Dr. Daniel Pauly, our newest Green Interview, is a legendary fisheries scientist, an authority on the overall state of world fisheries and fish stocks, and a bold, incisive thinker.
Pauly is the driving force behind FishBase, a database on the web that contains detailed information on all the 35,000 fish species known to science. He and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia are also largely responsible for the full development of Ecopath and Ecosim, a suite of free ecosystem modelling software tools that allow scientists to develop complex scenarios about changes in the ecology of the world's oceans. In 2007, Ecopath was named as one of the ten biggest scientific breakthroughs in the 200-year history of the UN National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, which noted that Ecopath “revolutionized scientists’ ability worldwide to understand complex marine ecosystems.”
Daniel Pauly is also famous for articulating the concept of “shifting baselines,” showing that as our world is progressively more impoverished biologically, we actually forget what once existed. Just fifty years ago, for example, there were salmon six feet long in the Bay of Fundy. Today we think that a bay without such fish is normal, and we have almost forgotten that such fish ever swam.
In 2002, Pauly made headlines by arguing that commercially fished species like cod, tuna, and flounder will be effectively extinct within a few decades unless we reduce fishing dramatically and set up large fish zones to allow stocks to recover. Overall, he says, the fishing industry is a "global Ponzi scheme," and it's not just one fishery that's failing―it's the whole system.