater and lacustrine systems so sensitive to human-induced environmental change?

Because they are small systems compared to the reach of our industries (fishing, pollution, habitat modification, etc). The oceans are larger, and hence the human impacts appeared later.

4. How effective are marine protected areas (MPAs) in conserving tropical biodiversity, and should alternative solutions also be pursued?

MPAs should never be seen as sufficient by themselves. Conventional management is needed too.

5. How can scientists work to overcome misconceptions in policy and public perception that arise from the ‘shifting-baseline’ syndrome?

We should use old records and data routinely, and always refer to the earliest time for which data are available. They should use a wide range of data, not only those compatible with the model currently fashionable.

CJA Bradshaw

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(with thanks to Navjot Sodhi, Barry Brook, Ward Cooper, Wiley-Blackwell and Daniel Pauly for permission to reproduce the text – buy your copy of Tropical Conservation Biology here)



2 responses

5 05 2012
Sharks: the world’s custodians of fisheries «

[…] Pauly, V. Christensen, J. Dalsgaard, R. Froese, F. Torres, Science 279, 860 […]

19 02 2009
Shifting baselines «

[…] term first coined by Daniel Pauly (who we’ve previously covered as a Conservation Scholar), and one I could easily classify as […]

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