The Sea Around Us Project is an international research group based at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre that is devoted to studying the impacts of fisheries on the world's marine ecosystems. To achieve this, project staff have used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to map global fisheries catches from 1950 to the present, under explicit consideration of coral reefs, seamounts, estuaries and other critical habitats of fish, marine invertebrates, marine mammals and other components of marine biodiversity. The data presented, which are all freely available, are meant to support studies of global fisheries trends and the development of sustainable, ecosystem-based fisheries policies.
Members of the Sea Around Us Project uncovered that China was overestimating its catches and showed that, when such distortions were removed from overall fisheries catches, global fisheries were actually declining since the late 1980s. The Project also showed that the biomass of large fish in the North Atlantic is one tenth of what it was only a century ago. Aquaculture, according to another study with members from the Project, cannot be expected to compensate for overfishing but is instead likely to exacerbate the problem due to the reliance on wild fish for fishmeal. In other words, without serious long-term planning, the oceans might get a lot worse before they get better.
Initiated and mainly funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia, the Sea Around Us Project documents human impacts and proposes policies to mitigate them. The Project contributes to global initiatives such as the Convention of Biological Diversity (through the development of the Marine Trophic Index) and the United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The Sea Around Us Project also communicates to broad audiences to convey the urgency of reducing excess fishing capacity, the need to eliminate subsidies and create extensive networks of marine protected areas, and reconsider the current model of carnivorous aquaculture. For more about the Sea Around Us Project and its role in “fisheries conservation science” see Daniel Pauly (2007) or visit the Sea Around Us Project website.